How to know if a Team Member is falling behind on Tasks

LateA national survey by Paul Osterman, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Economist, highlights the indispensable place of teams in modern day business operations. Most organizations are now using teams to complete projects as opposed to the traditional organizational model.

According to the study, companies who use teams are 30% more productive and are identified as examples of the future of company operations. As a project leader, you have been handed one of the most crucial roles in your organization.

To ensure you meet such high expectations, you must guarantee that no one in your team falls behind on tasks in order to meet the overall objectives of the project.

Identifying Slow Team Members

How do you know whether a particular member is falling behind on their task? Here are some ideas:

  1. Define schedules: This is the first step in ensuring that every member works on their task and completes it within the stipulated time. If the members have agreed on these deadlines then identifying anyone who falls back becomes easier. A study by Kevin Eikenberry published on Project Smart says that defining goals and roles is a sure way to achieve success in any project.
  2. Regular group sessions: During these meetings every member is supposed to give an update on their part. If all the other members are done with their tasks within the allocated time then you can easily pick out those who require further assistance.
  3. Hands-on approach: As the leader you need to be involved and this means you have to get your hands dirty. It is true you are supposed to provide guidance on how the project should run but still you need to have your ears on the ground in order to know who is doing what and how. With such an approach you are able to identify anyone who is falling back.
  4. Using a team performance dashboard: This is an ideal tool to help you monitor what everyone is doing. The best software in the market provides quick stats on the tasks being done in real-time. Every member’s task is displayed and it is easy to follow up and identify members who are falling back on their tasks.
  5. Shoddy work: If a member realizes you have your eyes on their performance they will most likely rush and the end result is shoddy work, which again compromises your project. It is easy to pick such kind of sloppy work from the rest and when you do make sure you clarify from the team member whether they had indeed rushed the task or what made them deliver poor work.

The Risks of Procrastination

Getting everyone to meet deadlines is easier said than done because every member has distinct qualities. Some might be highly talented but for one reason or another they will always fall back on tasks. Such a character will eventually jeopardize your company’s performance because the team’s morale will also be affected.

Indeed, your project faces ultimate failure in case you don’t identify such behavior early. It is important to remember that you have a contract with your client and if a team member pulls you back then your company is going to suffer irreparable damage especially due to poor reputation.

In essence, what might seem like a minor issue can eventually ruin your career and bring down the business. Are you ready to take such a risk? Of course not, every project leader gets satisfaction by seeing a project completed successfully and in good time.

Importance of Individual Member’s Input

How important are individual members of your team in completing a project? As a team manager you know that everyone is crucial to the success of your project but while this might be true on paper, things are different in reality. There are those members you will always rely on because their work is great and they never fall back on tasks allocated.

On the same team, you have a qualified member who despite their technical know-how always falls back on tasks. This is a situation that every manager has to contend with because while it is true you are working as a team, there is no way everyone will perform the same.

Possible Reasons for Procrastination

Before you deal with a sloppy member of your team, it is important to have an idea of what could be causing them to fall behind in their tasks. Some of the most common reasons employees give include:

  • Lack of motivation: This makes them feel as if completing their task will not add any value to the project. In most cases the problem here lies with you as the project manager because you are supposed to inspire great performances from your team members.
  • Poor goal definition: If you have not clarified the greater vision of the project, then you will have to deal with members who are not fully cognizant of the input required from them. As a manager, you need to communicate the vision to help members own the project.
  • Poor task allocation: Each member of your team has capabilities. You need to identify these capabilities in order to allocate tasks appropriately.
  • Emotional reasons: There are myriad emotional issues that can affect a team member’s performance. Empathy is an attribute that any effective leader should possess. You need to listen and deal with issues affecting your team members.

The Role of a Project Manager

This is where your role as a project leader comes into play; you have to identify members who are dragging the project down and deal with the situation before it gets out of hand. Here are some ideas to help you with that:

  1. Be open-minded: It is important to approach the issue with an open mind. Make sure your expectations are realistic and listen actively in order to get to the root of the problem.
  2. Communicate: This is the holy grail of problem-solving in any project. Make sure you talk to the team member and get to the bottom of the problem. Use this private session to motivate them and let them understand their role in the overall project.
  3. Set a plan: Once the problem is identified you need to come up with a solution. For instance you can allocate more resources, pair the member with other high performing members of the team or reallocate tasks. You can also create a performance agreement with the member, which will be used to evaluate their future input.

Final Word

It is never easy to deal with a member who is slacking and thus threatening your project. Nevertheless, you should be objective when dealing with the issue. There are many problems that could be affecting a team member’s performance and only through a frank private session can such issues be dealt with.

You need to leverage on the power of communication to understand the underlying problem in order to solve it once and for all. Whatever you do make sure you are always on the lookout for anyone falling behind on their tasks; they can jeopardize the entire project.

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