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How to Get Teammates to Follow Through

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How to Get Teammates to Follow Through

By Michelle Yozzo Drake

How many of you remember sitting in class, listening to the teacher talk excitedly about a new assignment, and groaning at the words, "And I'll be dividing you up into teams..."?

And why were you groaning?

Was it because the project was uninteresting? Sometimes.

Was it because you were already trying to dig yourself out from under an avalanche of homework? A little bit.

But was the real reason the fact that you inevitably would end up on a team where one or more of the members DIDN'T DO THEIR PART?!

Dollars to donuts that's EXACTLY why a day at the dentist was preferable to working in a team.

Now, I'm a big advocate of teams. I love spit-balling ideas, listening to fresh perspectives, assigning tasks, and coming together to create a real powerhouse of a project. And when I entered the corporate arena, I thought I left behind the days of being stuck with unresponsive, uncommunicative, and unmotivated teammates who didn't pull their own weight.

Unfortunately, I was wrong.

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So was Rachel in New London, CT...

Dear Michelle,

As an employee in a small business, I juggle many projects and deadlines at one time. These projects often require a high level of efficiency among team members in completing their portions of the workload so the project can move forward. Therein lies the problem: I'm constantly in limbo because my teammates can't (or won't) do their share. I must have at least a dozen projects hanging over my head right now that are waiting for information from other people.

I've tried being patient; I've tried being diplomatic; I've tried communicating the needs of the project and dealines clearly and consicely; I've tried offering help and solutions to get things moving. I've even tried nagging. Phone messages go unreturned, e-mails go unanswered, and I've gotten to the point where I'm so frustrated I could scream.

What do you do when your project are constantly being tied up and stalled because other people aren't doing their share?

Excellent question, Rachel, and let me first say that I am so sorry that you are in so much pain. One of the things that I find is very helpful in dealing with projects that are dependent upon other people's outcomes is to think about the perspective of the other person. What might be the issues that are standing in their way? Is it that they don't feel competent enough to be a part of your team? Do they not know the information that they need to get the task done? Is their current workload overwhelming? Do they not have the resources to do what they're asked? Understanding their perspective is a great way to figure out what you might need to do to be able to position the project for success.

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Communication and how you're communicating is the big piece here. If you're sending e-mails with a large list of things for people to do in order to complete the project on time, you might want to break that e-mail into smaller e-mails. Many times people will see the first thing on the list, do it, and forget about the rest. By sending a separate message for each task, you keep things uncomplicated and concise - and have a better shot of getting the info you need from them. Send the most important thing on the list first, and ALWAYS send tasks and requests with deadlines. Try to give yourself a time buffer of about a week. If you need it by next Tuesday, set your deadline for THIS Tuesday. Budget in time for people to get back to you so your not scrambling at the last minute.

I know it's frustrating to be dependent on other people for your success, so my best advice to you is to control what you can and package your requests in very clear, uncomplicated and individual instructions.

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�Strong reasons make strong actions.� � William Shakespeare