Behaviors around time and deadlines are some of the most important unspoken elements of your team culture
Do we ship?
Or do we delay?
Do we let plans and projects float around without deadlines?
And when we say the due date, what does everyone understand? Is it real or will we “do our best” to hit it? (or know that we’ll blow right past it?)
These elements of your culture can be seen in the most micro of interactions. As in:
The email you receive says, “Could you give this a quick read and get it back to me?”
Or, “Looking forward to receiving your thoughts.”
Or, “I’m slammed right now, can you please review this for me?”
As the recipient of these sorts of messages, you empower yourself and strengthen your culture of shipping by asking, each and every time, “by when?”
“By when” says you will hold yourself accountable to that date.
“By when” reinforces clarity for both of you.
“By when” is the first step towards making, and keeping, a promise.
And “by when” communicates (to you, to your colleague) that you have your own priority list, that your work is important, that the simple fact that someone senior to you (or not) needs something doesn’t mean it’s automatically at the top of your list too–unless they and you put it there.
Yes, be flexible, and create a culture of support, pitching in, and having each others’ backs. But your culture of hitting deadlines is only possible when we talk about time and managing priorities in all our interactions, and handle that precious time with intention.
Oh, and if you care about this sort of thing and want to strengthen your team’s culture of shipping, you must get everyone a copy of Seth Godin’s Ship It Journal. Download a free copy here, or buy a beautiful journal version from MOO.com.