How can I get my team to stick to deadlines?

Try refusing work that's filed late, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 13 Jul 2016

Q: As an editor, I’m reliant on my team to send me their work on time – but no one takes deadlines seriously. I’m always left editing copy the night before it goes to print. My job needn’t be this stressful and I’m fed up with nagging my colleagues. Any suggestions?

Jeremy says: Many excellent writers, who appear supremely confident in their work, in fact suffer from chronic self-doubt. So their failure to meet deadlines may not be the straightforward thoughtlessness it appears to be: they have to wait for the fear of the deadline to overcome the fear of the blank sheet of paper.

You will, of course, have tried imposing false deadlines, only to find that your canny writers smell them out in a trice. But what you won’t have tried is refusing to accept work that’s filed late. This takes nerve – and planning. You need to have adequate replacement copy to hand or it’s yet another empty threat. But do it once – and the effect will be permanent. It’s not being unkind; it’s just giving your writers the fright they need a few hours earlier.

And here’s an oddity. Once you can publicly praise a writer for the professionalism with which their work is invariably submitted on time, that writer will never miss another deadline; not out of fear, but vanity.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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