Dear Dan: How can I Lead Procrastinators

Dear Dan,

How can I better lead procrastinators?


Tired of Waiting

Dear Tired,

I can’t figure out why people procrastinate.

After reflection, I confess that I do it. But it’s still stressful when people on my team procrastinate.

Perhaps you’ve procrastinated when it comes to dealing with procrastinators.

Principle #1: Procrastination in others is more irritating than procrastination in you.

Principle #2: No one procrastinates about everything.

3 ways to deal with procrastinators:

#1. Focus on their strengths. Protect them from their weakness.

  1. Don’t ask procrastinators to perform time-sensitive work. Give them in-the-moment work that takes little preparation. They will end up doing less meaningful work, but so be it.
  2. Ask them to do simple jobs and menial tasks. Save important work for those with initiative.
  3. Don’t let procrastinators volunteer for more work. “Thank you for volunteering, but I have someone else in mind for this job.”

Tip: Don’t ask procrastinators to take on long-term projects.

Give procrastinators jobs that need to be done now, not next week. Sadly, this limits opportunities for procrastinators, but it gives opportunities to others.

#2. Have a come to Jesus conversation.

Procrastinators may not appreciate the negative impact of procrastination. One procrastinator shackles an entire team, limits the potential of your organization, and steals your leadership credibility.

Say, “Everyone waits when you don’t deliver on time. Their talent and time is wasted. Let’s find a role where others aren’t depending on you.”

Respond to excuses by saying, “I’m afraid I wasn’t clear. I accept who you are and I’m responsible for the success of the team.”

Don’t argue over excuses.

#3. Design active interventions.

  1. Establish specific timelines and deadlines.
  2. Ask for updates at specific times.
  3. Follow up quickly when they don’t follow through. “Hey Mr. Procrastinator, I’ll stop in this afternoon to follow up.”

Finally, consider their overall contribution. Are you better off with them or without them?

What suggestions do you have for Tired of Waiting?