Negotiating Deadline Extensions

LinkedIn article 25/1/19

Sometimes, despite having my time management strategies in place and having tackled my procrastination, I still find myself unable to meet a deadline.  At times there just are not enough hours in the day.  When this happens I need to be able to negotiate an extension in a way that does not negatively impact on my work reputation.  As a Governance Professional I think this is crucial – how can I expect others to take my deadlines seriously if I do not treat theirs with respect?

These are the things that work for me:-

  • I try to identify if I need an extension as early as I can using the techniques outlined in my blog of 11 January 2019. I know my colleague waiting for the piece of work will really appreciate early warning.  Think about how much easier it is to manage if you are told in good time that a board paper is going to be late versus the disruption caused when it simply doesn’t arrive or you get a last minute phone call.
  • I try to have some goodwill in the bank. I am a firm believer that you reap what you sow.  If I had been inflexible and unhelpful I am likely to get the same back when I need an extension to a deadline.  If I have been helpful, reasonable and flexible I will have some goodwill in the bank and I never know when I might need it.
  • I try to minimise the number of times I need to ask for a deadline extension.  I think this increases the chances of my requests being looked at sympathetically when I do need to make them.
  • I always apologise for not meeting a deadline and honestly explain why an extension is needed. This helps maintain my professional integrity and relationships.
  • I never assume a deadline extension will be agreed and test the water gently first rather than asking outright. As Governance Professionals know, some deadlines cannot be changed.   If there is no scope for an extension I go back to my to do list to see if there is anything else that I could move to make time to complete the task on time.
  • I tell my colleague when I can complete the task by. Sometimes this involves entering into a negotiation about the new deadline, but to maintain my professional integrity I do not agree to a deadline I cannot meet.  One of the things that can help is offering sight of an early draft.  As a Company Secretary I know that seeing an early draft of a paper gives me the opportunity to comment and input.  This maximise the chances that the final paper will be ready to go once it arrives.
  • Once I have a negotiated a new deadline I meet it. Not meeting a renegotiated deadline is likely to negatively impact on my reputation.

I hope these are helpful ideas.  Do you have any other tips to share?