Jeanette started the weekend frustrated. On Wednesday morning, she had asked Bob to have his team draft an executive summary about an emerging challenge for senior management. Based on feedback from her own coach, Jeanette was working on being clearer with her team about action items, deadlines and the reasons behind them.
With that in mind, on Wednesday, she told Bob that she wanted a two-page draft no later than the end of the day Friday. She and Bob discussed an outline for the summary, with key points to incorporate. Jeanette told Bob she planned to finalize the summary over the weekend, so her boss would have it Monday morning. Jeanette felt pleased by her clarity, and expected good outcomes based on the discussion.
The end of Friday came, so Jeanette wrote an email to Bob to check on the status. Bob acknowledged that his team had given him a draft by noon, but he had not had time to look at it before the end of the day, and he needed to log off for a family event. Bob attached the unreviewed draft executive summary to the email, “just in case you need it now.”
Jeanette was irritated. Of course she needed it now! She has clearly explained on Wednesday that she would be working on it over the weekend, and Bob’s lack of focus on a mission-critical item seemed irresponsible. She opened the draft Bob had forwarded and became even more irritated. The document was full of technical jargon and was three pages long – a full page longer than her instructions. It was going to take hours to fix it.
Jeanette considered a few options:
- Insist that Bob take responsibility for the project, directing him to review the draft and send her his final version by noon Saturday. While this would contradict Jeanette’s commitment to work-life balance, Bob needed the pain of the negative consequence, so he would not make the same mistake again.
- Write to senior leadership, communicating a delay in the executive summary, so Jeanette would not have to spend her own time on the project over the weekend, and so Bob could “right the ship” upon returning to work on Monday.
- Finalize the executive summary over the weekend, as promised to senior leadership. Share the revision with Bob and set up a coaching/feedback session on Monday to discuss the problems and what should be done differently next time – both with the timeline and with the document itself.
Pause and think about how you would address this if you were Jeanette. Would you have pursued one of these options? What other options do you see? What would you have done?
In the end, after taking some time to calm down, Jeanette chose the third option. While this required the most time for Jeanette, it got the senior leaders what they needed and Bob received the coaching that he needed. On Monday, Bob also shared the guilt he felt, recognizing that his boss had to work harder over the weekend because of his failure to manage his time and his team’s work better.
There are no right answers to this case study – how you address it depends on your personality, relationships, organizational culture and roles, as well as the project itself. The development lies in asking the right questions, owning your own development needs and considering the options that both build a better team and a better organization over time.