The Strauss Blog

Managing Your Critical Path: Communicating and Giving Feedback to your Team

In the event management world we all utilize a Critical Path filled with details, deadlines and delegations. You create the critical path to keep you on track and distribute it to your team, but then what? It is your job, as the event manager to manage the deadlines and have strong communication with your team.

The critical path is more than just a to-do list. It is a continuing team effort where each member is depending on each other for support. Take a look at this example:
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We can see that Jim, Cathy and Stacey all have deadlines which rely on reach other. Jim is responsible for completing the sponsorship package content by February 1 2015 Cathy is relying on Jim to complete the sponsorship package by February 1, 2015 so she can meet her own deadline of completing the graphic design and production of the sponsorship package by February 5, 2015 and Stacey is relying on Cathy to complete her deadline so that she is able to begin sending out the sponsorship packages on February 10, 2015. If one of the team members misses their deadline the project will be pushed back. Being aware of others involved in the project and not just checking off the list will help keep you involved and aware in the process.

Supporting your team

There are several ways you can support your team in meeting their deadlines, beyond just creating a critical path. When creating your critical path you need to ensure that all tasks included have specific deadlines, enough time has been given for the tasks and they have been delegated to the right person. Missed deadlines can often be avoided by paying attention to your team and being familiar with their workload. Below are a few instances when you should be communicating with your team and the best way to approach the conversations:

Example 1: When you notice a team member is focusing all of their time on another project when their deadline is quickly approaching.

“Jim, I know you have been busy with the Gala, so I wanted to follow up with you in regards to the Sponsorship package due February 1. Where are we at with progress on it and how can I support you?”

Example 2: When you know you need to adjust a deadline, whether there is an event to be at or a team member is on vacation, be sure to let your team members who will be affected know a reasonable amount of time in advance.

“Jim, Stacey has an event to be at on February 5 all day so she was planning to get the graphics done by February 4. Are you able to get the content to her by the morning of February 1 to ensure she has enough time to complete it?”

In these examples you are being proactive and addressing issues before they even arise. You need to be one step ahead of your critical path, not just looking at current deadlines but being aware of deadlines quickly approaching.

Following up on missed deadlines

When a team member has missed a deadline that affects the event it can be a sensitive matter to deal with. You want to provide them with the opportunity to explain their current situation. Being a good manager means never assuming or pointing blame. Below is a great tool on how to create an open line of communication when following up or giving feedback to an individual:

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  • 1. I noticed – Simply by stating that you have noticed something it will immediately create an open space of communication. There is no blame or shame in noticing something and your team member will be more receptive to the conversation.
  • 2. The action – By communicating about a specific action, whether it be missing a deadline or not properly completing a task they will more easily to be able to respond with specific details.
  • 3. The effects of the missed deadline – It is also important to be clear. What does it mean if the deadline is missed or not fully complete? Repercussions may be greater in some cases than others. Again just stating the effect and the degree of impact is all you need here, no further explanation. Keep it simple.
  • 4. Were they aware – This is the most important question. Once you have communicated what you have noticed and its consequences on the project, you must ask them if they were aware of their actions and the ramifications. Perhaps it was a communication issue, perhaps the deadlines were adjusted without you knowing, and perhaps they had an extra day to complete it as someone was away on holidays anyways or perhaps they just forgot. Asking the question gives them the opportunity to explain themselves.
  • 5. How can you support them – Even though they have missed the deadline, it is ultimately your responsibility. Did you not clearly communicate the deadlines? Did you overload their plate? Were your expectations unrealistic? Looking at your role in the missed deadline will help you to become a better manager. Letting them know you are there to support them in meeting the deadline and knowing what they need from you in the future will only make your team stronger.

Below is an example of putting this formula together:

“Jim, I noticed that the sponsorship package content is not complete yet and the deadline was yesterday. The sponsorship package and its delivery are dependent upon the creation of its content. Were you aware that you missed the deadline? How can I support you to complete this?”

One other hint to remember – avoid using the word “Why” as it comes loaded with accusation type baggage.

Conclusion

Learning how to communicate with your team effectively is important to becoming a great leaderIt may take some practise to work these tools into your routine, and once you do you will notice the results. Your team will feel supported, respected and appreciated and employees are always more productive when they feel that way.