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3 Ways to Lead Your Direct Report Out Of Chaos

Updated: Oct 30, 2019

3 Ways to Manage a Deadline with a Chaotic Boss, article by Dr Nadine Greiner PhD

Do you have a high-energy manager under you who really knows how to build his or her team’s enthusiasm for a project?  The manager does superb work and is highly respected, but when it comes to deadlines it’s a constant struggle.  You don’t want to fall into the micromanagement trap which can be a parasitic time-waster, causing resentment from your managers and yourself.  So how do you get and keep your direct report who is a manager on track without turning into a deadline nagger? Here are 3 techniques to help your managers stay the course:

1. Set Clear Expectations and S.M.A.R.T. Goals

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible."   –  Tony Robbins When discussing the project, make sure that your manager is aware of how much this project contributes to the success of the company as well as how the deadline will affect the business.  Let him/her know what’s expected by using S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. identifies the importance of the project on several levels: Is it Specific? Recognize what the project is all about using the 5 W’s:  What do I want to achieve? Why is this project significant? Who are the people on the project? Where does the project take place? Which resources can I access, and which limits do I have to abide by? Is it Measurable? Being able to measure performance can keep your manager and their team aware of the deadlines while helping them stay focused.  It also helps to define the project in a physical sense, which can clarify the purpose of the project.  Measurability also encourages your manager to stay on course as completion of the project nears, building anticipation and excitement.  Is it Achievable? While it’s good to have a challenge, you want to make sure the project has practical goals.  Unrealistic expectations can cause motivation to wane and the project to stagnate.  If there are other factors that play a role, make sure they don’t become insurmountable obstacles. Is it Relevant? Not only does the project need to match their abilities, but there needs to be a reason your manager and their team will invest their time and effort into it.  In other words, it needs to be worth their while in some way.  Timing and socio-economic values can have an impact on the relevancy of the project as well.   Is it Time-bound? This addresses the deadlines.  There are obvious deadlines, such as when the project is due.  But it is beneficial to have smaller deadlines that allow portions of the project to be finished.  These can help keep a long-term project moving so it doesn’t lose priority to the daily, squeaky-wheel tasks that come up.  At the same time, do allow some flexibility to leave room for creativity and learning opportunities.  The last thing you want is to turn the project into a race against time.  

3 Ways to Manage a Deadline with a Chaotic Boss, quote by Dr Nadine Greiner PhD

2. Act and Track Progress

“Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”   -  John C. Maxwell, Founder of INJOY and author of Earn the Income You Deserve Check-in regularly (quarterly or monthly) to get updates and give feedback on the project.  This gives your manager the opportunity to address the obstacles they don’t know how to resolve. These meetings will also serve to monitor the progress of their work and show your support.  You can offer suggestions on handling problem areas, identifying opportunities to strengthen the project and pass along any changes in priorities or the direction of the project. 

3. Review

Offer recognition and compensation for projects well-executed and completed on-time. As Tom Rath, author of Eat Move Sleep, reported, “Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last 7 days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work.” This is also a good time to visit points where the project fell off course.  Ask your manager to come up with their own solutions on how to avoid those problem areas again and stay within the deadlines.  You can also discuss promotional opportunities to reward high-quality work or to motivate better performance.

Having an enthusiastic but chaotic manager under you is a gift. Because it is easier to structure that manager's efforts than it is to try to instill passion in a lackluster manager. Benjamin Franklin said: "If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins."


Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.

As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’.

Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at or by phone at (415) 861-8383.


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