When I was in University I faithfully attended the gym in between a few of my morning classes. I as usual, was on a tight timeline to get my work out done and get back across campus to my next class. I was attempting to return a barbell to the rack and was stopped by the guy in front of me who was attempting to do the same. He was taking forever. So I said ‘excuse me’. Nothing happened. So I said it a bit louder ‘excuse me’ with a bit of disdain in my voice. Nothing. So I said it a bit louder, okay a lot louder, with an added bonus of a snarky remark. ‘EXCUSE ME! What are you deaf?’ And yes, yes he was, deaf. If I could have crawled into myself and disappeared I would have. I felt terrible that I couldn’t wait the extra 2.5 minutes for this chap to finish what he started from the front of the line which he had earned not taken. So, my ability to be patient and tolerable was trumped by my schedule.
How often do we create drama based on our own time commitments? How often do we communicate without considering the other persons reality? How often do we explode instead of explore?
I am a time soldier – I am generally on time, I try very hard to respect other people’s time and I am proud to say I’m pretty accurate when it comes to creating timelines. My time management skill, which serves me very well in a lot of life arenas is also a continual point of frustration. My tolerance of people who do not keep to their commitments or fail to recognize the needs of those around them is less than optimal. That low level tolerance impacts my patience and my available brain space to be reasonable. The other thing that happens is that I lose respect for them, I judge them and my expectations of their work is lowered because if they can’t manage to be on time then how can they manage a workload?
How often do we create assumptions of people based on our own commitments? I mean I was all about putting my barbells onto the rack quickly, getting out of the way and moving on with my next task. The chap in front of me was having a conversation with his friend and was in no hurry. Nowhere in the gym was there a rule posted that you must move swiftly – that rule was all me.
I believe that time management is a skill that can be learned. I believe that good time management has a roll off effect into good task management and good project management, not to mention life management. And in all honesty I fail to understand why people can’t be on time. It is truly one of life’s mysteries for me. So, I make lateness mean that they don’t care about the commitment they made or they don’t care if I wait. Neither one makes me feel good. The other side of the story is that I’m sure people feel I’m too rigid or I’m too demanding when it comes to being on time.
Why does a lack of time management speak volumes to the people around you? Why does this tie into leading by example? What does this have to do with leadership?
Same lesson; different example. As a leader if you honour your time commitments, as simply as starting your meetings on time or showing up for work on time, it sends a non-verbal communication that it is important and being on time matters. I have worked for organizations where the leaders come and go, don’t stick to start times and consistently arrive late for meetings or gatherings or commitments in general. It was an epidemic within the organization, a fair number of the other staff were late to meetings, calls, etc.
What I have had to learn to discern is when does the commitment of time really matter and when does it call for flexibility? When do I bring it to people’s attention? When do I let it slide? What are some rules that are mutually acceptable that are also mutually respectable?
My personal opinion is that if you commit to a time, you own the responsibility of showing up and you have accepted that the person you are meeting can hold you accountable. If you are unable to be keep that commitment it is your responsibility to communicate that along with an expected time of arrival to the person or persons to whom you have committed. Now, the other thing we need to realize as leaders is that our own timeline or commitment might not make sense to those around us, we need to explore and investigate why we are not getting the reaction we want to because it just might be our own example that is resulting in the delinquency. And if your team doesn’t know the commitment you have made it might prove frustrating when they don’t keep it; just like the chap in line in front of me who had no idea of my fever pitch and no knowledge of my requests.
What is your team deaf to? What are you asking over and over again that is not being heard? What are you neglecting to realize about the situation that results in frustration and potentially embarrassment? What have you not told them that makes it impossible for them to meet your expectations? What un-posted rules are you managing by?
Take a step back, take a look, take a moment, and take your team with you.