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Friday, October 01, 2010
Volume 16 | # 369
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Defer no time; delays have dangerous ends. » William Shakespeare

Timely Meetings

A simple sign in a local business made me smile recently and got me back on one of my old soap box topics. The sign read, "If you aren't 10 minutes early for class, you're late."

This sign is located in the lobby of the building in which my kids have begun to take Taekwondo lessons. (And yes, my days as alpha male in my own home are definitely numbered.)

After a few weeks of attendance, it is clear to see that these folks live by that motto. One of the cooler things (to me, anyway) about this particular group leader is that he preaches respect.

Kids are taught to respect their classrooms, teachers, and authority figures. Respect for the value of time is on their list, as well.

It's made perfectly clear to students and parents that the posted "start time" of a class means, well… that class will actually start at that time. And they do.

Frankly, parents appreciate this. Folks are willing to put forth whatever extra effort is needed to be somewhere on time when they know they won't be made to feel foolish for making those efforts.

Through the years, I've lost track of how many middle and senior managers have pulled me aside before meetings at which I'm speaking to ask if it’s okay if they begin a few minutes late. I always chuckle and tell them that it's their meeting. I'm just the hired help. I'll be ready whenever they are.

When this happens, I always fight off the urge to offer free (usually unwanted) consultation. I want to suggest that habitually treating start-times as "estimates" causes more issues than many consider.

Folks who are conscientious and bust their tails to be somewhere when you ask them to be get to wait for others who didn't. And yes, I know stuff happens, and sometimes folks have legitimate reasons for being tardy. But what percent of late-arrivers are late because they can safely assume starting times are "flexible." (75%? 90%?)

Employees appreciate managers who say what they mean and mean what they say. And as trivial as it seems, never beginning meetings when you say that you will can erode their confidence that you do, in fact, mean what you say.

Few assets are more valuable than yours and your employees' time. How much of it gets wasted each month waiting for meetings that never seem to begin when scheduled? It may be high time to change that habit.

Getting Attitudes in Line

One of the standard slides in many of my presentations describes the open-loop nature of our brain’s limbic system. Most folks are initially amused and puzzled by a subject that seems a bit out of place in a sales and service presentation.

When I get to the gist of the slide, however, most quickly see its relevance. The open-loop nature of our brain’s limbic system allows us to feel empathy for others. We spread moods even without words being spoken.

I suggest to folks that one of the more compelling aspects of this is that it gives us the ability to greatly influence the work environment we inhabit every day.

This phenomenon was pretty obvious to me during a recent airport visit. During any given week, the longest lines I stand in are in the security lanes in airports. And with all due respect to the blue-shirted TSA folks, it is obvious that “customer satisfaction” is not one of the metrics they are measured on. 

I’m relatively sure that their bonuses aren’t tied to whether or not they treat passengers like cattle. But that may not be a fair analogy.

After all, ranchers actually like their cows. 

Most of the dozen-or-so agents standing around Concourse B recently displayed an interesting mix of boredom, sarcasm, and disinterest.

But a week or so ago, one older gentleman checking ID’s was a one-man welcoming committee. Fred smiled at folks, asked them how they were doing (in a manner that sounded like he actually cared), complimented people on shirts, ties, etc. and made “small talk” in general.

When he noticed two men currently serving in the military, he shared his own background with them and thanked them for their service. Folks seemed genuinely surprised and heartened by his unexpected, enthusiastic engagement.

Looking around, it was plain to see that the folks in Fred’s line displayed far more smiles and were chattier in general than folks in other lines. After interacting with Fred, many folks continued talking amongst themselves as they patiently waited for the kabuki dance of bag screening and metal detectors.

The environment Fred created for himself was noticeably cheerier and less stressful than his peers’.

Your own actions and attitudes this week will greatly impact the kind of environment you work in as well.

Will yours be a positive influence?

Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles the soul." » Douglas MacArthur

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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