By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here are a few ideas to help you get more control over your calendar. Reading time: 4:17
I seemed to be running from one meeting to another. And often I was running late. Finally my New York team started joking with each other that “he’s on Chicago time.” I would rationalize my tardiness with something like: “I have too much responsibility to parcel my time out to the precise minute. Besides I can be a few minutes late. The important aspects of the meeting usually don’t start until a few minutes into the meeting anyway.”
But that was before I met our new company president. I always was on time for her meetings. One day the president seemed to be in a philosophical mood. She looked at her calendar for the day and said more to herself than to me:
” Leaders are never too busy to lead.
- They invest time. They don’t spend it.
- They make commitments not appointments.
- They fulfill their promises rather than fill full their calendars.”
Ever since then, I started delegating more and attending fewer meetings. The few meetings I did attend, I showed more reverence for punctuality, more integrity to making a commitment to someONE rather than an appointment for someTHING. That takes principle, a principle of leadership that I now understand can symbolize your reputation for doing what you say you will do and therefore your credibility, your integrity as an effective leader.
I learned that first hand when I later worked at much larger company. I served as the president our company’s Toastmasters Club. Each year we conducted an Annual Awards Luncheon in one of the company’s conference rooms.
A month before I invited the company president to attend. I pointed out to him that Toastmasters is a voluntary leadership development program that our employees pursue because they want to make a greater contribution to the company.
I told the president how significant it would be to future growth and success of the company if he could attend and demonstrate to his employees the value of active listening, organized thinking and confident speaking — the three key initiatives of Toastmasters leadership training. He agreed.
The morning of our Toastmasters event the company was officially notified that it was being sued by a competitor for patent infringement. Our legal department was bristling. So were teams of engineers reviewing the particulars of the suit. The president was in closed-door meetings all morning. But at 12 noon, the president showed up at the Toastmasters Awards Luncheon. I was stunned. I thought for sure he would not show.
Later that day, I caught him in his office about 6 pm and thanked him again for attending the Toastmasters luncheon. I said I knew how busy he must have been with the law suit and that I really didn’t think he’d make the meeting. “I made a commitment,” the president said. End of story.
To him, a commitment is written in stone. Besides as an effective leader, he had his legal department handling the particulars. He needed a break from all the legal wrangling. And he had to eat lunch. But somehow I don’t think he needed any justification to break away from the legal stuff and attend our Toastmasters meeting. After all, he made a commitment.
That’s what the most effective leaders do. They honor their commitments. Consider George Washington and Vince Lombardi, two very different leaders who are on the same commitment page.
The President often invited new members of Congress for dinner at the presidential mansion in New York. Sometimes his guests would arrive a few minutes late. They were embarrassed to find the president eating even if none of the guests had arrived on time. George Washington explained: “My cook never asks if the visitors have arrived but if the hour has arrived.” Dinner was always served at 4 pm. Promptly. Washington showed respect for the timely performance of his cook rather than pay a courtesy to his late arriving guests.
The famed professional football coach of the Green Bay Packers, was holding his first team meeting at 8 a.m. Ray Nitzchke, the star defensive back of the Packers, arrived at 7:59 am. Lombardi promptly fined his star player for being late. “But coach, I’m here on time at 8.” Lombardi retorted: “On time at my meeting is 10 minutes early.” Lombardi’s focus on punctuality became the glue of the organization, the critical ingredient that made everything come together.
Focus on your own punctuality. Take more control over your calendar. And make commitments not just appointments.
Make commitments on your calendar to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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