Choose your time carefully

When I teach personal leadership, we always touch upon time. Time is a quantity that really affects our organizations and the well-being of them. But the way, we as leaders, approach time varies greatly. Time can be something we relate to in seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, seasons – even in years! The prevailing concept of time depends on the type of organization you work in and where in the organization you work. Of course.

To some organizations, time moves in big turns – over the year. The seasons run the business, and the challenge is to even out the distortions it gives. To others, it hurries off in meticulous staccato – here, a culture prevails where employees are pressed for time to reach their next meeting. Others see time in a 24-hour perspective. The question of how many hours one can manage to be with the family between meetings on each side of the globe. This is a challenge that has come with globalization and cooperation across time zones.

To influence our own time
As leaders, most of us have deliberately worked to speed things up over the past many years. Both for ourselves and the teams we are responsible for. We have streamlined, digitized, made “whiteboard meetings” rather than “sit-down meetings” and much more. At one point, time management was taught along with the handing out of well-structured paper calendars. With Outlook for everyone, it has become personal efficiency – and lots of digital tutorials.

A common concern of the many middle managers I teach is that they have a hard time influencing time themselves. The calendar is packed with meetings and conditioned by the work culture of the company in question – a real “Tetris calendar”. The consequence for most is that they either have to block time for reflection, learning and planning during the week, or that “out-of-the-box thinking” has to take place from home – in the evening.

And the big question most people end up with – Is this really how we prioritize development and creativity?? Is it something we have to fight to have time for, or cultivate when we have a clear head?

Time to think slowly
With covid-19 we have been given time as a gift – at home, and in front of the screen. To many it has been promising – to others alienating. Common to us all is that we must relate to how we proactively work with time. We have been forced to redefine our way of going to work. And the easy version, of course, is to open up for more flexibility and work from home, which many have also proclaimed. But there is just so much more we need to relate to as managers and as employees.

Some of the very simple questions I ask the leaders I teach to reflect on are: – Do I enjoy the time rhythm that my current organization or job function requires? – Do I have the opportunity to take greater control of my time – on a daily / weekly / monthly basis? – How do I, and my team, plan time for reflection, learning and creativity? – How can the overall planning in the organization be improved for the benefit of everyone’s well-being? – Do we have the opportunity to define a new approach to time in our culture?

Making time is one of the most important resources in the organization and, at the same time, appreciating the fact that slow thinking and giving time can be transgressive for many organizations – almost transformative. Maybe, we as leaders, should think a little more about time rather than just taking it for granted. The above are questions we should ask ourselves on an ongoing basis – and especially in a time of upheaval.