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The Simplest Leadership Lesson of All Time

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A very long time ago – very early in my career, I remember reading about legendary Packers Coach Vince Lombardi’s emphasis on being fifteen minutes early. This discipline guided my approach to arriving at sales and business meetings throughout my career, and I am grateful for having espoused Lombardi Time. Recently though, I have observed that leaders are frequently missing the point about simple punctuality, and this is causing the unnecessary wasting of resources, and it is giving a very unfortunate message to peers and subordinates in the enterprise.

Here’s my blunt perspective on the issue.

When someone shows up late occasionally, there are often good reasons, and we should acknowledge that. However, when someone shows up late persistently, they are making a choice to be late. When that person is the senior member of the group—or worse, the entire enterprise—the message they are giving is that they are quite comfortable with squandering the organization’s resources. They are also confirming their view that their own agendas rank ahead of those who are frustrated and waiting for them to show up! Either way it is a very shortsighted discipline and a bad message.

Is there a more simple way to set the tone for collegiality and the importance of the stewardship of resources than by being on time? More than this, do a little math; add up the aggregate time lost by people waiting on you; multiply that through their compensation rates, and then multiply that through the number of events where this is allowed to happen. The net loss goes straight to the bottom line!

Above all this is one key word: Respect.

In the world that I spend a significant part of my life now, there is an expression, “They don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” All we have to do is show up—on time.

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