The Importance Of Time

Dec. 21, 2004
Dont waste your most valuable commodity.

You know what bugs you, but do you have any idea what bugs your managers? A survey of 483 managers conducted by the American Management Assn. lists the following complaints:

  • 62% are bothered by people who fail to deliver what they promise.
  • 42.2% are disturbed by poor communication from top-level management.
  • 40.6% claim they have more tasks and responsibilities than they have time to handle.
  • 38.5% are miffed because other executives take more time than needed in meetings or calls.
  • 38.1% claim they do not have the authority to do what is required of them.
  • 34.2% object to people who take up too much time with unnecessary information or gossip.
  • 34% dont like meetings and appointments set for them without their input.
  • 29.8% get riled by meetings that start late.
  • 20.1% are disturbed because upper management or peers fail to acknowledge their efforts.
Six of the nine complaints have to do directly or indirectly with time issues. Thats a pretty high frustration factor by anyones evaluation and to suggest that it is the result of wasteful company bureaucracy would be a redundancy. Free advice has been described as the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the ignorant by the incompetent. But, since my IQ is a perfect 20/20, Im going to offer some advice, solicited or not. The most important function of business education is to develop the potential in our professional managers. There is extraordinary potential in ordinary people who are given the right leadership. Therefore, fostering a hierarchical system that treats middle, staff, and line managers like trained robots or by-the-book rubber stamps instead of thinking, knowledgeable, and responsible professionals is a serious mistake no chief executive should make. And yet, the results of the AMA study prove that some of you are guilty as charged. Wasting managers time is something no chief executive can afford to do. And no one wants to waste time in needless meetings, in meetings that start late and last forever, or in meetings that result in miscommunication, poor communication, or no communication at all. When those with authority to control other peoples time use it unproductively, it not only makes people angry, it upsets schedules, creates sidebar problems not anticipated, gives managers an excuse for lack of productivity, and adds stress where too much already exists. When we waste our own time, thats normal operating procedure. But when somebody else wastes our time, its an inexcusable calamity requiring that we do likewise. And the most serious consequence is that we turn our managers into time-counters. They log their minutes like misers count their coins. Time-counting is already prevalent in many professions: attorneys and accountants do their billing on the basis of time spent, whether usefully or wastefully. So do consultants, advertising agencies, efficiency experts, and production engineers. Time really is money. Because the pace and practices of the leader determine the pace and productivity of the pack, how you spend your time will be copied by your associates. It will also determine how they use the time of those who report to them. If you are late for your meetings, they will be late for their meetings. If you dont prepare meeting agendas and stick to them, neither will they. If you wander into pleasant byways instead of sticking to the productive fast-lane highways, so will they. The following are questions all executives should ask themselves every day: Is this meeting really necessary? Does it matter if we do this -- or dont do it? Does it matter if anyone does this? Would I, or anyone else in the company, be missed if we didnt attend this meeting, turned down that event or luncheon, or skipped another dinner? How much of your time are you permitting others to control or fritter away? How many needless meetings have you called? How many are being called by your associates? It has been my experience that better time management saves companies dollars as well as manager stress. Time management will also reduce a companys complaint quotient and its related frustration factor. Sal F. Marino is a former CEO of Penton Publishing Inc. and an IW contributing editor.

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