In almost 20 years of managing a professional services firm, I have learned a lot about time. I am in a billable business. We get paid for our time. I have learned to create a company culture that both respects time and keeps it in its proper place.
Inc’s article, The Best Way to Manage Time Wasters, has great management tips on managing the time wasters. Management’s job of prioritization, leadership’s job of motivation and human resource’s job of making sure the right person is in the right job all impact a company’s time-based productivity.
What I have found to be the most important factor in management is the company’s culture as it relates to time. What culture have you consciously created related to time? Do you know what your company’s underlying cultural beliefs are surrounding time? Do you place enough focus on outcomes or do you reward based on time spent?
I have led many types of people with a broad range of relationships to time. Productivity levels differ greatly from person to person. Some people have tendencies toward time wasting and procrastination While some people have a great deal of stress about time, others wouldn’t notice if they were abducted by aliens for 3 hours out of their work day. Because I have learned to measure outcomes, I have seen over and over again people that work 70 hours a week most surely do not deliver outcomes greater than the talented 40-hour-a-week person. The law of diminishing returns comes into play with burnout and a lack focus on the most important goals that comes with filling the time space that you allow yourself.
One interesting thing about time is the degree to which people want to be recognized for it, regardless of their outcomes. I believe this is a trap. Some desire recognition for being the first one in and the last one out of the office. It is a trap that will ruin the quality of that person’s life and take the focus away from what counts – delivering an outcome that matters.
The real truth is that time is not a measure of value. The outcome is the value. The quality, creativity and strategic relevancy of the outcome is what defines the real value. It is up to a company’s leadership to create a culture that puts time in its place.