Saturday, November 05, 2020


Actors, comedians and professional speakers all know the difference between success and failure is often a matter of timing. Get that wrong and everything else falls flat. It's the same in the business world. If you present an idea, contact a customer, speak to a supplier or try to deal with an underperforming subordinate at the wrong time, your changes of success are close to zero.

Timing is something people learn by experience. Of course, there are some obvious things to avoid, but it's mostly about knowing two things: how to be patient and how to choose your moment. Rushed, time-limited leaders and managers usually fail on both. They can't wait, so they're unable to choose any moment but now. How many good projects have been sidelined because they were presented when people weren't ready to listen? How often do great ideas go to waste because the person with the idea rushed to tell people when they were distracted or unreceptive?

Hesiod, in 800 b.c., knew the importance of timing, when he wrote: "Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor." Miyamoto Musashi, a 17th century Japanese warrior and strategist wrote: "There is timing in the whole life of the warrior, in his thriving and declining, in his harmony and discord. Similarly, there is timing in the way of the merchant, in the rise and fall of capital. All things entail rising and falling timing. You must be able to discern this." And in our own time, US senator George McGovern was quoted as saying: "You know, sometimes, when they say you are ahead of your time, it's just a polite way of saying you have a real bad sense of timing."

How do you improve your timing? The keys are patience and careful observation.

You must be ready to wait if you sense the timing isn't right. Never rush ahead anyway. In many cases, there will be only a single opportunity to present your idea or make the correct impression on an important customer. To be able to choose your time, you must be willing to pass over opportunities that don't feel right. Haste breeds anxiety, which is fatal to good timing.

Timing isn't something you're born with. It's a skill. You develop it by watching other people and monitoring your own actions. When did things work well? What were the signs? How will you spot similar situations which are likely to be just right for what you have in mind? And when did things go wrong? What should you have realized before you lost patience and spoiled your chances? Learning too requires time and attention. If you try to cut corners by following one or two "hand me down" techniques, you'll never be more than a clumsy beginner.

Slow Leaders make sure they master the art of timing and use it to their advantage. Because they're never rushed, they stay calm, attentive and focused. They're always ready to wait if the time isn't right — and prepared to step in immediately when they see that it is.
  • Don't be a bull in a china shop.

  • Don't allow impatience and anxiety to ruin your chances before you even start.

  • Slow down. Learn patience.

  • Learn how to time your actions perfectly. Your success will multiply as a result.

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