This post is part of the “Thoughts about time” series

  1. Stop pushing the river
  2. A simple way to save time: trust people
  3. Why some people and organizations almost always have time for everything
  4. The secret ingredient in actions that get outstanding results

What makes the difference between the work of a craftsman and the output of a hack?

Is it talent? That certainly has something to do with it. Is it application? Again, yes: though application won’t be enough on its own. Is it skill? Certainly, though skill again isn’t sufficient without the extra element that I am thinking of.

That Magic Ingredient Is . . . time.

Talent is a wonderful thing, but without the time to use it fully it will produce frustration and unhappiness. Hard work — application — is no substitute for time either. You may work long hours, but if those hours are filled with activities done in a rush, with no time to concentrate properly, all you will produce is a large total of mediocre work.

Skill too takes time: time to learn, time to develop through experience, time to apply.

Quantity is no substitute for quality

Today, conventional managers unthinkingly equate productivity with producing more in less time and at lower cost, pretty much ignoring what it is they produce that way. As quantitative productivity increases, qualitative output falls. You produce more and more of what’s less and less valuable.

What craftsman was ever concerned with simply producing more? What producer of basic commodities has time to be concerned about craftsmanship?

Cramming and cutting are the price we pay for speed and the search for our obsession with merely numerical, quantitative ideals of productivity. We cram more work into the same time (and yet more into those long, long hours); and we cut costs, resources, and time for thinking, creating, rest or enjoyment.

Time and quality are closely linked

Wine has to mature to become great. Cheese needs time to bring out the flavor. Gabble through the greatest poem at the speed of a sports commentator and you’ll be left with little but disappointment. In our attempts to do everything more quickly, merely for the sake of instant gratification, we too often destroy the very qualities that made us value the outcome in the first place.

Money isn’t a substitute for time either. However much you make, without time you can’t spend it and appreciate what you spent it on. Nor is wealth a substitute for love, happiness, or time to live a contented life. And making more money for the business is definitely no substitute for leadership.

What are you worth?

How much of other people’s time are you worth? A few minutes? An hour? A day? How long should they take to appreciate the full flavor of who you are as a colleague and a person? Would giving you less time mean they sold you short? If your boss spends almost no time with you, could he or she still appreciate your abilities and worth?

Fine, so that’s how much of their time you’re worth. Now, how much of your time should you give others to be able to see their worth properly?

“Slow” is the secret key

Strip away the time and the greatest vacation destination becomes a blurred image from the window of a speeding vehicle. The most wonderful music is turned into a ringtone on your cellphone; a breath-taking love affair is reduced to a quick fumble behind the filing cabinets. The most talented and skilled person is reduced to turning out only what can be done quickest, with most of their attention already elsewhere. If it can’t be done in five minutes or less, forget it. No time.

The stuff of greatness? I don’t think so.

Slow Leadership isn’t slow for the sake of it. It’s slow because that’s what it takes. Time is the magic ingredient. Take it away and what’s left is worthless.

Rushed, frantic leadership is no leadership at all. A life lived at top speed leaves no time to appreciate its joys and savor its experiences.

Why rush? It’s the only life you have. Do you want it to be over so soon?

(4 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
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