How you spend your time speaks louder than your words

Carolyn Taylor

None of us feel we have enough time. It’s a finite resource, and it forces us to make choices. Those choices send signals about what we really value. One of the strongest symbols of a culture is how time is spent. When people see this changing, they start to believe your communication about values.

A common comment during a culture change is ‘we are spending much more time talking about (customers, costs, people, competitors, or whatever) than we used to’. This is an encouraging sign that you are making progress.

I often hear people denying that their calendar really reflects what they value. They argue that they ‘have no choice’. I believe we always have choice, although many are blind to this. You spend all your time in meetings and don’t have time to spend coaching your team. What would it take to decline those meetings? If your response is that it would cost you your job, then what you are saying is that keeping your job at any cost is more important to you than coaching your team. No judgment here, just an observation. Another possible way of interpreting this would be that not rocking the boat (by challenging whether you need to be at these meetings) is more important to you than the development of others (through coaching).

Under these circumstances, when you next stand up and say ‘we value our people and managers being coaches’, your credibility will not be high. Your talk does not line up with your walk. The culture change occurs at the moment when coaching your people moves up to be so important that you are prepared to go through the discomfort of ruffling some feathers and getting a few changes put through regarding meeting attendance.

Take a look at your calendar, and especially at what gets bumped for what. In fact every time you have a calendar clash, and cancel one of the meetings, think about what this is telling you (and everyone else, because for sure they will notice) about your values priorities. We all have them, we have to, because time is a finite resource. Be honest about it, don't play victim (‘it is out of my control’) and, if you really do value something take some new steps which show that to be true.

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