Managing By Cliches: Timing Is Everything (Pick Your Spots)

This is another in our series of posts on the topic of “managing by cliches.”

Last week was a very good one in my department, as a long-hoped for project moved forward in a significant way, after years of opposition from certain quarters.  Reflecting on the reasons that we  finally made progress,  I believe it came down to two things:

  • perseverance  (i.e., being too stubborn to give up)
  • patience (being willing to “wait it out” until conditions were more favorable).

Melding these two qualities together, I think the cliche “timing is everything” is really what was at work here.

Do we always have the patience (and perseverance) to wait for the right moment to make our move?

Luck?

One might argue that “timing” is nothing more than luck — i.e., some people are just “born under a lucky star” and always appear to be “in the right place at the right time.”  “Not me,”  you might say.  “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all” we might all feel in our “Charlie Brown” moments.  (Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought this about yourself).  While I wouldn’t argue that luck (or “good fortune,” or “kizmet,” or “serendipity”) plays no role, I do think that other more controllable factors are involved, as well.

I believe that awareness of “the moment”  plays a key role in this.  No one can be fully aware of everything and everyone around them, of course.  But through practice and focus, we can probably all get better at this.

Poor Timing

As one example on the “bad timing” side … our national sales director had an office next to mine for several years.  A good and honorable person (of the “true gentleman” variety), “Roger” had worked for several months researching a powerful sales contact management software system he wanted to implement.  Once he was ready, he got the topic on the agenda of the division management meeting.

So far, so good.  Until, that is, the CEO opened the meeting with an impassioned directive for strong expense controls during the just-started economic downturn.  Next speaker: Roger.  Yep — you guessed it: He went ahead with his presentation as planned.  Suffice to say, a big-ticket software program wasn’t exactly what the CEO meant by “expense controls.”  Poor Roger (and his contact management program) was scarcely heard from again.

Perseverance and Patience

Another colleague brought to life the opposite experience.  “Karla” was a very talented HR manager who has since gone on to great achievements with an exemplary national organization.  Having developed a very strong proposal for a new talent management (we probably called it “recruiting” back then) initiative, she was able to get herself on a management team agenda, just like Roger did.  And, just like Roger’s situation, something unexpected came up — a crisis of some sort — that derailed the meeting significantly.  Her response, however, was quite different … and made all the difference.

When it was finally her time to speak, there was left only a small portion of the time Karla knew she would need to lay out her idea and build support and enthusiasm for getting the project approved.  Plus, the meeting participants were exhausted by the emotion of the day’s discussions and everyone just wanted to get home.  Sensing all of this, when it was her time to speak, she simply noted the events of the day and asked if her agenda item could be delayed until the next meeting — which the meeting leader approved instantly.  Karla’s temporary disappointment at the delay soon turned into a sense of accomplishment when her project was eagerly approved at the next meeting.

Picking Our Spots

While patience and perseverance aren’t easy for anyone (and admittedly even more difficult for some personality types or temperaments than others), if we can hold to these two characteristics, often what results — i.e., “good timing” — can be just the thing that creates the success that we’ve hoped for.

What has been your experience of patience or perseverance winning the day?

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