The tide is turning, and people who are habitually late in fulfilling their obligations on time, will have difficulty surviving in positions of responsibility, unless they become punctual in everything they do.
Observations based on our behavior are mainly subjective, particularly in the way we dress and the manner in which we walk and talk. However, time and how we expend it is a tangible measure which shapes our perception in the minds of others. For example, turning up for meetings on time conveys focus, seriousness and professionalism. Sticking to agreed project deadline shows discipline. Staying within the limits of allotted time when speaking at conferences will avoid testing audience’s patience and win over their approval. Giving timely rewards to the deserving motivates. In fact, our own self respect is very time dependent and time sensitive.
‘Time is money’. This is what we hear most people saying in business and social circles. But how many of us truly value our own time and that of others? We know that punctuality in all our dealings is a mark of our reliability. We are aware that one important way of showing respect to others is by not wasting their time. Yet, we witness scores of examples each day where this principle is violated. Frankly, respect for time is presently not the hallmark of our national culture.
Many government officials in high office tend to turn up late to events. This is considered a sign of their importance in society. The more important you are, the later you arrive. Being late at weddings is also fashionable. Appearing on time at social functions is not the ‘in’ thing. Even at conferences and seminars it is not unusual for some delegates/participants to trickle in more than half an hour late. An old saying comes to mind, “Justice delayed is justice denied.” Our courts are full of cases that have been pending for decades with no end in sight! Imagine the plight of those seeking judicial remedy.
Corporate cultures built around the value of time alone can contribute to higher levels of efficiency, productivity and quality. Respect for time implies builds integrity, shows discipline, and contributes to quality in everything we do. A business that values time and sees it as a critical measure can overwhelm competition by delighting its customers, both internal and external. This is achieved through timely fulfillment of orders, speed of response to an enquiry, and ‘Just in Time’ inventory management.
Culture decays gradually, when time is misused or when priorities are mismanaged by people in all levels of society and within the corporate hierarchy. Consider a well-known Biblical quote, “People without vision, perish.” The very mention of the word ‘vision’ implies the need for turning it into reality. This cannot be achieved without clearly defined tasks and timeframes.
Our knowledge, experience, roles and expertise turn to naught if we fail to focus on goals with unswerving commitment to achieving them. Saying what we do and doing what we say lies at the heart of effective management. Excessive use of follow-ups and reminders to get things done in our corporate and social circles is proof that we are caught up in a culture that is imprecise, vague, careless and forgetful. Most businesses operating in Pakistan today suffer on account of this laxity in our society.
Despite the prevailing casual attitude to time, there are a few examples of corporate leaders in Pakistan who have achieved immense breakthroughs in challenging circumstances simply by ensuring that time is respected, not just by them, but also by their constituents.
St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226), an Italian friar, founder of the Franciscan Order once said, “Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Make a start and be on time in everything you do, at work, at home and in your community.
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), German medical missionary, Nobel Peace Prize winner reminds us that, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”
Time is your ally. Your self-respect and integrity depends on it.