As a young ambitious TV producer, I once sat on the advisory board of an
international television festival. Arriving late for a meeting one evening, the
colleague I sat next to commented, "Yes you must be very busy." I was producing
a massive internationally co-produced series. But he ran a national network. His
comment was a subtle but unmistakable put-down I've never forgotten.
High-achievers are punctual.
Are they so successful because they are also so punctilious -- or does being
so make what makes them achieve so much? I don't know but I can't help but be
struck by the fact that the most successful people I know share the following
They turn up on times
They reply to emails swiftly
peoples' names, no matter what their status
They are reliable
We tend to think of leadership and excellence as residing in standout qualities:
Mathematical genius, aesthetic dazzle. But these smaller traits contain profound
messages. At the least, they signal self-discipline and good organization. More
deeply, they imply a concern or at least respect for other people. Being
punctual means you don't waste other peoples' time -- or think it is more
important than your own. Replying swiftly allows others to get on with their
work; you aren't their roadblock. Remembering names requires effort and that
they do so implies they believe you matter. Being reliable frees their peers and
colleagues from worrying about whether they'll deliver on promises.
All of these habits build trust -- and trust hugely reduces the friction and
costs of doing business. So these habits are profoundly efficient for both the
long and the short term.
Consider the opposite behaviors. Being late, ignoring or delaying emails,
forgetting other people and being capricious in honoring promises sends a loud
message: I matter more than anyone else. To get away with this attitude requires
power -- so the caprice is also a demonstration of status. It also leaves other
people feeling or being helpless. No reply to an email means other people can't
progress with their work. If you aren't reliable, it means nobody can be quite
sure of what is happening around them. You render others powerless while
exhibiting your own status. Such wayward behavior in small things can look
powerful while being insidiously costly and destructive.
This all seems so self-evident. And yet over the last few months, I've found
myself repeatedly in meetings where key people are late, or working with
colleagues who are unreliable. They're all senior, successful people and they
get away with it. But I wonder if they fully understand or control the very
clear messages that they send. I also can't help but wonder just how much
further they'll get.
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By Margaret Heffernan Money Watch January 27, 2014, 11: 27 AM
Frank Monaco Jr.
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