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It’s not (just) what you do …

It’s also the way (and the when) that you do it!  

Some years ago I had what can only be described as a “bad day”.  I was due to meet a colleague in a Hotel in London the evening before we were to deliver a sales presentation to a prospective new customer the following morning.  We met in the hotel bar after dinner one evening and spent an hour or so discussing the tactics for the meeting the next day, and generally catching with news.

When it came time to retire to our rooms we noticed that my Laptop case was missing!  Despite a thorough search, it had indeed been stolen, right from under our noses!  It had been right at my side within touching distance all evening, yet when I picked up my suitcase the laptop bag was no longer in sight.  That was a bit of a problem since I had the only laptop with the presentation loaded up all ready to go.  

Well, we managed to negotiate that problem at the sales meeting the next morning with a very understanding client and arrived at the station looking forward to first class service on the rail journey home.  We boarded and sat back awaiting our departure and a relaxing dinner and cocktails, when the train next to ours pulled out of the station, and at this point discovered that we were sitting on the wrong train! 

That’s the day when we learned a splendid lesson in the Right Time – Wrong Place curriculum from the School of Timing; we learned one of the key axioms the hard way that day. 

I try to do the right thing, at the right time.  They may just be little things, but usually they make the difference between winning and losing.”
~ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

It was on another journey that I learned another axiom from that same school.  I was traveling with some colleagues from Clermont-Ferrand, France via Paris (Charles de Gaulle) to Manchester, England, and based on advice I had learned that the best way to ensure that I arrived in Manchester with my luggage was to have it disembark with me in Paris, and to go through baggage drop once again.  While I was waiting for my suitcase to arrive at the baggage claim conveyor, my colleagues who had loaded their cases to go on through to Manchester saw their cases appear on the conveyor too.  Now that was a lesson on being at the Right Place & Right Time, a success despite no advance planning!

I was introduced to another axiom by a customer.  We had been working in partnership with this customer for a good number of years and they were valued customers of a fairly large web-based software product.  At the time had two installations of our product for two different projects and had been considering the purchase of several more.  During the course of the discussions, we had talked about the possibility of deploying a single combined product to support multiple projects, to replace several separate systems.  For a variety of reasons it was not possible to offer what they were looking for; although it was technically feasible it had elements of project and Information Governance risk that we were not willing or able to accept. 

Unfortunately, by the time we were able to accept this new operating environment our customer had found an alternative, and they had engaged them in dialogue with a contract about to be signed.  It was only when we approached the customer about another matter and their new direction came to light that we were finally able to offer the solution we had been discussing previously, however by this time despite bringing a late offer to the table it was insufficient to avert the loss of a valued customer.  This was the right product, but at the wrong time!

I learned that we can do anything, but we can’t do everything… at least not at the same time. So think of your priorities not in terms of what activities you do, but when you do them. Timing is everything.
~ Dan Millman

I learned this next axiom from the School of Timing during a cycle race.  During the early days of my fairly short cycling career, I found myself in a road race, and I was in a bunch at the front of the race.  Now that wasn’t a particularly remarkable achievement, since the race was a handicap race, with the slowest riders sent out first, and I was fairly new to cycling so I started out in the lead group.

It was a race over several laps of a road circuit, and I had spotted a great place to jump off the front of the pack to take a lead if we hadn’t been caught by the main bunch of faster riders by then.  As we started the last lap I made my way to the head of the bunch, or peloton, and then made my move as we turned the selected corner.  I put my head down and sprinted off the front, and then shortly after glanced over my shoulder to see that I had brought a few the other riders with me.  I let one overtake me as we went along the back straight and take the lead for a while, and then as we approached the next turn made another move to regain the lead.  I took the last left turn at the front once again and raced up the climb with my legs now starting to burn from the effects of the lactic acid building up from the sprint. 

By the time I was halfway up the hill with my legs screaming at me the thought flashed through my head that I was done, I had burnt all my fuel and I would now have to abandon the attempt.  I glanced over my shoulder to see who was going to overtake me next only to find that there was no-one there!  Although I my legs were hurting and my lungs were burning and all I wanted to do was to slow down, the others had already dropped back and I had opened up a great lead.  With the end in sight, I found renewed strength and dug deep int my reserves and all of a sudden all the pain was lost in the elation of winning the race.  I won my first cycling victory!

On this occasion, I had planned the right time and the right place and achieved the reward of a very welcome success. 

As John Maxwell demonstrates, in Leadership the Law of Timing teaches us that when to lead is as important as what to do and where to go.  Leaders have to do more than just do the right things, they have to do the right things at the right time. 

About Roger Fairhead

Roger is a leadership specialist delivering Leadership for Business Achievement through Speaking, Training and Coaching to business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“He is articulate, tracks complex issues with ease and has an incredible gift for raising pearls of wisdom out of the murky depths of people and process.” His passion is to help people to learn effective leadership skills to lead their teams to capitalize on their strengths and passions to realize their dreams.

Leadership for Business also invests into the dreams of families in the world’s underserved communities to offer them small loans that empower them to invest in their future, to provide for their families and give back to their communities.