Friday, November 18, 2016
You May Delay, But Time Will Not.
I have always been intrigued by the term ‘deadline’ that we often use in our everyday lives. In the past this term seems to indicate the seriousness in completing the task on the agreed time. This is evident in the origin of the term itself. History.net states that the noun deadline, meaning a limiting mark or time or line, was coined at the infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war camp Andersonville (Ammer, Christine. 07 August 2009. Fighting words: Inspiration from Annihilation at http://www.historynet.com/fighting-words-civil-war.htm). However, in another report to Brig. Gen. R. H. Chilton dated May 10, 1864, Confederate Captain Walter Bowie used the term to describe the line over which prisoners were forbidden to go. In it, Bowie wrote: “On the inside of the stockade and twenty feet from it there is a dead-line established, over which no prisoner is allowed to go, day or night, under penalty of being shot” (The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 2, Volume 7, page 137). Sadly over the years the importance of a deadline seems to be lost on far too many people. It is true that in many situations we do not intend to use the term so strictly as mentioned above, but the truth is meeting deadlines have implications on our personal image.
In my opinion, there are two types of deadline. The first is the one imposed on us by another person. In this case, the failure of creating realistic goals and measurements sometimes hinder people’s abilities to encourage peak performance. I used to and still dread any deadlines with critical and short timeline. I admit that there are times this type of deadline cannot be avoided due to the need to recover from unpredictable instances. But at the same time, if everything has been planned out well, the possibility of giving this unreasonable deadline can be minimized.
Another type of deadline is actually our own promise that we make to another. There are times that we are given the choice to highlight our own specific timeline in completing a task. However, even in this situation we sometimes fail to meet the deadlines that we ourselves set. To me, missing this type of deadline is worse because it shows that as individuals and employees we are not able to manage our time well.
We have to always remember that our ability to meet deadlines is going to indirectly reflect our own credibility. Exceptional leadership starts with our ability to make and meet commitments. This thinking should be embedded in us so that we are aware of the image that we create every time we are unable to fulfill our promises to others. A quote by Jon Gordon mentions that "missing deadlines is another way of conveying to others that you do not respect their time" (https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/99/ee/b1/99eeb1aa273493bd994768388f31f31f.jpg). Be it our superior, our colleague, our family or our friend, it is crucial to note that our promise matters. In fact I believe that they matter more to our family and friend than to others. For this reason, I find a short story shared in the oxseeker.net by Alan Willett to be quite interesting.
"I really enjoyed playing racquetball with a dear friend in college. However he had a habit of almost always being at least forty-five minutes late to any event we were doing together. We often lost our court reservation because of this.
So I told him 2 o'clock and reserved the court for 3 o'clock. He came running in just a few minutes before the secret 3:00 PM reservation and started his painful apology cycle. I stopped him and just said, "It's okay, I have reserved the court for one hour after the deadline because I know you run late." I was surprised with how furious he was at that statement. He of course wasn't mad at me. He was mad at himself because he knew it was true.
He had lost credibility."
(Willett, Alan. March 10, 2015. Commitments, Trust, and Credibility at http://oxseeker.net/knowledge-center/alan-willetts-leading-edge/2015/3/10/commitments-trust-credibility)
Time is something that we should not take for granted. Deadlines may not be effective in all situations. Still when we look at it positively, deadlines actually push us to our limit and allow us to really maximize the usage of our time. As much as possible stay away from being the victim to over-promising and under-delivering. Planning, prioritizing, and preparing are all important, but often the visible ones are those who execute. With both types of deadlines, there are still rooms for negotiation. We should know our limits and have the courage to say no if necessary. In a case where we have agreed with the given deadlines, but then discover the need for extensions, do say so. Keeping quiet, hoping that people do not remember is not an option. In many situations people will be willing to grant you some extra time. Just make sure that you do not wait until the last minute or make it a habit. In the end, be professional, respect others and take pride in doing your job well and delivering it on time.
“A promise means everything, but once it is broken, sorry means nothing.” – Anonymous