Being Late (Ahead of Time!)

Being Late (Ahead of Time)

Photo by David Iliff, Available at Wikipedia Commons under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Hong Kong is an amazing city! … Well it is actually a “special administrative region” of the People’s Republic of China – but you know what I mean. Hong Kong is located on China’s south coast and is known for its breath-taking skyline, deep natural harbor, commerce, and economic freedom. Trade! Street vendors! Tailors! Fish! Noise! Pedestrians! It’s a mass of over 7 million people crammed on a tiny island (~426 square miles) – smaller than many counties in the US!

Hong Kong is one of my favorite places to visit in the world and the Conrad is one of my favorite hotels. Recognized as one of the top business hotels in the world, the hotel rises 61 floors above Pacific Place (an upscale retail complex) in Hong Kong’s central business district. Each room offers view of Victoria Peak and Hong Kong Harbor. Very cool! Amazing mojo! Hong Kong and Conrad = Loving Life!!!

It was in the Conrad that I first began thinking about Being Late (Ahead of Time!). You see, I was a junior engineer on a business trip with several executives traveling in Asia – Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong and, of course, Singapore (Singapore Air – ahhh!). I wasn’t quite carrying the bags of these execs – but it was close. Very close! We were scheduled to fly to Singapore on a Saturday morning and I was supposed to meet Darryl, VP of Asia, and 2 other execs in the lobby of the Conrad at 8am so the driver could take us to Kai Tak Airport. No problem. This was easy. No taxi. No mass transit. No nothing. A driver taking us to the airport in a limo. Like falling off a log. Easy-schmeazy.

The night before, about the time I was GOING TO BED, I received an unexpected call from Paul, a friend of mine from the States. He was in town. Would I like to go listen to some jazz across the harbor in Kowloon? Um, sure. … When I got back into my room at 4:30am!, I was CERTAIN that I had set my clock AND asked for a 7am wake-up call. Plenty of time to pack (I’d been at the Conrad 6 days already!), shower, shave, brush my teeth, go down 57 floors, check-out and meet “the brass” for our ride to the airport. Certain. Yep, CERTAIN!

At exactly, 7:55am the phone woke me up. “The driver’s here and ready to go. You ready?” Dang! Trouble! No shower! No shave! No teeth-brushing! No combing my hair (yes, had it)! No socks! No nothing! I said to Darryl, “I’m almost there.” Being Late (Ahead of Time!) = Not Loving Life! I managed to get downstairs, checked out and to the limo by 8:05 am. Of course I looked like crap bad. Sweaty (from running). Hair messed up. Bad breath. No socks. Shirt untucked (before it was cool). All 3 execs were in the car. Motor running. … Embarrassed. Winded. Upset. Annoyed. Arghhhh!!!

Darryl called my BEFORE our appointed time, 8am. But when he called, I WAS ALREADY LATE! … Why? I couldn’t get everything I needed to get done and where I was supposed to be on time. The deadline had not occurred, but I WAS late! I couldn’t slow down the clock and I had too much to accomplish in a mere 5 min.

Being Late (Ahead of Time!) is like having a dentist appointment in 15 min, but you’re in traffic 35 min away. You’re late! … It’s like having a project deadline 6 weeks from now, but you haven’t placed the order for a critical piece of equipment with a 9 week lead-time. You’re late! … It’s like deciding the day before mid-terms that you’d better buy the text. You’re late!

Great leaders plan ahead. Build schedules. Make lists (check ’em twice). Think things through. Create Contingencies, Back-up plans, Buffers. Margin.

Some people, by their nature, LOVE planning. They’re wired that way. Others? Well, if you’re one of those, you know what you think about detailed planning. … Yet regardless of your wiring, great leaders plan ahead. Think of possible obstacles. Build contingencies. Great leaders don’t push it to the wire when it comes to planning their work. They recognize Life happens. Things happen. Stuff happens. Variation happens.

Monday, I’m flying to St. Louis from Raleigh. The airport is 1.5 hours away. I won’t leave my house 30 min before my scheduled departure time. I’d be Being Late (Ahead of Time!). I’ll leave early enough to allow for: The drive (including traffic). Parking. TSA. Starbucks coffee (triple espresso macchiato!).

Are you going to show up late. Be late. Deliver late. Or are you going to Produce, Arrive, Deliver, and Be “on time.” … Some might even argue that “EARLY, is on-time!” Great leaders plan on Being On-Time/Early (Ahead of Time!).

How do YOU avoid Being Late (Ahead of Time!)?

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