“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
– John Wooden, Coach, UCLA Bruins
Over nearly two decades of coaching and developing thousands of leaders, the #1 pushback we receive for any skill or model we present – whether we are talking about giving feedback, managing change, handling delegation, addressing conflict, etc. – is “I don’t have time for that.”
This statement comes in many forms and flavors. For instance: “I’m just too busy.” “It’s been crazy at work.” “I’m being asked to do more and more with fewer and fewer resources.” “Other matters took precedence.” But despite the language, the meaning is the same: “I don’t have time.”
It is at this point that Coach John Wooden’s quote says it all: “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”
To bring this truth home, consider this classic scenario we run across over and over again with our clients. A manager does not take the time upfront to be crystal clear on the expected outcomes of a delegated task. She is too busy. So she just tells her employee, “Go make a presentation for the Bigundersplatz project.” She doesn’t check for understanding, but assumes that the employee knows what she wants and can deliver on it.
A week later, her employee comes back with a PowerPoint deck for the Bigundersplatz project – and it is not even close to what the manager expected or needs. Recriminations, embarrassment, and frustration ensue. The manager and employee (and possibly other members of the team) are thrust into fire-drill mode because the presentation is the next day and it has to be re-done in a deadline-driven rush.
How much time would it have taken to check for understanding in the initial delegation meeting? Ten minutes? Perhaps fifteen?
How long did it take – and at what cost in terms of time, resources, emotions, energy, team dynamics, and quality – to re-do the task at the eleventh hour?
There is simply no comparison.
Save Time by Spending It
We would never deny that, as a leader, you are being asked to do more with less every day. It is draining – often exhausting. We know that, for instance, giving regular feedback to your employees on their performance may not be high on your list of priorities. After all, if they are doing well, why take the time to provide reinforcing feedback? Surely they know they are doing fine. On the flip side, if an employee is not doing well, the last thing you want to do is engage in the seven steps of redirecting feedback. It just feels like too much.
But giving regular feedback – whether reinforcing or redirecting in nature – ultimately SAVES TIME. Think about it: when you give feedback consistently, your high-performing employees know that their efforts are appreciated and they are motivated to keep up the great work. Employees whose work is acceptable but could be better get the input and encouragement they need to improve. Poor-performance employees gain the opportunity to turn themselves around and become productive members of the team. All of those outcomes SAVE TIME because you get more work at a higher quality from your team! In the final analysis, you save far more time than it takes for you to sit with each employee on a regular basis and provide them with effective feedback.
Invest Your Time Upfront
As a leader, we urge you: invest your time upfront. Invest the time to communicate clearly. To have tough conversations about performance. To handle conflict effectively. To address the many aspects of change management. To check for understanding when delegating responsibilities. That investment will reap a positive ROI for you, guaranteed. You’ll improve employee engagement, develop your team’s skills and capabilities, and get better outcomes. You will experience less pressure and fewer fire drills, and be able to spend more of your time on activities that really matter. You and your team will be able to optimize the time that you have.
The bottom line: Because you are so busy as a leader,
it is even more important to get things right the first time.
That takes time in the short run, but saves time in the long run.