(Editor’s Note: Today’s article is brought to you by our friends at UKG – Ultimate Kronos Group. Formed by two leaders in HR solutions, UKG combines the strength and innovation of Ultimate Software and Kronos. They are committed to inspiring workforces and helping pave the way for their people, customers, and industry. Enjoy the article!)
One of the career lessons I’ve had to learn is that “timing is everything”. I remember years ago pitching the idea of casual attire to my boss. She looked at me like I had three heads. Then one day, she said to me, “You know, you’re right. We should do this.” While my timing was off in pitching the idea, a right time did happen to make it work.
As an HR pro, I’ve listened to employees talk about something they wanted. It might have been something for themselves, like a pay increase or attending training. Or maybe a manager who wanted something for their team, like new computer equipment. And no matter how many times they brought it up…the timing was wrong. I’m reminded of it now as I talk to managers who say, “I was so adamantly opposed to remote work. Now we’re doing it, granted because of the pandemic, but it’s working! And working well.”
But in talking about “timing”, it’s important to realize that it’s about more than simply having an aha moment, making a decision, or getting an approval. My takeaway from Daniel Pink’s book “WHEN: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing” was that we need to think of timing as a continuous process. Timing is about creating and maintaining the right beginnings, middles, and endings.
BEGINNINGS: Getting off to a good start sets the timing.
I do believe we think about timing when it comes to beginnings. We want things to start off well. When it does, it makes our lives easier. For example, building successful relationships is essential in our personal and professional lives. You’ve probably heard the old cliché that says, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” We think about beginning new relationships the right way.
Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t run into situations when relationships don’t start off on the right tone. Then of course, we have to go back and start over. But many times, those “off on the wrong foot” moments happen when we don’t put enough thought into the beginning. This is another example of the importance of a good start when we work on projects. There’s a reason those “launch meetings” are critical.
In his book, Pink suggests an activity that can help us get off to a good start – – a pre-mortem. Think of a pre-mortem as taking a moment to identify those things that can go wrong beforehand. On an individual level, an example might be remembering to listen before asking a new acquaintance for a favor. For groups, it could involve planning an icebreaker so new project team members get comfortable with each other before the work begins.
MIDDLES: Rarely, does all of our timing go exactly as planned.
I must admit, this section of the book was a real eye-opener for me. In thinking about “timing”, we often forget that projects and processes take time. And timing can play a role in keeping us interested and motivated in the work. Pink talks about the timing of middles in terms of slumps and sparks.
Slumps are those moments when progress is dragging, there’s too much negativity, and people are losing interest. We can tell that slumps are happening because employees are saying things like, “I can’t wait for this project to be over.” Or “I can’t take another setback.” Maybe attendance at team meetings is starting to wane.
Sparks are when people get excited. We might be able to see sparks because people around the organization start asking questions like “I’m hearing great things about the project. Tell me what’s going on.” Or that the project is receiving additional support “The group has made good progress. Let us know if you need any additional resources and we’ll try to find them for you.”
Realistically, there’s a good chance that we’re going to experience both slumps and sparks. Ideally, we want to find ways to turn slumps into sparks. That’s where timing comes in.
One of the activities that Pink suggests can help turn those slumps into sparks is what is known as the “Seinfeld Technique”. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld makes it a habit to write every day, not just when he feels like it. When he’s finished writing, he puts a big “X” on a calendar in his office. It’s a visual goal to never break the chain of writing on the calendar and it helps him get past those slumpy days. (Editor’s Note: If slumpy isn’t a word, it should be.)
ENDINGS: Timing our deadlines can be an effective motivator. Emphasis on the word “can”.
Personally, I like deadlines and have no problem renegotiating them if necessary. However, I do recognize that other people aren’t like me and might not view deadlines in the same way. That being said, deadlines can serve a positive purpose like the finish line in racing. They can inspire us to push a little harder to reach our goal. That’s an important part of timing – to finish on your own terms.
Speaking of finishing on your own terms, the other aspect to endings worth mentioning is that endings give us closure. Sometimes the “never quit” or “always hustle” messages can be overwhelming. It’s perfectly okay to end something for whatever the reason and start something new.
And that’s the secret to timing. Well, that’s not the only secret. But hopefully today’s article about timing makes you want to hear more from Daniel Pink himself.
Our friends at UKG will be hosting a really cool FREE webcast on Friday, October 30, 2020 featuring Daniel Pink. In the webcast, he will be discussing his insights on the science of timing and then tying it all back to the timing of the merger between Kronos and Ultimate Software. UKG will also be selecting 50 registrants at random to receive a copy of Pink’s book, “WHEN” so don’t miss out! And if you’re already booked on Friday, go ahead and sign up anyway. The session is being recorded.
We don’t always have control over timing and that’s okay. Pink’s research shows us how using the timing of beginnings, middles, and endings can help us maneuver through optimal (and less than optimal) situations. The end result is creating positive results for ourselves and our companies.10