Servant Leadership Workplace-Waiting

Servant Leadership – No Waiting

Do you like waiting?

I hate waiting. That’s how I’m wired. I hate waiting so much, I’ll go to my second choice restaurant for a shorter wait.

Perhaps my contempt for waiting began when I was a Wall Street lawyer. We accounted for every hour of the day and billed our clients in six-minute increments. Time was truly money.

There, I first noticed that making another person wait was often a “power move.”

Most of us have shared this experience – waiting outside a supervisor’s office for a meeting to start; waiting for a supervisor to finish a phone call as you sit across the desk like a potted plant; and (not as common but much worse), waiting for a supervisor to let you go home at the end of the day.

A sibling of the late start is the late end. Whether a one-on-one session or a team meeting, the late end can also be a power move –or perceived as one, which is the same thing.

“My time is more important than yours.” That’s what’s communicated when a person in power keeps someone waiting or runs a meeting overtime. In a command-and-control culture, this behavior reinforces the hierarchy.

What can you do when you find your time being devoured by a power-monger? Here are three possible responses:

  1. Call it when you see it. We’ve had some fun with the “late jar” – anyone who showed up late to a meeting – even the organizer – put a dollar in a jar (maybe it should be more if rich lawyers are involved), which was emptied occasionally for a team party. This response was a playful way to address a serious subject.
  1. Confront it. The braver young lawyers at the Wall Street firm refused to wait outside a supervisor’s office like potted plants. They asked the supervisor’s assistant to call when, and only when, the supervisor was ready to meet. At least, this approach allowed the young lawyers to recapture control of their own time.
  1. Be the change you want to see. Let’s be frank, it’s tempting to mimic this behavior and make others wait for you or let your own meetings run on. Stop! Instead, be the change you want to see and honor the time of others.

I had a law partner a little later in my career, a superb real estate lawyer and a superb servant-leader. He used an expression, which, I gathered, was the goal of the best real estate developers: On time and under budget!

In my experience, servant-leaders manage time that way. They honor the time of others as if it were their own. They start on time – and often end early (under budget – don’t you appreciate unexpected free minutes during a busy day?)

What do you think? What how do you respond to people who are disrespectful of your time?

As always, we appreciate your views.