It used to take me weeks to figure out a culture. I would spend a lot of time with the company and then write a long report about what’s going on.
Now I can quickly diagnose a culture with this question:
“Are people on time for meetings and do they end on time?”
For culture to work properly, it’s all about agreements – our cultural norms. And our realities can be so different that there’s not a lot we can agree on. Even something as simple as honesty can break down when you ask if white lies are okay, or if you argue whether taking pens home from the office is dishonest.
But one thing we can agree on is that we all go by the same clock.
Time is the great equalizer.
So when one person puts their time agenda above others, then the culture system breaks down. That may sound extreme but think of it this way…
Let’s say Bob is leading a meeting that’s supposed to end by 9am and he decides he needs 10 extra minutes to get his point across. Because Bob is a manager people feel like they have to stay. Meanwhile Susan is losing time for her 9am meeting because she needs those people there, who (now) will not be on time.
To put it simply – Being late is all about prioritizing your own individual needs above the group needs. And that is when things break down.
Will being on time solve all problems? No, but it sets the foundation because:
a) People respect the whole over the individual (as a practice)
b) People learn to work with constraints
c) People learn to put integrity above any goal
In all my years of knowing Tony (CEO of Zappos) I have never once seen him be late (both personally and professionally). And he is a leader who achieves a lot, has a ton of fun, and delegates like a master.
Don’t believe me.
Try it (just for a week) and see what happens.