Working on Lombardi Time

I was sitting down for my first sales conference at my first job out of college and I took my seat just in time, nervous but excited.

Our CEO, Tom Richey, kicked things off. He talked about the meeting agenda, his vision for our organization and then shared a principle I have never forgotten:  “If you show up on time here, you are five minutes late. We operate on Lombardi Time.”

“Lombardi Time,” is a principle that comes from Vince Lombardi, legendary former hall of fame coach of the Green Bay Packers. Lombardi instilled in his team a simple rule: If you didn’t show up 15 minutes early for a meeting, you were considered late. The rule is such an institution in Green Bay that the clock at the entrance of Lambeau Field is set to Lombardi Time.

Research suggests that employee tardiness costs U.S. businesses nearly $61 billion per year. And as time management expert Diana DeLonzor writes for SHRM, “An employee who is late 10 minutes each day has, by the end of the year, taken the equivalent of a week’s paid vacation.” But showing up on time is about a lot more than keeping the lights on. It’s about respect, discipline and creating good habits. I still operate on Lombardi Time, and I always recommend showing up a little early. Here’s why.

What Gets Scheduled Gets Done

We’ve all heard the excuse. In fact, we’ve all given it: “I’m sorry I’m late. I was so busy.”

But are you really? Look, “busy” is the new “fine.” If you’re too busy then perhaps you need to conquer the calendar. The truth is that many of us aren’t too busy; we simply don’t have an effective time management practices in place.

There are a few culprits for this. First is how we approach our own calendar. Are you scheduling the appropriate amount of time for your various responsibilities and obligations throughout the day? Are you giving yourself time between meetings to recharge your brain? Do you have the “white space” you need to do your best creative thinking, or are you letting your inbox dictate your day?

I took my calendar (and my life)  back about two years ago. While two people on my team still have access to my calendar and add to my schedule daily, they also understand a few hardcore principles.  No calls or meetings before 10 a.m. Leave ample white space between calls/meetings to ensure we can show up prepared and on time. Not every call or meeting needs to consume a full hour – schedule the time needed – which often means much smaller increments.  No evening events scheduled without prior approval from me. A scheduled workout is just as important as a meeting so treat them as such.

Time is our most precious resource. Whether you’re Helen Keller, Mother Teresa or Barack Obama, all of us have the same 24 hours in a day. What we do with them is up to us. So as you make your schedule, remember this: What gets scheduled gets done.

The Importance of Preparation

Another critical reason you should follow Lombardi Time is that it allows you time to prepare: to run through the meeting agenda, organize your thoughts and consider what impact or contribution you can make to the meeting.

Preparation is the key to success’. Every meeting at Amazon begins with time set aside for the team to read through a detailed memo that covers what will be discussed at the meeting. The meeting doesn’t begin until everyone is finished with the memo.

That way everyone is on the same page and ready to contribute for impact. Those 15 extra minutes can make all the difference in the world.  According to Coach Lombardi:

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.”

The Chance to Show Respect

Accomplishing anything worthwhile takes discipline, commitment and collaboration with others. A big part of building all three of those is demonstrating respect.

That’s the beauty of Lombardi Time. As simple as it can be to show up early for something, it’s also a powerful sign of respect and consideration — showing that you value someone’s time as much as you value your own. And that respect can go a long way toward building the relationships you need to succeed into the future.

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression so show up early, all of the time.

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