The morning started off like a heavy fog. My mind, eyes and body felt distinctly apart of each other. Deep in my mind, I knew something was required of me. But what was it? I struggled to make sense of the chaos in my mind.

Then the phone rang. My wife’s phone. From my wife’s side of the conversation, I deduced the inquiry was about me. Like lightning flashes in a thunderstorm, my memory came to life. I should have been  in a meeting. And it was already fifteen minutes into the meeting!

In a flash I was out of the door. I felt awful. I had let down a group of great men with whom I was to meet. Forty-five minutes late, I entered the meeting room my head hung low in shame. I had let myself down as I had them too.

Later in the day, I got to know why my friend called my wife and not me. “It is so unlike him,” he said to her. “Is everything OK?”

As I pondered on these two statements, the following three lessons came to the fore.

1. Guard your character

I am a stickler for time. In fact, I try to get to a meeting at least half an hour before is to start. My friends are perplexed that I consistently schedule ‘nothing’ in my plans. This is time when I just sit and reflect. Periods when I discard clatter from my mind.

What I realized is that time-keeping can be a measure of my character. People are watching and when there is a deviation from who you are. They get concerned on my behalf. In the long-run, it becomes a matter of character. However, habitual practice of not keeping time injures your character.

Be more concerned with your character than you reputation, because your chart is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think of you.” ~John Wooden

2. A genuine apology goes a long way

There is no need to excuse my transgression. I disrespect other people when with my lateness. It can violate their trust in me. There is nothing that can degrade your leadership faster than lack of respect or trust.

Apologize and repeat the transgression no more. Unless there is a natural catastrophe or illness, repeated lateness can and will kill your brand. My brand is very important for me. It is at the core of my character. And I have to care for it.

Our personal brands are stitched together by the unique threads of a beautiful, messy, glorious story.” ~Olivia Omega

3. Relationship is king

I can work as hard as I want. However, if I forget to take enough rest, it strains my engagement with people I care about. Sometimes, we can forget that relationships are hard work too; emotionally, physically and mentally. When I get into a meeting late and tired, I end up giving a very superficial contribution.

This hit home real hard when the meeting chair said to me, “You actually look sleepy.” If only I could lay my hands on a double cappuccino at that moment! Honoring other people’s time is a habit I don’t ever want to violate.

Habits change into character.” ~Ovid

Leadership is not always about wins and rose blooms. It is also about thorns, bumps and bruises. But what matters most is your response.

How do your mistakes affect you? Click here and share a genuine leadership lapse you’ve had and what you resolved the situation.

photo credit: I am Jack’s smirking revenge via photopin (license)

Source: 3 Big Lessons From [Not] Keeping Time

About Kimunya Mugo

I have worked in the not-for-profit sector for over 15 years. Trained as a scientist (horticulture), I have always loved leadership and communication. However, it was not a direct transition. I was kind of ‘pushed’ into it when my first boss put me in charge of developing my first website back in 1999 (by the way, I had no clue how to do it!). In a month, it was up and running.

My last day job was as Regional Director for Communication & Branding of WWF in eastern and southern Africa. This was by far the toughest position I had ever held. But through it, I learned the most valuable lessons in leadership, working with teams spread over six countries. Before that, I worked in a variety of roles for three other organizations (see full profile).

I have also been a coach of some very critical leaders in society, parents! Since 2007, my wife and I have coached hundreds to become better leaders at home.

I am married to my best friend Harriette since 2004. We have three children and make our home in Nairobi, Kenya.


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