Time has been quite a persistent, colourful, attention-seeking, character in my life lately. No matter how I try to ignore her, she keeps insisting I pay her some attention.
Time fills my days. Completely full. I have an already very full life, and somehow, Time, makes everything feel more rushed, more urgent. No matter how I plan for her, I seem to always have just a few too few minutes to complete each thing, and I can never get where I’m going without being aware of her tick, tick, ticking as she comes along with me.
My trip last week was a work trip. Except for a couple of incredibly wonderful, very short, hours with two of my sisters, the entire trip was focused on work.
The great news is, this is exactly what I went for, what I was expecting, and what I wanted to do. I loved my time working with this leadership group, who I admire, respect, and never fail to be humbled by, and learn from. We always work long, hard hours, and yet somehow, in all of that, we make space for leadership growth, rich conversations, and even laughter-induced tears. These people are a joy to be with.
Although we had a specific, complex task to complete together, Time, not to be deterred or left out, came right along with us. The room we had for our work sometimes got crowded. With only four of us around the table, we should have been fine. But Time pulled up a chair, forced herself in, and managed to occupy a big space. So too, did another issue hanging over the heads of this group.
These leaders, apart from working extremely hard in new and innovative ways that certainly are disrupting the norm, are heading into a time of transition, both organizationally, and personally.
By the time we close the curtain on 2023, two of them will have left the organization, and the third will have made not only a significant role change, but also a significant life change. And so it was, after one of our sessions, the four of us found ourselves involved in a conversation around these changes.
Time wormed her way into this conversation too. After all, when one knows that they will be making a transition away from a role, or a group, there is a sense of urgency around it. Urgency to make the most of the next months. Urgency to complete several large and many small projects. Urgency to leave the organization positioned for success. Urgency to know what’s next. Urgency to end the journey with a sense of pride.
It's a lot to ask. It’s a lot to accomplish, especially with Time, in her completely uncooperative way, refusing to slow down, no matter how urgent we think things are.
As we discussed life transitions, I thought back to a few from my life, in an attempt to offer some insight and wisdom. I’ve been through more than a few. Some were times when I was the one making the transition. Sometimes it was me staying behind and trying to prepare as someone else did the leaving.
What I remember most clearly about those times is this. I never wished that the people leaving me to pursue new opportunities, or to enter a new stage of life, would work harder in their final months with me. I never wished they’d do one big thing to really ‘make a difference’. I never wished they’d work as hard as they could to finish all of their projects.
Looking back, what I really wished for was simply to share Time with them. When my good friend, Al, who I taught and coached with for many years, announced he would be accepting a new position at a different school, all that seemed important was to spend a bit of Time with him. We still enjoyed our hours working together. But more than that, I loved the time we made for little conversations, some in passing, some in his office, and some outside as we ran along side by side. Somehow, Time looming over us helped make them feel richer, more special, and worth savouring.
The same happened when our kids headed away to university. Of course, I’d have loved for them to have left perfectly clean rooms and no loose ends for us to manage, but mostly I wanted more snippets of time. More time for Kaitlyn to hop up on a kitchen stool and tell me all about her day. More time to listen to Greg play the piano before school in the morning. More time to share family meals. More time to just be together.
I reminded these incredible leaders, that while their minds were busy thinking of all they had to do, the truth is they won’t be judged by their productivity in the next months. All their colleagues will really want is to join them at the table with Time.
Time to talk and time to sit in silence. Time to truly see one another. Time to understand and be understood. Time to acknowledge accomplishments and lost dreams. Time to cherish the gifts they have given one another. Time to think about the impact of their time together. Time to soak in each other’s very essence.
I’ve come home with a long list of work to do, work generated from our time together. It’s important to get it done. But tomorrow, instead of getting right at it, I’m planning a special Ben and Gramma afternoon. Time. It’s really all we have.
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What am I doing with Time?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups and has expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to find out how to make the most of Time.