Timing is (Almost) Everything

2 min. read

Timing is an essential communication skill, particularly when you think about how you lead and motivate others effectively. 

As a skill, it is the precise coordination required to achieve a particular outcome. It’s tinkering first, then aligning the pieces to fit together in a particular order. This means you have to nail down what’s specific and concrete. 

As art, timing is nuance, the space between the pieces –  the gray, the glue, the segue, the connection. By working with space, you have the latitude to create a particular impression on how things connect. That’s the fun part.

Here’s a great example of how to respond to offensive comments –– or how to respond and accept any mistakes we’ve made.

Think about the skill and art needed for:   

Launching the space capsule

Delivering a punch line

Preparing a 7-course meal

Delivering good news

Calling your mother back

Going to the doctor

Knowing when to speak up

Changing the clocks 

Getting to the point

Using a pregnant pause

Delivering bad news

Knowing when to keep your mouth shut

Communicating important information

Playing the triangle in a symphony orchestra

Arriving at a surprise party

Pushing the panic button

Sky diving

Asking for your first kiss

By itself, timing does not guarantee you’ll get the outcome you’re looking for, no matter how skilled or artistic you are.  It takes the right delivery and desired impact to make timing a special personal attribute.

Delivery is such a great way to characterize how people communicate and present themselves, like how Amy Schumer delivers her shtick, or Dr. Fauci delivers the facts.

What’s unique in the delivery that makes a ballerina a sports star, or a sports star a ballerina? 

Why are some people great joke tellers and others suck? 

How is it that two speakers can deliver the same presentation, one hits you in the heart and the other feels like a kick in the butt? Delivery.

There’s the outcome, and there’s the impact of the outcome.

Good timing and delivery can get you results, but they only define the means. To reach a certain outcome you have to think about your intended impact. 

In the long run, your impact on people and organizations will long be remembered beyond what outcomes you achieved.

What Really Good Leaders Do

Great leaders are great at timing, masters at delivery, and always thinking about the impact they want to have. 

As a rule they study people and situations. They ask questions and listen. They learn. 

They apply the tools of the trade. They connect. They care.

They give a damn.

One more thing  

About calling back your mother back…. 

To hell with timing. There’s only one option – immediately. It doesn’t matter that you’re an adult. Pick your battles.

Now go call her back.