Killing performance, two minutes at a time
Why being late on Zoom calls, is a big deal
Everyone who's worked with me knows the importance I place on punctuality. Being late to a meeting or delivering a report after the deadline may seem trivial, but it's more than just a bureaucratic obsession. It's about building trust.
High-performing teams rely on trust, as explained by Simon Sinek. Individual performance means little if people can't work together. Trust is the platform that allows us to achieve results greater than the sum of our parts.
In a remote team, building this trust is a challenge. We can't rely on physical proximity to foster it. As a manager, I have to cultivate trust intentionally.
The next day the little prince came back.
"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If, for example, you come at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. I shall show you how happy I am! But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . . One must observe the proper rites . . ." - The Little Prince
Trust thrives on predictability. Like the Little Prince learned when taming the fox in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's book, predictability plays a crucial role in building relationships based on trust.
Consistency in a brand, for example, is nothing more than the predictability it generates in its market. People trust global fast-food chains like McDonald's, Burger King, and Starbucks because of the predictability of their products.
In the current era of Artificial Intelligence, people distrust these technologies because of their unpredictability.
Therefore, to build an effective team, we need trust. Trust in a remote team must be intentionally cultivated. Trust feeds on predictability, without which it can't develop.
That's why violating social norms of predictability, such as being two minutes late to a meeting, damages trust.
As a manager, I must be inflexible with these easily solvable social norms. That's why we must arrive on time for meetings and respect deadlines with obsessive punctuality.
In my first week of work in Vienna, my manager would text me if he was five minutes late. This seemed excessive at first, but I still trust him implicitly almost fifteen years later.