All Issues are Time Issues

Issues and difficulties can look like they are circumstantial, or personal, or competence- or action-based (not enough results, not enough money, not enough people or talent, etc.) Addressing them as such will get you in trouble — not the kind of trouble people readily recognize, rather the worst kind: silent trouble. And the trouble will be from hiding time or timing as the central issue and moving it off the table as the area to resolve.

Another way to put this is that if you master time/timing, all issues are issues of a lack of congruence with time.

Yet time isn’t given its due in our culture which is hypnotized by activity and personalities. Time is seen as clocks and calendars, the deadline for promises, the expansive amount of hours that can be worked, etc. Less so is it seen as the very medium in which we live that has multiple dimensions each asking for their due (and making you pay if you don’t give them their due). Even much less so is the mastery of time regarded as central to work and personal fulfillment where the various dimensions of time come together in a single, integrated orientation for fulfilling one’s life and life itself. From this point of view of mastery of time being available, all persistent issues are seen as an issue of incompetence in one’s relationship with time.

Let’s break down the various relations to time that are possible (some of which are quite familiar, and some not so familiar.) Then, let’s see if we can integrate them in an approach to time that both diminishes suffering and increases appropriate accomplishment.

Starting with the familiar, let us show the difficulties that arise when these timings aren’t related to in connection with all of the other timings. For example, leadership has been a topic raised to a level of high importance as a perspective. Along with this popularity as a topic, an enormous amount of mythology and modeling has been put forth as the way to go to achieve leadership competence. Let’s alter our view to a time view of leadership. What do powerful and effective leaders bring to their own and others’ relation to time regardless of style?

I would say that leaders bring a relational base that, at its best, connects people with what is considered eternal virtues and has meaning through long periods of time. (That is one timing.) They also invent a direction for expression of power through time that could be considered strategic — here is how we are going to express that relation, here is a direction we can go that the world needs, here is the direction where big accomplishment lies. (That is another timing being taken care of.)

If they are good leaders, they overlap these timings with one that allows for management to do their job, and that simultaneously centers people on something that can be heard to be achievable. In some way, they make room for an “accomplishment in time” in a timing that can be heard as possible to be fulfilled. (This is another timing.) No one can accomplish an eternal value, nor can they accomplish a whole direction for accomplishment. They can only accomplish  a qualitative outcome in a particular timing with a particular form. This is where leadership and management overlap and meet. It is in the particular accomplishment and timing that will give worldly existence to the eternal relation and inspired direction that underlies its motivating energy.

Here is where good managers take over the timing conversation in a manner that hopefully stays connected to the eternal relation and inspired direction. (Their committing to the accomplishment in time is another timing.) Overseeing the proper activities and correction of outcomes is yet another timing. (Note: another timing.) When one is deep in the engagement with making an accomplishment happen, the activity-and-correction-of-activity-timing comes front and center. As all good managers and leaders know, this timing can get hypnotic and overly “busy”. It is important to “pick one’s head up” and periodically check the activity and outcomes against the intended direction and the basic value relation upon which it was supposed to be resting and see if it remains consistent with that which gave rise to it. (Note: another timing.)

Correction of activity has a deeper harmonic and a deeper timing as well. Good leaders and managers look to see what is being learned and crystallized by operating from this particular relation and direction and in behalf of a particular accomplishment in time. This may be a new strength that is being brought to bear. It may be an old notion or way of being that is showing itself to be stuck and insufficient to the accomplishment. Taking a historical-timing-view of the overall movement toward accomplishment allows one to identify what can be brought forward as a new strength to begin to develop through different levels of mastery. It can also, if more appropriate, identify what old patterns of belief and activity and orientation are due to be ended as insufficient to the new relation and direction. In either case, a developmental thrust can be selected that is focused and can be engaged with through time (in a developmental timing — yet another timing to note) until there is new power or freedom.

The historical appreciation of what has occurred and the developmental selection made from it can underlie a new clarity or focus for the next basic relation underlying the work to be done (note: new timing.) . And these timings repeat: Connected (eternal value) relation, strategic direction, operational accomplishment selection, activity and correction in behalf of the accomplishment, historical timing appreciation and discernment of a developmental focus, and developmental timing invested to yield a new depth of relation.

While these distinct timings seem linear in how they are presented, as with most kinds of mastery, they are only most easily presented this way at first. Mastery of time operates much like a masterful martial artist who has moved past thinking about what to do with their defense and their offense, what moves to make, etc. Instead, they are just there listening for opportunities for resolution. As regards time/timing, a master of time is there listening to unfold time into a fulfillment (accomplishment). What is missing yet available in relation to congruence to time speaks loudly if you are listening. Any weakness at one dimension of timing is likely produced by an incomplete job done with the dimension that precedes and underlies it. It can be heard to be missing or weak and responded to quite naturally.

At this level of “belonging to time and timing”, what is calling to be provided or disrupted will show itself and become what leads. Leader”ship” then becomes less about agendas and images of what should be, but rather about “unfolding” time and circumstance into a fulfillment/accomplishment. It arises from the people, the historical background, the coordinated aspirations, what is imaginable where it meets what is timely and feasible, the circumstances, ongoing communication, etc. Here, life speaks about its timely fulfillment. And you are listening and responding.

This isn’t the usual view of leadership which is often made into three rules, or five keys, or twelve steps, or something countable and procedural. Life and time are more variable than that. And responding appropriately to channel its powers into something that lives as an accomplishment is more “improvisational with” than “enforced upon” life.

My advice to you is to take on an apprenticeship with time and timing. Begin to notice when a timing is missing and causing mischief that is often misidentified based upon where its struggles due to its being missing show up most obviously. For example, if conditioning a direction into an achievable accomplishment is missing, people will be inspired and confused about what to do about it — they will struggle busily and ineffectively because of the validity of the inspiration. It is hard to be effective if the outcome is seen to be impossible in its timing. Similarly, if the eternal values underlying relations is missing, the inspiration that follows will be shallow and short-lived. Or, again, if the historical timing and discernment of the next timely area for development is missing, the overall group will stay at a relatively flat level of competence which loses its inspiration over time. Practices will get mechanical. There will be a tendency to be late in correcting when changes in the environment or circumstances call for an altered approach.

See if you can take a current challenge or issue and interpret it from a lack of mastery regarding time and timing — see what types of time are missing or weak, and work there. It will likely lead to a more sustainable resolution of both the issue, and of how people are learning to work together.

All issues are issues of time and timing. Any story about the current issue that misses this perspective keeps one from taking on the mastery of time.



About Ken Anbender

Kenneth Anbender Ph.D. has spent the last 50 years working with more than a hundred thousand people directly on the principles and methods that support the fulfillment of a human life -- in community and at work. He has developed a body of work that is licensable called The Contegrity Approach.
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