Time Is Currency

It hasn’t taken me 30 years to realize that great companies and great people manage time well, among other things.

I initially heard “time is currency” when I was working at Microsoft. Referring to Bill Gates’ obsession with time management, my host told me they refer to his time as “Bill capital.” “It’s a strategic asset that we monitor regularly.”

I was recently reminded of that comment when I was waiting for a client to start a weekly leadership meeting. Scheduled start time was 10 am. At 10:15, people were filing in as though it were a backyard barbeque. There was no sense of urgency. The meeting ran 20 minutes late.

Contrast this experience with one I had when I was working with GE Chairman Jack Welch at the company’s leadership institute in Crotonville, NY.

Welch and I were facilitating an afternoon session on leadership for Amtrak, who was one of my clients. Welch’s office had sent me his schedule for the event: Helicopter lands at 1:10 pm, he speaks at 1:15.

Sure enough, at 1:06 pm I heard the whop-whop of the chopper blades. It landed at 1:10 and we started precisely at 1:15.

  • Being on time means people can count on you.
  • Being on time shows you respect others around you.
  • Being on time communicates you have your act together.

Of course there are extenuating circumstances when you simply can’t help being late. But not chronically late.

Being late means you’re undisciplined. If you can’t manage your own time, why should I put my trust in you?

Being late probably means you’ll run late. When you run late you do so at my expense.

When a group of people schedule a time to start, they’re making a contract. When you show up late, you’re breaking the contract. Why bother to agree to a start time if you aren’t going to live up to your end of the deal?

When a television network or cable channel says a program will start at 6 pm, they don’t start at 6:03 because someone couldn’t get through traffic or misjudged how long it would take to get to work because of the rain.

6 pm is 6 pm.


  1. Jim, you’re the man! This is so true and I wish more folks would transform into leaders, yet, I find, this holds them back. There is no better gift one can give than the gift of time and when we’re late without warning… that’s simply disrespectful.

    Keep the Golden Nuggets coming.

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