Paul Butler: Time and time again

Paul Butler

When I was a young boy growing up in England, our TV stations all closed down at 4 p.m. on Sunday evenings. Therefore, that was the night my parents would play their records.

They only had a few albums as I recall: “The Best of the Carpenters”; “The Best of Bread”; “The Best of Elton John”; “The Musical — Godspell”; “Tapestry” by Carole King; “Saturday Night Fever” by the Bee Gees and two albums of Simon and Garfunkel — “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and “Bookends.”

Whenever I hear any of the songs from these albums, I am transported back to 25 Overhill Road, like it was yesterday.

The lyric of one of the Simon and Garfunkel songs (“Hazy Shade of Winter”), starts with the rather haunting line: “Time, time, time — see what’s become of me…” I heard this recently and it set me thinking about the concept of time.

Time is such a vital resource, especially in the workplace. We often hear of people trying to “manage time,” but it’s an oxymoron — we cannot manage time, as it marches on regardless, and waits for no one. The best we can do is to manage our priorities.

I’ve noticed in the workplace there are essentially two types of time-management issues — process and people. Our goal with processes is to be as efficient as possible. No one ever starts processes, policies or procedures thinking, “I hope this takes me as long as possible.” Our goal with people is to build trust. Wouldn’t you agree with me, when you have effective relationships at work you get things done, and quicker?

Conversely, think about a work relationship where the trust is low — doesn’t everything slow down? See, when trust is low between people, there’s more double-checking; meetings about meetings; more email and more negativity — as a result we end up wasting time and losing time by spending time where we don’t need to.

I’ve also noticed how some people know where to invest time to get a good return. I remember working for one leader called Nicholas.

He was a people-centered leader. He prioritized his time to ensure he was building effective relationships with everyone he worked with, and was a very genuine person. He always worked hard but within a reasonable working week — I don’t ever seem to recall him working on the weekends or evenings. He always knew what was important right now.

Nicholas focused on being a man of high character and high competence. He extended trust to people. He would trust and then verify. If he had an issue with someone, he would go straight to them — he wouldn’t gossip or talk negatively of others. He gave people the benefit of the doubt.

Nicholas focused on people. He knew it was people who made things happen and that effective people could solve inefficient processes any day of the week. As a result, he did get good results.

In preparation for this article I searched out Nicholas on LinkedIn. Although he’s now a little older, I can still see he’s married to his wonderful wife. His young children (as I remember them) are all grown with children of their own. He seems fit and healthy — come to think of it, I do remember how he would always prioritize family time and invest time in his exercise, carefully watching what he ate. He’s now the chief executive officer of a major hotel company in Europe, which doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

“Time, time, time — see what’s become of me while I look around for my possibilities.” See, it’s the second stanza of that first line that I also believe is vitally important in this one precious life: We ultimately become that which we choose.

Each day we’re presented with possibilities and choices as employees — will we be positive or negative? Will we go the extra mile today or not? Will we be a peacemaker at work or a troublemaker? Will we lift our eyes up to people and look for their nobility as human beings or bury our heads in the process and talk badly of others? Will we invest in our own health by carving out time for exercise and watch what we eat, or shall we not?

We’ve each been given this precious commodity called time — let’s ensure we work well as employees and create the right conditions for people in which to thrive if we’re leaders or business owners. Let’s ensure we invest time wisely and not waste it.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].

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