Getting there early is one of the simplest ways to get ahead of the competition. And yet this simple leadership tactic is often lost in the frenzy of overbooked schedules. Getting a fast start gets work done. Getting to the race before others positions you for a fast start. Getting to the show early gets the best seat.
When Early is the New Late
“I think we consider too much the good luck of the early bird and not enough the bad luck of the early worm.” –Franklin D. Roosevelt
Sebastian (then 3) and I were waiting in the daycare parking lot for them to turn on the lights at 7 am. The big operations review was scheduled for 8 am in our headquarters building across the street. At 6:58, my phone rang. It was my bosses’ secretary whispering into the receiver. “Karin where ARE you? The corporate jet arrived early and everyone’s in their seats ready to start, but YOU. John asked me to call.”
“Doesn’t the meeting start at 8 am?” I asked wondering how in the world I could screw this up.
“Well, that’s what’s scheduled. But it starts when the C-levels arrive.”
I explained my situation, did the fastest “kiss and go” I could muster and bolted across the street. This was my first ops review in this organization, and clearly, I’d missed the memo.
Sure, technically I had done nothing wrong. After all, I was there in plenty of time. But the big guys were frustrated and I was embarrassed. It was a big wake-up call for the benefits of getting “there” early. It turns out “early” has some beautiful side effects.
3 Times It Makes Sense to Get There Early
1. To the Meeting
Arriving early to the meeting gives you time for casual conversation, build relationships, and to trial balloon your ideas. Yeah, an hour ahead of time is ridiculous in most scenes, but 10 minutes can go a long way in showing eagerness to engage. Plus it gives you time to show up calm and organized. Scrambling in out of breath to a meeting does nothing for your executive presence.
2. To the Conversation
Paying attention to the conversation at the idea stage of a new project or idea can position you well for deeper involvement. Also if you’re the leader and have a vision, it’s better to share your thoughts early than to come in late in the game and explain why it’s not what you wanted.
3. To the Office
Not necessarily always, but sometimes this sends a strong message that you’re “skipping to work” and ready to go. Plus, most execs I know get to work before the rest of the team. So if you’re there, and they’re there, chances are greater for a casual chat while pouring a cup of coffee. I’ve used this technique more than once in my career to casually “bump into” an exec I needed to talk to on the way into the building. Don’t be a stalker, but used every now and then, this approach can work to your advantage. I know such an early morning chat was a key factor in one of my most significant promotions.
A bit of strategic early can make a big difference in your career and your personal success.