Advice From An Old Guy: Be On Time

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We used to have a saying back in the day; early is on time, on time is late and if you’re late, don’t bother showing up. The corollary is that, “call time” is the time we call your replacement. Normally, I’m a pretty laid back person and I don’t get too stressed out about my daily schedule. I work from home and can flex as need be. However, if I’m scheduled for a gig, church service or other production event at 1 PM on Saturday, I’m going to plan on pulling into the parking lot at 12:45. If I expect bad traffic, I’ll allow more of a cushion. But I’m not going to be late. I take my job seriously and I will do what I need to do on my end to make sure I end up there on time. Which is, of course, early.

But Muh Grace!
Now certainly there are those out there right now saying, “But Mike, it’s not that big a deal. We’re the church, we are full of grace. If someone is late, it’s OK. We love them and go on.” Sure, that’s fine. But think about this: If you are the TD and you’re late, that means there is a good chance that everyone else is going to have to wait for you to get there and get things going.

There may be 6-8 people in the band who are giving up their Sunday morning or Saturday afternoon waiting for you. The 4-8 tech volunteers who are doing the same will be waiting for you. That’s a dozen or more people waiting. For you. If you’re 15 minutes late, that’s 3 man-hours. In the church, we tend to think of time as free. But time is all we have. And when people consistently find their time is being wasted by others, they get frustrated. When they get frustrated, they eventually leave.

A Pattern of Behavior
Now, I’m not talking about the “once in a while, something really bad happened at home and you’re late once this year” situations. I’m talking about people who are habitually late. Nothing says, “I don’t take my job seriously” like being habitually late. And if you don’t take your job seriously, why should anyone else?

I occasionally hear from frustrated young TDs because they don’t get no respect. When I dig into it, I find out that they are always late, the stage is never set and ready when the band arrives and everyone is continually aggravated at having their time wasted. It's not hard to see the cause the respect problem.

My Best Compliment
Several years ago, when I was a TD, we had a drummer who played with us about once a month. In addition to being a great drummer, he regularly played with a really big, internationally famous, Grammy-winning band. One day as I was chatting with him as he set up his cymbals, he said to me, “Mike, I gotta tell you; I love coming here to play. I can come in, sit down and play. Everything is set up—the monitors, the mic’s—it’s all perfect. Seriously, this is my favorite place to play. And I give a lot of credit to you and your team. Thanks for making this easy.”

I recount this conversation not to pat myself on the back, but to illustrate a point. Here’s a guy who plays international tours and really enjoys playing on my stage. A big part of that was because while he needed to be there at 2 (and he was always there at 1:45…), I arrived at noon. I allowed enough time to make sure the stage was entirely set and line checked long before the first band member ever set foot on it. Every weekend. Even when nothing changed from last week.

Why did I put so much extra time into this? Because that’s the job. If you need an hour to set and check your stage (and you need to check it—every weekend), you should allow yourself 90 minutes. Now it’s true that most weekends, you’ll be sitting around talking with your tech team for 30 minutes every week. But, having that 30 minute cushion allows for things to break or go wrong, last-minute changes or just getting to know your team. There’s no downside.

Contrast that to the TD that shows up 15 minutes before—or worse, 15 minutes after—the band does and is super-stressed out trying to get everything up and running as the band is setting up. Which TD do you think gets the most respect? One of the easiest things you can do as a TD to start to build the respect of your team, your band and your leadership is be on time. Which is to say, early.

View all the posts in this series.