Jan 26, 2011

Those first few minutes

Of the many pearls of wisdom that my employer sends us daily through the intranet and company email system, I recently came across this one, which I actually think is worth something.

This comes from a talk given by motivational speaker (no, don't leave yet, bear with me!) Steve McDermott, about what he calls the Four Minute Rule. I can't find a current public URL for this so will quote from the "Quick Talks" transcript distributed by my employer.

The Four Minute Rule says that the first four minutes are what sets your impression of a person or place, for instance if you are not greeted and looked after well when you arrive at a hotel, that's the bit you will always remember no matter how good the service is later.

Leaving aside the fact that he refers to his children as "my best customers"... Steve offers this:

"I don’t know about you but when I’m out on business and I’m away overnight especially when they’re little, it’s tempting, you get in the house, and the kids are like, “Dad, dad!” it’s really tempting to go, “Can I just get in the house, can I just take my jacket off, put my case down?”  But when it’s done in the four-minute rule now, I don’t do that.  Just before I get through the door, in my head I say, how would the best dad in the world act when he walked in that door?  And that’s how I act, because that’s the bit they’re going to remember."
Photo: DVIDSHUB at Flickr Creative Commons

I think this is good advice and worth remembering.

I don't think I do too badly in the coming-home-and-greeting-my-kids department, but I did have cause to remind myself of this recently and take this advice.

You're about to hear one of those classic working mother stories.

It was my turn to pick up the kids from daycare, and I left the office 10 minutes late.
On the freeway there was a major "incident" which slowed all traffic across all four lanes to literally walking pace the whole length of the freeway (10 km per hour, the whole way).
Too late I realised the scale of the problem and that I wasn't going to make it anywhere near pick-up time.
I called my husband on his mobile to get him to go pick up the kids, but this took six attempts because: he is learning a new phone / my phone battery was very low / he never takes my calls.
While this was going on one of my team members at work rang to escalate a serious problem with trade data that was going to have a massive impact on the business we look after and their clients.
Of course, I hadn't recharged my phone that day and there was barely any battery left.
Luckily, my team member is extremely capable and she was handling all this well, so I am not going to pretend that the world was falling down without me.  But I did need to keep abreast of it and ask some key questions and let people know what was happening in case we ended up with a disaster.

My phone cut out halfway through the trip and it took me another hour and a bit to get home.

As I walked from the car to the door of our house I knew I had to plug in my phone, check my messages, call my team member, call my boss and possibly call IT people, and ideally log in and check and respond to emails.

I also knew it was an hour and a half later than I usually get home, and two little girls would be anxious to see me.

I remembered the "world's best dad" advice, and I thought: All that stuff can wait twenty minutes.

You know what helped me? Not the fact that I had to tell myself not to rush to do my work at the expense of greeting my kids - I would always have greeted my kids first! It was more the fact that it reminded me that the work stuff could wait another twenty minutes, and I didn't have to be stressed about it.

And I think that DID affect the way I greeted my kids- I was more relaxed and did not say anything that started with "I just have to..."

It took a few seconds after the first few minutes in the door to plug in my phone, and within an hour I had collected messages and called who I had to call, all stress free.


  1. That is such good advice, JK. Even in the five miserable weeks I recently spent working at Melbourne Uni I'd slip in, drop my bag in the bedroom and kick off my shoes before greeting anyone. This advice - and your recent uptake of it - is going to change how I do it from now on though.

  2. Kath,
    I quite like your way too - kicking off the shoes is the "bridge" that lets you transition and unwind to the home part of the day - it probably works well, and you're probably safe because it probably takes less than four minutes! Still time to make that critical first impression on your best customers! But I'll be interested to hear how you go with the "new" method, good luck!

    Pandora - thanks, I thought so too. Not sure how scientific the "four minutes" is but yes to the general idea.

  3. Dropping in from Rewind to say hello.
    Thank you for sharing the 4 minute rule. Malcolm Gladwell also wrote a book about first impressions. We humans have this great intuition about someone and that's usually within the first few minutes we meet them. And these impressions are generally right on.

    But I tend to give others the benefit of a doubt as my first impressions of someone have been wrong in the past.

    Mila from http://hereundertherainbow.blogspot.com/

  4. Hi, visiting via the Weekend Rewind. This is a great post, I am a working mum too and am always rushing from here to there. I am trying to be more in the moment and be less distracted by the next thing I have to do and just concentrate on what is happening now....it's a work in progress! Glad to have found you here! Kirsty @ My Home Truths

  5. Mila, thanks for dropping in!
    I LOVE that Malcolm Gladwell book (Blink). The story of the art appraiser who knew the kouros was a fake without knowing why, in particular fascinated me. However I'm with you - I no longer always "believe" my first impressions when it comes to people as I have definitely been wrong. When it comes to feelings, the best way to do something, or opinions on things you are well versed in, however - I trust myself! (usually).
    I loved your post on Change via the weekend rewind too - thanks

  6. Thanks Kirsty!
    Yes it's such a challenge isn't it. Kids force you to slow down and focus on "now" but it often feels really difficult to do, especially when we're so busy and time feels so limited. It's good to remind ourselves sometimes.
    Always glad to share notes with other working mums! (and all mums of course!)

  7. I think we could all do with remembering this advice sometimes. So important!

    Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro.

  8. Thanks Alison, and thanks for having me



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...