31 Oct Monochronic or Polychronic: Which type of leader are you?
No, these are not diseases or phobias. They are not forms of art. They are lenses through which we view time. They determine the way you work and interact with the world. Everyone has a natural tendency toward one or the other, and it’s important for leaders to how they and their team relate to time.
Monochronic and polychronic are different ways to manage time. Let me explain how this influenced me, and how I adapted before it was too late.
A monochronic person has a very strict way of viewing time. They must use their time efficiently, doing only useful things. This person drinks coffee at their desk, because it saves them valuable man-hours. Meetings in companies must start on time, have and follow a strict agenda, and finish promptly as scheduled. Significant decisions need to be made during the meeting, working toward real goals. Monochronic people like fixed projects with targeted deadlines and outcomes. This person has no time to waste time.
The polychronics are the opposite of monochronics. For a polychronic, time is a flexible commodity. In a business context, their meetings start with a slight delay and they have a less fixed agenda and outcome. In a polychronic setting, work is done outside the meetings because every moment with people is a chance to build relationships, enjoy life and to discover new things.
While living in France I experienced first-hand that the French are generally much more towards the polychronic side of the spectrum. An extreme example of this is when I heard someone say, “Life is in the hands of God, so why should I run for the train?” When the landlord made an appointment to send some builders over, they showed up several hours late (or even on a different day). Also, lines at the supermarket can be rather slow. In my job, meetings usually started late and began by discussing issues unrelated to the subject at hand.
The advantage of this flexibility is that it is easier to cancel or move meetings, there is more room for discussion, and it is generally easier to relate with people. The downside of a polychromic work setting is that things, in some cases, progress more slowly and less efficiently. There are fewer explicit rules on outcomes and fewer specific targets. It is more difficult to plan your schedule because colleagues or visitors are often late.
It is important for leaders to be aware of the differences between monochronic and polychronic. It is almost impossible to change the way your entire team relates to time, so leaders have to adapt themselves to those they lead. Personally, I am very much a monochromic person living in the polychromic environment of Spain. This means that I have to account for delays, and less certain outcomes of meetings and appointments during my planning. But, I can also enjoy a more relaxed and flexible atmosphere while doing business.
So here’s my question to you: Does time translate to money in your mind? Do you feel like time can be wasted? If so, you might be monochronic. Are the people you work with important to you? Do you value relationships over productivity? If so, you might be polychronic.
Which orientation to time do your team members have? Those you lead? If you are in a multi-cultural environment, chances are good that your view of time will be challenged at some point, either at work or elsewhere. Mine surely has.
This post originally appeared on jeroenkemperman.com.