Leaders: How early should you start the day?

I am not much of a morning person, just ask my wife. But as the leader of an organization, there is an internal clock that ticks loudly, counting down the minutes until the business opens. In the military, I was taught that 10 minutes early was five minutes late. That mantra carried into my newspaper career.

It seemed I always needed a key, because I was the first one at work. It didn’t matter if I was an ad salesperson who didn’t hit the street until 9 a.m., or a graphic designer who kept strange hours — getting to work early was just part of my makeup.

Am I saying that publishers must get to work early? Read a little more and decide for yourself.

Early in my career, I was an advertising salesperson for a variety of small-town newspapers. While not the “hustle and bustle” of metros, these newspapers had their own sense of urgency each and every day. There were deadlines, goals, and other marks to hit.

As the early arriver, I would notice when other people arrived at the office, and what they did when they got there. Mind you, these were all “good people.” The first person I noticed was the publisher.

At two of the newspapers where I was employed, the publisher always seemed to arrive between 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Everyone knew the routine, and reacted accordingly. There was an unwritten policy that I saw exhibited clearly, “If you beat the publisher to work, you are not late.” The work day was always 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., but that wasn’t reality. Even those who arrived on time never really got started until much later. As soon as the publisher walked in the door, however, everyone clicked right along.

Over the years, I have learned quite a bit about being the first one at the office. Here are a few:

  • You get the freshest coffee in the pot.
  • The distractions level is very low. In fact, you often get more done before people arrive than after.
  • You become acutely aware of the arrival time of team members.
  • Checking email and social media no longer interfere with the must-do items on your list.
  • Your team sees you as a committed leader. You personally know that you are committed, but demonstrating it in your arrival time does pay off.

So, should you arrive early to work each day? The decision seems pretty easy.