Time is Not a Skill



January 6, 2022

“Time is not a skill. How long you’ve been doing something is not an indicator of how good you are at it.”  When my mentor said this to me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Time is not a skill.

I had recently been promoted to a leadership position in a financial institution that my employer at the time had acquired. My mission was to help instill our culture, turn around the struggling lending operations, and educate the staff on our best practices. And despite the fact that we were NASDAQ’s #1 stock performer the previous year, a few of my direct reports were resistant to some of the changes I was trying to implement. These individuals had more years of experience and held important titles — EVP this, SVP that — it was banking, after all.

After a particularly frustrating meeting, I turned to my mentor for advice. I explained that I was working hard to connect with these leaders and to demonstrate the need for the types of changes I was attempting to make, but that it was turning into a battle. On paper, sure, they had more years of experience than I did, and many of them had held important positions for decades. But the mere fact that their company needed to be bailed out through acquisition was evidence enough that change was necessary.

That’s when he hit me with the words that ring true in my head to this day: Time is not a skill. In so many organizations, we assume that the folks who’ve been with the company the longest are the best at their jobs. They hold the most institutional knowledge, they’ve stuck it out for the long haul, and they’ve managed their own teams for years. Too often, important titles and decades of experience outweigh tenacity and adaptability in leadership.

All of this really made me think about the source of my frustration: it wasn’t just that I was being met with resistance as I attempted to make strategic changes in the organization. It was that this resistance was due, in part, to the fact that many of the leaders on my team had stopped learning years ago. They had gotten to the level where they had power and an important title, and they were content there. They didn’t want to change because change is hard, and it involves learning a new way to think, operate, and lead.

When leaders become resistant to change, they become resistant to learning. And lifelong learning and evolution is the only way to stay current. I could think of so many people I’d worked with who only had a handful of years of experience but who were hungry to learn more, achieve more, and grow in their careers. Those are the types of leaders I wanted on my team at that time, they’re the types of leaders I look for today, and they’re the types of leaders we help to cultivate at LightStance.

LightStance’s robust, game-like software brings everyone to the table for specific, detailed discussions about goals, opportunities, risks, and projects. These discussions enable leaders to set priorities and make changes based on probability, financial impact, and urgency. By addressing the needs of the entire organization, LightStance creates conversations among various departments and leaders who can (and should) make changes to improve efficiencies, morale, and profits in all areas of the business.

The LightStance platform creates a space for learning — learning about the tremendous potential within certain departments, learning about risks to the organization, and learning new ways to prioritize projects based on their financial impact. Because we know time is not a skill, and that when you’re learning, you’re growing.