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The First Ten Minutes

Clint Maun, CSP

What’s a sure-fire way to achieve success with any initiative, outcome-based meeting, or on-going group involvement? The number one method is to set up success during the first ten minutes.

Educators are well aware that what the teacher does “in the first ten minutes of a class can set the tone for the entire period.” (Simpson). The same holds true for all workplaces in all walks of life. The first ten minutes sets the tone for everything that follows. The first ten minutes when everyone comes to work on time, huddling, saying, “Good morning! How are you?” sets the tone for the entire shift. Nothing sets a worse tone than having some late, lackadaisical, negative, drooping drone come in and destroy the mood of the team at the start of the shift.

The first ten minutes of a meeting makes or breaks the entire session. Exchanging cordialities and going through pleasant ice breakers helps create a mind set that will help move right on through the meeting, keeping everyone focused on the purpose and staying on agenda.

The first ten minutes after arriving at a place of worship for a service determines whether or not anyone will want to come back. People happily greeting others, shaking hands and creating a warm atmosphere that establishes an environment that people want to be part of, sets the tone for the entire service. Conversely, being evaluated by the “back-row seaters” as you enter establishes a negative climate that carries through the entire service, particularly making newcomers feel out of place and unwelcome.

The first ten minutes of a speech sets the tone to let people know that the speaker knows what he’s talking about, that he could be fun, invigorating, peppy, bubbly, informative and interesting. A good start gears up the audience to listen attentively rather than to think, “Oh, what am I sitting here for, other than I’ve got to get my credit hours and this is going to be miserable?”

The first ten minutes of breakfast with your family makes or breaks the entire day. It can set a positive tone with parents and children versus the parents yelling, “Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up! Get up here and eat this gruel,” and then wonder later why their child is seen on the ten-o’clock news in an orange jumpsuit.

The first ten minutes after coming home from a long day at work sets the tone for the rest of the evening. A positive ten minutes sets a pleasant environment rather than a tense, grumpy one that no one enjoys. Say something about your day if you want to—even if it was bad, be positive about it to help set the tone for an enjoyable evening.

The first ten minutes of every part of human interaction sets the critical tone for success. We believe that supervisors and managers need to be the best role models for setting that tone. In an article entitled “Creating a Winning Environment” (printed in the on-line publication The Motivator), Dave Anderson states that “whether the work environment is focused, energetic and urgent or lethargic, confused and uninspired, is a reflection of the leader, not the followers. Winning leaders take daily responsibility for setting the tone in their business.” He also points out that the leader’s “focus and attitude will define an environment and separate those wanting to ‘get by’ from those intent on discovering their greatest potential.” (Anderson)

It’s difficult for co-workers to build a bubbly, positive, effervescent mood if during the first ten minutes the charge nurse, the unit director, the shift supervisor, the coordinator, or the manager comes in moping, doesn’t say good morning, hides out, tries to avoid human contact until having that first cup of coffee, while grumbling statements such as, “I’m just not a morning person—go away and let me wake up first.”

No one wants a tone like that set. If you go to a fast food restaurant for breakfast, you want to see someone bubbly and peppy waiting on you to set in motion an upbeat tone, not some droopy-eyed person droning, “Next. Next. What would you like? What would you like?” That sets a negative tone, which you will then take to work and spread like a virus to everyone else.

People in charge and in impact positions—including unit secretaries, hub traffic controllers that meet people in the parking lot, security guards, receptionists, people who say hello to folks at the beginning of the shift and particularly the beginning of the morning shift—need to set the tone that says, “This is going to be a good day.”

Just as in the classroom where the teacher—the leader—can “set the tone for an easy transition into whatever is next” (Simpson), the leaders in all workplaces need to be catalysts to create those positive first ten minutes that set the tone for a successful day, shift or meeting.

Works Cited

Anderson, Dave. “Creating a Winning Environment.” The Motivator. November 2001. September 2003 www.bss-gn.com/nl/nov2001/art003.htm

Simpson, Steve. “The First Ten Minutes Can Save or Break You.” Edu- Leadership. 2001. September 2003. www.edu-leadership.com/firstminutes