Introduction to the Law of Timing & How It Affects Leadership for Contractors

Welcome back!  I am really glad that you are joining me as we continue to take a look at John Maxwell’s best selling book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  In these podcasts we are looking at how John’s laws can be used to build better leaders, better teams and better businesses in the construction and remodeling industries. If you are ready, let’s get started!

These leadership podcasts are tools that you can keep in your leadership toolbox to help you improve your abilities.  Learn from them – and keep them handy so that you can refer to them when the need arises.  Look for opportunities to pull out one of these leadership tools and add value to someone around you. And as you will learn in this podcast, learning the timing to pull out the tools and use them is as critical as knowing how to use the tools.  

If you are listening to these podcasts through our blog, you can actually find these same lessons as part of a free course on Construct-Ed (  The course explores all 21 laws as laid out by John Maxwell and how those laws can be used to build better team members, better crews and better companies in the construction and remodeling industries.

Remember the Law of the Process.  Leaders are built daily, not in a day.  Leaders continue to develop over time.  Much in the same way as the Law of the Process, leaders in the construction industry are built one day and one project at a time.  They accumulate experiences and knowledge over time.  Leaders are built in part by the crockpot of experiences that they accumulate over their careers.  


C.S. Lewis, the author of the Chronicles of Narnia (think The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe) is quoted with the saying “I don’t expect old heads on young shoulders”.  Young shoulders cannot be looked to in order to find old heads.  Experience is critical to mold the leader.  It is something that cannot be rushed – time has to be given as well as the opportunities to learn and grow.  

Timing is critical in life.  Kids are notoriously bad at timing.  Why do you think!?  It is because they don’t have the experience or training to know when to ask a question or make a comment.  Why do you think that teachers make kids to raise their hands?  It isn’t for exercise.  It is so that they learn to practice timing.  

Being an effective leader means that a leader knows when and where to apply their leadership skills and abilities.  

Let’s look back at the movie – Master and Commander – to examine a Law of Timing example.  In this movie, Russell Crowe plays a British naval commander.  It is set during the time when England was at war with France which was being ruled by Napoleon.  The commander of the ship – played by Crowe – pursued a French naval vessel across the Atlantic.  The chase culminates when Crowe’s ship finds the French vessel anchored just offshore.  The crew knows that they need an element of surprise in order to insure that they have a good chance of winning the battle.  They knew that timing was critical to success.

The captain uses the example of camouflage that he learns from his ship’s doctor who is also an avid naturalist.  He chooses to disguise the British Man-o-War as a whaler.  This disguise allows the French ship to approach and put themselves in position to be broadsided.  They are tricked into laying themselves out for the attack!

The captain knows that the Law of Timing is essential to success.  Reveal that they are in fact a British Man-o-War too soon and the battle can be lost due to showing their colors too soon.  Choose to delay the attack too long and the French may become wise to the disguise and take the offensive to the British.  Either way, timing is critical.  

In many situations, the very difference between brilliance and foolishness is timing.  All too often, timing can make or break a leader.  Overemphasize preparation without anything happening and the leader is looked at as paranoid.  Fail to prepare and miss the timing and the leader is viewed as being negligent in their duties.

Knowing when and knowing where is critical.  Let’s take a look at the Law of Timing and how it applies to the construction and remodeling industries.


The Law of Timing

In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell explores Law #19 – the Law of Timing.  The law is based on the premise that “When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go”.  Wow!  This is kind of like adding a third dimension to a leader’s responsibility.  Not only do leaders have to be concerned with where and how, but now we need to add when.  It adds a whole nother dimension to the decision making process.  

Construction and remodeling projects require a strong combination of what, where, who, why, how and now when.  Leaders must be conscious of what leader tool they will deploy, where they will deliver it, who they should deliver it to, why they are using the tool and when.  Miss on any one or two of these components and the results may not be what you expect.  

Think about it – consider for a moment that you have an employee who is not fulfilling the demands of the job.  For a multitude of reasons they are missing their marks – and the company is suffering because of it.  So you know that you have to deal with the problem.  

The who is identified.  The why is clear.  Where?  You decide to meet and discuss the situation at the office.  You decide that coaching is the best leadership tool.  But your when – your timing – needs to improve a bit.  You spend time talking with the individual after he has worked all week long and he has a commitment with his family on Friday evening.  He is distracted – and tired.  As my kids would say – that is an epoch fail with the Law of Timing.

Sports are another great way to understand the Law of Timing.  Timing is a critical component of sports.  Look at football.  Timing is crucial. Timing a crossing run or a deep pass from a quarterback is paramount.  Mess up the timing and the play is a disaster.  Line up a pass across the middle and your timing is off and you can be sure that your receiver will be on the losing end of a collision with a defensive player.


Law of Timing in Construction and Remodeling

Timing in construction is a critical component of a successful project.  So much depends on timing.  Critical path schedules are developed that specify the tasks that need to be completed and the order they need to be completed in so that the project can meet its deadline.  Miss on any of the project target dates and the project completion is delayed.  

There are significant costs associated with timing issues.  Liquidated damages are back charged against contractors who miss substantial completion dates.  Failure to deliver materials when needed can lead to loss of efficiency and financial problems.  Missing the opportunity to set up a project safely because of timing can leave team members exposed to risks.  Some costs are realized – others are near misses.  Timing is a major issue that needs to be dealt with.  

In law 19 in the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, author John Maxwell discusses the Law of Timing.  As part of the law of timing, he explores the four possible combinations of what can occur when considering action and timing as a combination.

Let’s look at how they play out in the world of construction and remodeling.  

  1. The wrong action at the wrong time leads to disaster

There are a lot of examples of leaders applying the wrong action at the wrong time with results that are a disaster.  Operator errors are a great example of this.  Crane operators who make the wrong action at the wrong time resulting in a struck by accident on the construction site.  Ignoring safety requirements at a time when the working conditions demand a solution leaves team members exposed to losses.  

Assess your situation.  Make sure that the action that you are considering is not wrong.  The wrong action at the wrong time can bring about the demise of a company – quickly.  

  1. The right action at the wrong time brings resistance

Do deliveries for ongoing projects show up at the wrong time?  Hiring a new employee onto a site where there is no need or where certain skills are needed can be the right action at the wrong time.  Doing the right action at the wrong time can raise doubts in your leadership abilities.  The team that you are leading may begin to question your abilities to lead and direct.  Remember the Law of Buy-in – people want to believe in the leader before they believe in the mission.  When the right action is completed at the wrong time the leader starts to lose buy-in.  

Make sure that even though your action is good, that the timing is right.  Confer with your team and make sure that you are basing your decisions on good intel.  Don’t move too quickly just to get something done – you may be missing timing.  

  1. The wrong action at the right time is a mistake

Wrong actions at the right time can produce mistakes.  While this is better than the wrong action at the wrong time, it still can have a disastrous effect on a project. What can be considered a wrong action at the right time?  Think about a situation when a project is understaffed.  The project needs additional staff – and the leader makes a decision to put the new guy on the project.  But there is no consideration of the skills needed.  The new guy is not prepared to contribute to the project.  The wrong action – putting an inexperienced guy on a project – at the right time – when the project needed additional help.  

Make sure that you understand the needs of the project that you are managing.  Listen to feedback – and ask questions.  Don’t rush to make a decision.  Rushing towards a decision can cause the wrong action to take place at the right time.  Timing is critical – but rushing to make a decision and making the wrong decision – even at the right time – will still result in a mistake.

  1. The right action at the right time results in success

Of course it does! This sounds so simple – almost like it does not need to be said.  But, it needs to be remembered that this is the only combination that produces success.  Making sure that the deliveries are there when they are needed.  Making sure that safety equipment is set up when and where it is needed.  

The problem with this is that is it not a glamorous approach.  When things work the way they are supposed to there is not much excitement.  There is a lack of tension.  When things go right, it almost goes unnoticed.  

Take some time to reflect after a project is completed – and if there is success acknowledge it.  Don’t just brush it under the carpet.  Make sure to remember that near misses are not needed to inspire the team.  When everything goes right, determine if it was truly a success because of knowing the law of timing or was it purely luck.


The Law of Timing is a great law – and one that is allowed to slide a lot.  Timing is critical.  If you prepare for a future event and the event occurs than you are looked upon as wise for anticipating the event.  But, if you are preparing in advance for an occurrence – and the occurrence never comes to pass you are looked at as being paranoid.  

Cutting timing too close can leave you exposed to loss – and may keep you from being able to react.  Learn how timing affects your company and your projects.  Adjust your timing depending on the situation and the environment surrounding your decision.  Learn to apply the Law of Timing to decisions in order to effect the decision in the best possible way.  Timing is not neutral – it will either have a positive impact or a negative impact on your decision.

Thanks for taking your time to talk about the Law of Timing.  It is my hope that you understand how important timing is when leading others as well as when managing projects.    Remain sensitive to the Law of Timing – and begin to anticipate when the best opportunity to address the issues in front of you is.