At the end of every semester, my business students graduate and no matter their background, they all ask me the same question: "What's the best piece of advice you got when you got started?

Twenty years ago, when I first got started in business I asked the very same question.  Not just to my professors, but to everyone I met.  I knew that the "real world" was different than school, and I wanted to know why some succeeded while others failed.

Windshield Time

Although I got many answers, the one I remember most was from Craig Rudin, CEO Manufacturing & Product Group - ?GDI Integrated Facility Services (TSX: GDI).   Rudin, speaking to me in an informal setting shared his take on this, oft asked, age old question.  According to Rudin, the best habit that new grads (or anyone looking to up their A game) to adopt is:  Use your Windshield Time.

The Urban Dictionary defines Windshield Time as The amount of time wasted or lost driving from point A to point B during work hours.   Rudin describes Windshield Time as the time one has alone while driving to a meeting (with a customer, with staff, with your bosses).  He says that focusing mindfully on only the meeting immediately ahead, particularly focusing on the goals, outcomes and experience you want that meeting to generate, not only prepares you for that meeting, but it shows respect for the other attendees.

Be Prepared - not just for Boy Scouts

Now to be fair, Rudin's advice wasn't novel, I'd heard it before, many years ago as a boy scout.   You may have heard The Scout Motto is: BE PREPARED which according to Lord Robert Baden-Powell's seminal text Scouting for Boys:

Becoming a Scout. means you are always in a state of readiness in mind and body to do your DUTY.

•Be Prepared in Mind by having disciplined yourself to be obedient to every order, and also by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so that you know the right thing to do at the right moment, and are willing to do it.
•Be Prepared in Body by making yourself strong and active and able to do the right thing at the right moment, and do it

Similarly Rudin is also suggesting preparation as a form or respect, for oneself, for others and for the tast ahead. Rudin evolves the advice by suggestion the use of often unproductive time (travel time) to prepare.

Preparing through Questions

We have all been to meetings, where this wasn't the case.  Nothing is less impactful than a bunch of people sitting around a board room table, without being fully prepared.  This is true, not just for those chairing the meeting, it is true for all those attending.   In order to avoid such occurrences Rudin instructs all new hires to use their windshield time to prepare for meetings ahead.   He recommends asking yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What is MY goal at this meeting? What is my best case outcome?
  2. What is the Chair's goal?  How do I assist?
  3. What's the ideal outcome from the meeting?  What do I have to do to get there?

By framing the meeting in your mind, by mindfully focusing on not just your goals, but the goals of the meeting organizer, you are more likely to be above to be prepared, to add value and assist in efficiency. After all, nothing is worse than having a meeting where nothing gets advanced because attendees didn't come fully prepared.