When I started my business, one of my earliest prospects was looking for help with time management. Picture this; I was driving in Atlanta, an area that I had never visited before. Traffic slowed me down considerably, and I had some confusion about the address. As a reminder, this was before mobile phones, which meant I had no way to contact the client and get clarification. When I finally arrived, standard parking was unavailable due to construction, and I had to find an alternate solution. While I had given myself an hour for this 30-minute drive, I still arrived 3 minutes past my appointment time.
I met with the business owner about the issues at hand, and it was clear I could be an asset to their organization. I had the experience to help with the subject, and the client was on board with the plan. As I began discussing the next steps, the owner politely shared they would not be moving forward. She said, “I would never have someone train one of my people on time management who wasn’t on time themselves.” She indicated I shared good ideas to pursue, but they would be looking for another resource. Ouch!
That incident had a considerable impact on how I viewed punctuality. People don’t want to work with people who talk the talk; they want to work with people who walk the walk. Although I was usually on time, it gave me a “Gone with the Wind” moment (worthy of Atlanta). I promised myself, “as God as my witness, I will never be late again!”
Being late is an epidemic.
Over time, I’ve observed being late for business meetings (and many other gatherings) has become widespread. I’m not talking about the socially acceptable, “never be the first to arrive at a party,” I’m talking about when an event is scheduled to begin, and all the participants are not there. As a manager or leader, if you’re late to your own meeting, it sends a negative message. It implies the people you’ve invited are not as important as the other things you might have been doing. This can be construed as a lack of respect for the people who are present and prepared.
Always be punctual.
If you are consistently on time, communicate to your team that it’s not acceptable to be late. It wastes time and money in most organizations and decreases the morale and focus of participants.
If you’re not on time, execute some helpful tips.
- Be Aware. Understand how long it takes to do your tasks, get to places, and prepare. Recognize the impact of you being late on the productivity of others.
- Don’t Over Commit. Be realistic about how long meetings need to be, how long it takes to prepare, and how long it will take to get to your next gathering.
- Don’t Try to Cram In One Last Thing. If you have a meeting coming up, don’t try to fit something else in beforehand. By going to the meeting early, you might have an opportunity to interact with one of your people in a way that hasn’t happened before, to enhance your relationship, or learn something valuable.
- Don’t Assume Your Importance. Even if it’s a significant client or issue for you, your people will feel slighted if it is a repeatable pattern. Realize that your team is your number one resource for serving your clients, and they should know that they come first.
- Communicate Your Status. Every leader has unforeseen events that pop up from time to time. Communicate your status to someone in the meeting to provide a heads up. Better yet, anticipate that this might happen and designate someone else in advance to start the session or handle your role effectively, should you be running late.
There is no valid reason to justify being consistently late for meetings. I always say that if they can get there ANY time, they can get there ON time. It requires awareness, planning, and preparation – simple things. Wouldn’t it be a more effective and productive workplace if ALL meetings started right on time when they were supposed to?