Late Again!  What Message Do You Send?

We all know perpetually late people.  No matter what time the appointment, no matter the day of the week, they are never on time.  In a world where time is money and first impressions are lasting ones, being perpetually late can be a deal breaker.

This isn’t about getting caught in construction or accident related traffic that no one could anticipate.  This is clear-day, clear-sailing being late.  It may be that the one more thing you just have to do takes too long – every time.  It may be that you have a terrible sense of direction and never download a map.  It may be any number of things. The signal to those waiting on you, whether conscious or unconscious, is that they and the appointment weren’t all that important to you.

Late again can also relate to paying your bills and meeting other commitments for “deliverables”.  Supposed to have a report in on Friday…was that this week?  The bill is due on the 1st but late fees don’t accrue until the 10th?  Send the payment at midnight on the 10th.

With the exception of late charges or filing your taxes late, there may seem to be no ramifications to perpetual lateness, but there are.  Relationships, both personal and business, are damaged in subtle and not so subtle ways.  Opportunities are passed to those who are there and waiting.  Timing can be everything.

Are you perpetually late?  Here are some things to try:

•    Set your watch ahead 5 to 10 minutes
•    Record the start time of each meeting 15 minutes early
•    Stop doing that “one more thing”
•    Make sure you know where you are going and how to get there – get a map, ask for directions and keep them handy

Ultimately it has to be truly important to you to not only say you are going to change your behavior but to do it.  There is a joke that goes something like this.  Three frogs are setting on lily pads in the pond.  One frog decides to jump off.  How many frogs on sitting on lily pads? Three – deciding to do something is only the first step…then you have to do it.

Of course the ultimate in “lateness” is the no show.  Again there will be occasions when something happens – miscommunication of location, an emergency, etc. – but those should be the exception.  All of us have upon occasion recorded an appointment on the wrong day…we said Tuesday the 5th and Tuesday was the 4th.  We meant Tuesday; the other party looked at the date and not the day of the week.

When appointments get confused, call or e-mail immediately.  If you are at fault, pick up the tab for the next lunch meeting or coffee.

IF you are a triple threat offender – perpetually late for every meeting, late on deliverables (payments or projects), and repeatedly no show, then don’t expect to retain that relationship.  Time is valuable.  Respect is invaluable.

There is a fourth offense.  Attending a meeting and spending all of your time on your cell phone, taking other calls, checking text messages.  You are there in body, not present in attention.  The worst offender I have ever experienced in this is someone who took me to lunch one day seeking a business alliance.  He came wired in stereo – two cell phones and pager.  In the space of an hour, we talked perhaps five minutes.  He just “had to take this call”.   Again there are always exceptions, but one call is one thing, ten calls is another.  This can be the most offensive behavior of all.

Whether you are an executive, a manager, an employee, a business owner, or a consultant, causing other people to lose time is at best discourteous.  Take time.  Make time.  Commit.  Show up.  You may be surprised how much things change when you do.

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