Essay On Not Being Late

My column was late. Not to you, but to my editor. It is surprising, really, that my column was late, because the time zone difference is in my favor. But this week I would have needed my editor to be in another galaxy.

I will not tell you why I was late because the only thing worse than being late telling why you were late. I am not talking about being late because your family's house burned down. I am talking about being late because of slow traffic, a late babysitter, a presentation that ran too long. Upward mobility requires that people can depend on you to be on time.

If you are a person who is always late, you will get in trouble. People who are always late think they are only sometimes late, so if you think you are sometimes late, you are probably in trouble.

There is no need to give advice on how to be on time, because everyone knows how to be on time. (Here's the proof: If the President of the United States invited you to dinner would there be any risk that you'd be late? No.) But perhaps there is a need to show why *all* deadlines and appointments are as important as dinner with the President.

The basic problem with being late is that you reveal too much about yourself. In the end, being late reveals either disrespect or incompetence, both of which are important things to not have at work, and if you do have them, hide them by being on time, always.

If you are late to a meeting, for example, you are disrespectful to everyone in the room. If your boss is there, forget the promotion. If your direct reports are there, imagine ten years from now when everyone has new jobs at new companies, and your bonus depends on cutting a deal with someone who used to report to you, and that person remembers how disrespectful you were. No bonus.

Sometimes people are on time to the meeting but they don't have the report. Forget the excuses because everyone in the room will see you as incapable. There are shades of incapable. There is incapable of doing the report so you procrastinate. There is perceiving that you are incapable even though you are capable which makes you incapable with low self-esteem. There is overloaded and did not get to the report which really means you cannot set limits at work, which translates to low self-esteem, or worse yet, no knowledge of your own limits.

How can you fix the problem? Being honest with yourself goes a long way in the late arena. Once I was late to dinner and someone at the table said to me, “You must be a time optimist.” I had no idea what he was talking about. But then he explained that most people are late because they are too optimistic about how quickly they can do things — which is a nice way of saying that people are late because they are not honest with themselves about how long things really take. So if you really want to be on time, you will start being a better judge of how much time tasks really take — and you will add some time to each estimate.

I used to teach a college-level business class, and some days I would give a pop quiz during the first five minutes of class. The quiz would be easy but it would count for a significant percentage of a student's overall grade. Some students would approach me after class to tell me that they had an excuse for lateness and that my surly pop quizzes were ruining their chance of getting into law school. I told the students that the quiz was my way of emphasizing that it doesn't matter how much you know about business, if you're late, you will undermine your success.

Luckily, my editor does not quiz me, and luckily, I am not applying to law school.

Have you noticed that tardiness is on the rise? People are chronically late for work; for their child’s teacher conference or athletic contest; or even for parties and celebrations. As the old saying goes, “they will even be late for their own funeral.”  Yet, punctuality is one of the key ways that we can positively brand ourselves.

Today we will explore why it is so important to be on time for all of your scheduled events. Whatever your appointment may be—a phone call, a business meeting, or a dinner engagement—you should always strive to be on time.

Why Be on Time?

Being on time:

  • Demonstrates that you are diligent and dependable.
  • Indicates that you honor your commitments and you can be trusted.
  • Shows that you have respect for other people and that you care as much about their time as your own.
  • Sets a good example for your children and others who look up to you.
  • Builds self-confidence and success.

One of the common attributes of all successful people is that they view their time as a precious resource. When you are late for appointments with people who value their time, you will have wasted one of their most valuable assets and there is a good chance they will view you as rude, irresponsible and disrespectful. Is this how you want to brand yourself?

Not only should you make every effort to be on time for business-related appointments, but you should also do your utmost to be on time for personal commitments. Valuing your friend’s time and earning their respect is an important part of your individual reputation.

Let’s now look at two specific business scenarios where punctuality is critical.

Keeping Appointments

Not only should you strive to be on time for an appointment, but also I recommend that you set a goal to arrive at least five minutes early.

Four Reasons You Should Arrive Early:

1.  To give yourself a buffer in case something delays you. Planning to show up at the exact time of your appointment leaves no room for error.

2.  To be relaxed for the appointment. Running through the door stressed out because you were rushing, never reflects well on you.

3.  To make sure you are prepared for the appointment. Always arrive early so you will have a few minutes to relax, think about your agenda, and get organized.

If I am meeting with some prospective clients at a restaurant, I select a table out of the way. Being early gives me the opportunity to determine the best location for the meeting and ensure that the clients are not distracted.

4.  To avoid making up an excuse for being late.  I don’t know about you, but I hate listening to excuses and even worse, I hate making excuses.

When I was a realtor, I would arrive for my appointments five minutes early to gather my presentation materials and review any notes I had taken. Then at the exact time of the appointment I would ring the bell. This was an easy way to make a great first impression.

Making Scheduled Phone Calls

When you schedule phone calls, always be clear about who’s responsible for initiating the call. When you don’t know who is initiating the call, then accept the responsibility and make the call at the scheduled time.  This puts you in control.

If you are the person responsible for initiating the call, what kind of impression will you make?  Will it be positive, neutral or negative?  If you want to really gain the edge in life, take advantage of all opportunities to make a positive impression on others.

  • Negative Impression—If you call more than five minutes early or more than five minutes late, you run the risk of making a negative impression.
  • Neutral Impression—If you call one or two minutes early or one or two minutes late you will likely not make any impression because it’s what most people do.
  • Positive Impression—When you call at the exact time of your call, you have the opportunity to make a positive impression.  I have had hundreds of people tell to me, “Wow, you are right on time!”  That comment tells me that I made an impact!

When you have a call scheduled, write it in your appointment book and if necessary set your cell phone alarm to notify you two minutes in advance.  Then at the exact time, press “send.”

When Your Best Plan Fails

Circumstances do arise and it won’t always be possible to be on time. If you are going to be late for an appointment, call as soon as you know you are going to be late. This allows others to plan their schedules accordingly. Cell phones, PDA’s and other technology make this an easy thing to do.

When you are on time you enhance your brand. When you are late, you devalue your brand.  Being on time is a choice.

Let me encourage you to take pride in being a person who is always on time and prepared for your appointments. Remember, there is no downside in showing up early, but there is significant downside to showing up late.

Is being on time a challenge for you? I encourage you to share your experiences in the comment section below.

You can be respected, as someone who is always on time, if being on time is important to you.

Beliefs, Building Rapport, Career, Decisions, Entrepreneurship, Excellence, Respect, Sales, Self Control


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