As a leader, you are doing things with groups of people, meetings, meals, events, travel, etc. The one thing these all have in common is that you are all gathering at a specific time and place.
As the saying goes, ‘time is money’, but time is more than money. Time is freedom. The more discretionary time you have, the freer you are. In our overscheduled world, time is the most precious resource you have. Is this someone you meet with regularly that is consistently late? What does this say about their respect level for you?
Don’t be last…. Every time. I first heard this expression many years ago when I did a short stint of tree planting in Northern Ontario while in University and I have used it ever since. Anytime you have a gathering of people, there has to be someone who shows up last (I guess you could have a tie). In my tree-planting example, time really was money and freedom. If you were late to get on the bus in the morning, you cut into the team’s working hours and a chance to make more money. In the evening, if you were late to the bus, you cut into people’s coveted free time back at camp.
One of the best ways to lose respect from a team is to be consistently late to show up to gatherings. Showing up last or late once or twice is excusable in most circumstances, especially if you were able to give notice ahead of time. Showing up last consistently is a sign of disrespect, at least in North American culture. I am not talking about showing up casually late for a party. These gatherings have a fixed start time that everyone is well aware of and is expected to be there.
On my recent trip to Brazil, at times there were up to 30 adults and 10 children traveling together. All were friends or family of my brother who we had traveled to Brazil to get married. Before the wedding, most of us spent 10 days traveling through the country on prearranged tours and just about every morning and evening, we had a set time to meet before our next event.
One of the reasons this group got along and traveled well together is that no one person or family was consistently last to show up. Someone was always last but it was someone different everyday and wasn’t even noticeable. This group included families from Canada, the US, Mexico and France, with children aged from 9 months to 10 years old, many of whom just met each other or haven’t seen each other in years. What this showed me was a tremendous bout of respect for the leader, my brother who was organizing our daily itinerary and each other.
Think about a person that comes to mind who is consistently late for gatherings. How do you feel about them? What feelings come to mind? Perhaps, as a leader, you need to take some responsibility for the person who is consistently late. As adults, it is nice to think we can manage our own time and be on schedule if we really want to be. However, there is a range of organizational and time management skills to learn, and having used these skills in different situations, a leader may be able to help the person in need by offering support and coaching.
As an expedition leader, it was a constant element of my job description. Many of my clients were not used to waking up in a tent, cooking on a camp stove and packing up all their possessions in a precise and orderly manner in a backpack, kayak or canoe. If they were late for our scheduled leaving time in the first few days, I often took this as my responsibility.
“As a leader, your role is to set your team up for success.”
To support them, I would usually share many tips and tricks that could help them get organized and be on time. This ranged from packing techniques to making a select few changes, such as setting their watches to 10 minutes ahead. This is one of those times when the ‘whatever it takes’ rule kicks in. I would ask, “What do you need to do to be on time and how can I help you what that?” I know many people who have their kitchen or car clocks 15 minutes ahead. If that works for you, PERFECT.
The fact is that when you are late, you are hurting the entire team and there are few acceptable excuses for being consistently late. Late once or twice yes, but consistently NO!
What do you do to make sure you are on time? How have you supported others to be on time? Let me know in the comments below.