You have cleared your schedule, did your preparation, made arrangements for others to cover what you are supposed to be doing during the time, and drove in traffic for an hour to get there. As you get out of the car, you get a text on your phone saying they had to cancel the meeting that was due to start in 10 minutes.
Just about nothing frustrates me more than wasted time and resources. (The one thing that may get to me, even more, is the complete meltdown my kids throw as we try to head out the door, but that is a topic for another day.) When my time and resources are wasted, I start plucking out any hair that’s left in my head in frustration.
If you commit to a meeting time and place DON’T CANCEL IT!
If you are at all concerned about the value of the meeting and wonder if you should cancel, you may want to download my The 7-Step Blueprint for Meetings That Actually Add Value! PDF.
Outside of an emergency, the only time you should cancel is well in advance of the meeting date. Few excuses would be acceptable for a late cancellation of a meeting.
If you do have to cancel…
If you do have to cancel you had better, be clear and transparent to why. This is not a good time to gloss over your reason for the cancellation. You have already frustrated the attendees and now you risk losing their respect.
The one way to hold on to any sort of respect for a late meeting cancellation is to be overly apologetic, transparent, reschedule for a time that works best for them, and even offer to cover any costs they incurred by the late cancellation.
As a quality leader (in theory), every meeting you are going to attend is terribly important to you. You probably already know the reason why you are holding the meeting.
You don’t know what’s behind the scenes
Some meeting cancellations may not be a big deal for you at the time but for others, they may have had to bend over backward to clear their schedule for the meeting. Most of the times, you have no idea what sacrifice people had to make to join the meeting.
I recently had a scheduled meeting canceled just a few hours before it was due to take place. This reoccurring meeting was scheduled a couple of months in advance. I was working from home on the day of this meeting. So I could attend this meeting I had arranged for the kids to go to an afterschool program that they are not too fond of. I scheduled and paid for the kids’ care in advance knowing I would have this important meeting.
When the meeting was canceled just a few hours before the scheduled start time, there was a vague reason given. The reason given for the cancellation didn’t seem to merit canceling this meeting, which was scheduled long in advance. This frustrated me and caused me to lose a little respect for the meeting host who canceled.
I didn’t know what was going on in their world and there may have been a good reason for the cancellation, leading me to sympathize with them, but it was not given.
Just last week, I had another last minute meeting cancellation but this time the meeting host gave a brief explanation of a medical issue his kid was dealing with. His child ended up with a specialist appointment that occurred when the meeting was due to take place. With this brief but informative explanation, I was felt empathetic to the person and didn’t mind the rescheduling of the meeting, given the circumstances.
The bottom-line is, do not cancel meetings at the last minute unless you absolutely have to and if you do give a significant explanation why.
Action: Before you commit to attending a meeting make sure it is important enough for you to attend and never cancel at the last minute unless there is an emergency.
Shawn Stratton is an international leadership and team building consultant, professional speaker, bestselling author and Ironman competitor.
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