Photo By a n a n d h a m
Have you ever had a friend or a colleague who was always late for everything? I have watched people look at the time and make an unscheduled stop or take another phone call, almost as if they need to be late! In the celebrity world, they always like to make the late appearance, subliminally sending a message that they have a different set of rules than the rest of us. But even celebrities need to be on time for things, like Airlines for example. The thought of a person considering their time more valuable than another’s is simply appalling to me.
The amount of energy that is wasted when someone is late is remarkable. When the tardy finally arrive they usually come with a very dramatic story of why they were late. Time is our most valuable asset, we should use it wisely.
I was reading an article recently on how to be punctual and I was amused by the advice. They offered suggestions like setting your watch ahead 15 minutes and putting clocks in every room. In my opinion these suggestions are not solving the problem, I think they are actually adding to it!
I don’t want to mislead you, everyone has a moment when they have some unforeseen event happen that is out of their control. But I can tell you that the people I’ve met in business who are constantly late are also unproductive. On the contrary, those who place value on their time are very productive and quite organized. What message are we sending people in our day when we are always late? Well, it presents us as unorganized and disrespectful. It is difficult to sustain healthy relationships when we continue to devalue someone else’s time.
A number of years ago I was involved in a highly technical presentation to a very large corporation. The pitch required a collaboration of various companies that by combining our strengths, could win the customer. My job was to build the presentation, collect the important technical aspects and design the platform we were going to use to present our product. I was very excited about this and worked very long hours making sure that our customer understood the value of what we were presenting. The “pitch guy” was Bob, who had a relationship with the agency that represented the company we were presenting to. Leading up to the big day, I had several meetings with the agency, actually taking Bob’s place, who for some reason cancelled each time.
A week prior to our big meeting (that rostered 52 executives), I invited Bob to rehearse the presentation and get to know what I had built. He had made many appointments and cancelled most, and when he did show up he gave little attention and was quick to exit. This concerned me so I suggested to Bob that I pitch the presentation, being most familiar with the details at that point. Bob insisted that he worked best in the “last minute” and that we would meet the night before to review everything. He promised he would be ready.
So there we were, the night before the big day. My assistant and I had put in heavy hours on this and were now just waiting for Bob to arrive. We sat and waited. We were supposed to meet at 6pm, but by 8pm Bob had not arrived. Out of concern I tried contacting him, hoping that he hadn’t been in an accident or had some kind of emergency. He eventually called and apologized profusely, assuring me that we could meet early the next morning to review and he would be ready to go.
With no surprise, our early morning meeting (set for 5:30am) never happened. I was packing up my laptop when Bob showed up. I insisted that he not present because the information was way too technical and he had not familiarized himself to any extent. He commented that I worry too much and that he does this kind of thing in his sleep.
We arrived for the meeting right on time, without the extra minutes we could have used to prepare. The room was filled with 52 executives and the agency who represented the company. Now we are setting up the projector in front of them with no time to test anything. I can still see Tavia, the agency’s project leader, dropping her head with both hands over her face. She was concerned, and rightfully so. We loaded everything up and we were off, Bob introduced himself and I was on the laptop controlling the slide presentation. After his introduction, we began viewing the slides. I wish I had a camera to capture the look on Bob’s face when he saw the first slide. His jaw dropped and he began to stutter. Refusing to give up, he asked me to move to the next slide. As painful as it was, I couldn’t help letting him suffer to send a message, and hoped that he never forgot the pain and discomfort he felt from not being prepared. After a few minutes of this fiasco and to save Tavia from having a heart attack, I politely interjected and asked Bob if I could speak to the group on the technical points, to which he graciously agreed. As Bob sat down to take a drink of water, I noticed his hands were shaking and he was breathing heavily. I gladly took over because I was so prepared I could not wait to dive into it. We salvaged the presentation and won the business, but after the room cleared, Tavia informed Bob that she would not work with him again and their relationship was dissolved.
Being punctual needs to be valued. If you start setting false reminders around you, the only thing you are doing is strengthening your commitment to continue to fail. Set your day with a plan and attach a value to it. Preparation is a validation of the value you have on a meeting or an event. Think about what you commit to and make sure you can fit it in if it’s worth your time.
If you want free time to relax then get on a schedule. And don’t forget to call your mother!