We’ve all done it.
But the occasional occurrence isn’t the issue. It’s the pattern that’s the problem.
It’s being late—habitually late.
Primarily, I’m focusing on lateness in the work environment. (For lateness related to both church and work, @BillHybels treats this superbly in this sermon podcast, “Simplify, part 2)
A pattern (more than 1/5 meetings) of lateness communicates one thing to the others in the room:
“My time and work is more important than your time and work.”
You’d likely never say those words, but that’s often how it’s interpreted.
I don’t believe, nor do I model, that the higher on the org chart you are, the more margin you have for lateness. Promptness and respect are a cultural ethos thing, and it emanates from the leader(s). If in fact your time is more valuable than others’ time, then be courteous enough to either:
1. Let others know you’ll be late;
2. Or have the meeting set at an alternative time that works for you.
How to modify your habitual lateness:
• If a meeting is called, it’s likely collaborative. If you’re invited, it implies you add value in the collaboration. When you’re not there, you can’t collaborate. You lose value.
• Even if the meeting isn’t collaborative, your supervisor wants you there. You should respect his or her wishes. (If you don’t think you need to attend the meeting, address that with your supervisor in a respectful and thought-out plan at the appropriate time.)
• Being late creeps into longer lateness. It begins with five minutes. To you, no harm, no foul. But then next time, it’s ten minutes, and you begin an expanding pattern. It creeps into others, and you begin setting an unhealthy cultural ethos.
• Consider how you feel when you host meetings or schedule something, and people are late. It’s a sign of disrespect—and it impacts the plans you had.
How to deal with habitually-late people:
• Make promptness a part of your ethos. Clearly communicate the expectation, and then model it as the leader.
• Start meetings on time—no matter who’s not there. (At least when they walk in late, they’ll realize they’re, in fact, late.)
• After 2-3 infractions, challenge the person. Do it privately, but do it. It could sound like, “I’ve noticed you’ve been late to our meetings for several weeks in a row. I realize you’ve got a lot of things going on, and you produce a lot of great results, but the chronic lateness is something we don’t allow. I want you to be diligent in being on time. When you are, it communicates to others on the team that you’re in with them, and you share in the mutual responsibility of using everyone’s time well.”
• As much as possible, be conscientious of setting meeting times when they’re likely going to work for the majority of invitees.
If you’re “the late person,” I challenge you to focus on being prompt for your next three meetings.
If you lead those who are “the late person,” challenge them within the next week.
Email me or message me, I’d love to hear how your late experiment goes.