What your inability to be ON TIME says about you

A long day for me, today – 10 Executive Coaching sessions on the telephone, with the first beginning at 5:30 a.m. local time. The sessions are scheduled for half an hour each, and booked 45 minutes apart to allow for conversations that just don’t end on time.

Fully half of today’s sessions began late.

And this was after the sessions were booked, added to Outlook calendars, and confirmed.

There were good reasons: “I’m in a meeting with my boss, can I be 15 minutes late?” texted to me in a rush. “I’m on a call with a prospect” (the only legitimate reason for a business development person to be late in meeting with me!). “I have such a cold!”

But the bottom line is … the sessions started late. And the time goes so fast, people often express chagrin that we need to come to closure because the time is up, and another caller is due to phone in.

It’s not about me. I don’t take it personally. And I know that there are cultural differences in some parts of the world that say that an hour late is practically the same as on time.

I’m just a supplier of services, so perhaps that puts me in line for some abuse – but what about these people’s clients and prospects? Are they any more on time with them than they are with me? And is that important?

I’ve read some data that interest in people being on time skews old: it’s the older folks who care. But I know 20-somethings who are pretty tightly scheduled, too, and I’m guessing that they appreciate your being on time just as much as those of us with a few more years of experience.

It’s an element of professionalism. As casual as you may be in your private life, in business you’re talking about people’s livelihoods and what is probably their most precious commodity: time. (I often get the argument that, in business, money is the most precious commodity, but I disagree: if I have more time, I can make more money!)

In his recent, excellent book 18 Minutes:  Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done author Peter Bregman writes, “People want to hire energized people who are passionate and excited about what they’re doing. Jobs come from being engaged in the world and building human connections.” 

That statement applies to people seeking to sell their services just as much as it does to those seeking full-time employment. And my experience of those who are late, rushed, dropping balls all around them is that they’re not energized, they’re apologetic. They’re not passionate so much as they’re pressed and stressed. They’re less engaged in the world than they would otherwise be because they’re off-track. And their human connections suffer as a result, as do their business development results.

Corporate culture differences, you say? No one’s on time around here? I’d ask how you feel when you’re ready for an appointment and the person with whom you’re scheduled to speak is unavailable. As you sit there, waiting for their arrival, or their Skype, or their phone call, does that create good feeling? Or do you feel disrespected?

Don’t dis your prospects, your colleagues, your family. It erodes the personal relationships on which your future happiness and success will be based.

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