If you are habitually late it hurts relationships, productivity, sales, culture, and the growth of your managed IT services company. Why not change?

Being on time, or not, is a habit based on your values and related behaviors.

How do you feel when these situations occur to you? 

  • A job candidate shows up late for an interview.
  • A vendor who has been trying to win your business shows up late for your meeting.
  • A client pays you late.
  • You have something very important to discuss with your boss and she is late.
  • You have a meeting scheduled with a direct report and he shows up late. 

In each of these situations the other person’s lack of punctuality lessens your respect and appreciation for them. Do you hold yourself to the same standards of punctuality that you demand from others?

According to Minda Zetlin, co-author of The Geek Gap, a recent survey by the Blue Jeans Network shows an astonishing 81 percent of meetings fail to start on time. That is just not productive by any standards.

Who is at fault? The leader of the meeting, or the participants who show up late?

The leader. The leader has established a pattern of accepting tardiness, which wastes time for other people. Probably that leader doesn't end meetings on time either.

Who cares? If you are competing to win, then you care. If you are competing to merely stay in the game, then maybe common business standards (soft skills like punctuality) are not that important to you. This column is for people who want to win.

Why Punctuality is Critical to Every Leader's Success

1. Meaningful

When you are punctual for others, it demonstrates that you value them as a member of your team, respect them, and are committed to their success. When you are habitually late you communicate that you do not think they are important. 

2. Integrity

Too many people overlook the importance of living up to their word and following through on commitments. They make a promise to meet with someone at a particular time. When they are late, that promise is broken. Why should someone have to wait for them? Just because they are the boss? (Then they will find another boss at another company…) Being on time demonstrates integrity. 

3. Dependable

People need to count on you, and you need to rely on other people to achieve success as a team. Business is a team sport, yet we all have to demonstrate foundational soft skills for our team to not just stay in the game, but to win again and again. Arriving on time and delivering our commitments on or before their due dates demonstrates that we are dependable and can be trusted. This leads to growth whereas inconsistency develops doubt and obstacles to success.

4. Polite

Quite simply, being on time is polite whereas arriving late is rude. You are basically stealing time from other people's day. That is time they never get back. Being late is selfish.

5. Choice

Being punctual is a choice. If you are often late, even by a few minutes, then it is because you made a decision that something else was more important than arriving on time. There are so many technology options to remind yourself to stop doing something else and begin your next activity on time that there are no longer any excuses for tardiness. Choose to be on time.

6. Preparation

Arriving on time actually means that you are typically 2-15 minutes early. This gives you an advantage because you can get acclimated to the surroundings, review your notes for the meeting, engage with other early arrivers to better develop those relationships… There are many reasons why arriving early, or at least on time is far superior to the habit of tardiness.

Follow the example of Warriors star team leader, and NBA MVP, Stefan Curry. 

7. Role Model

Leaders have to be role models for their company culture. If you want a culture that delivers projects on time to clients, then you have to be on time. You cannot be chronically late and then demand that your people behave differently. Your behaviors set the standards more than any values you post on the wall.

President George Washington was known for his punctuality as well as his integrity. The website, A Man’s Life, has two articles on punctuality. One of them tells several stories about President Washington's discipline of being on time.

In one situation Washington’s secretary arrived late to a meeting, and blamed his watch for his tardiness. Washington quietly replied, “Then you must get another watch, or I another secretary.”

I am not demanding that you be perfect, as in flawless, and never, ever be late. I do believe that any leader who wants to be on time can be. The moments when you are late should be a rare exception, and mostly due to unforeseen circumstances.

How to Develop a Habit of Being Punctual

If you struggle with being punctual then you have bad habits. Let's quickly review how to break those habits by overpowering them with stronger new habits and/or processes.

STEP #1: Own It 

Admit you have a problem, AND commit to change. Stop rationalizing your tardiness and making excuses. Commit to be a person of integrity in the area of time management.

STEP #2: Recognize Triggers

Habits are initiated by triggers, which are situations that lead you to make a decision. For instance, someone may ask you to do something or participate in a meeting. You instinctively want to say, "Yes." Recognize the trigger of someone requesting your time, and pause. Breathe. Consider an alternative response, such as: "Let me check my calendar."

Slow your brain down and do a reality check.

Confirm you are easily available to attend the meeting, which means you have unscheduled time before and after the meeting; or you confirm your calendar is open enough to complete the work that is being requested of you. Do not underestimate the time it will take you to prepare for the meeting, attend the meeting, and/or deliver the commitment of work.

WARNING: Your boss might ask you to do something, but your schedule is full. When this happens, respectfully explain your current priorities, and ask your boss whether he wants you to complete those priorities, or postpone one or more of them so you can complete this new task.

STEP #3: Say “No” 

One of the biggest challenges you have is saying "No" to good ideas or interesting activities so you can focus on what is truly most important. No one can do everything. Yet if you recognize the triggers that lead you to overcommit, then you can make wiser choices during your reality check response to a trigger. 

STEP #4: Self Accountability 

At the end of each day confirm you have been on time. Look ahead to other commitments. In advance adjust any promises that you will be unable to meet on time or early. When you develop better habits of recognizing the triggers that lead you to over commitment, then you can better manage your time. This will make you a better leader, role model, and strengthen your company culture.

Check out these other leadership blog posts by David:

Download the Managed IT Services Sales Imperative White Paper