It’s Later Than You Think

Question: I have a colleague who is habitually late for everything. This is really aggravating and is hurting our business. Why is he this way?

Answer: I once had a partner who was always late to everything. When I’d say something to him about it, he’d only laugh it off. I finally realized that he was late on purpose. Why? Because I believe that he always wanted to make a grand entrance to any meeting or appointment. I think he felt it gave him some sort of power over everyone in attendance – they had to wait to start until he arrived.

There are several reasons for lateness. The first (and worst) is exemplified by my former partner (who sadly is deceased) as described in the preceding paragraph. Another reason is a lack of organization and/or poor time management. A third reason is simply not caring that others must wait. And finally, every once in a while there may be an unavoidable occurrence that prevents us from being on time.

It’s important for us to put ourselves in the shoes of others and think about how they feel when we are late. I personally resent it when others believe their time is more valuable than mine and choose not to be on time for an appointment or meeting. This drives me to try and be early to meetings that I attend. I don’t believe there is any such thing as being fashionably late. Suppose I am on a phone call and know that I need to leave in five minutes to meet an investor for lunch. And suppose that I know that the call I’m on is going to take longer than five minutes. I will ask the other party if I can call him or her back from my cell phone and finish the conversation while I’m driving. I’ve never had anyone object to this approach and I’m always on time when I use it. For the few times I’ve actually been late, I always call ahead and let my party know exactly when I will arrive – even if I’m only going to be two or three minutes late.

Recently I made an appointment to see an oral surgeon for some dental work. I arrived 10 minutes early and was informed that the surgeon was running 75 minutes behind. No one bothered to call me in advance. I re-scheduled the appointment with assurances that I would “get right in.” Once again I arrived early and was processed by the receptionist. After 30-minutes of waiting past my appointment time I left for good and wrote the surgeon a letter. He called and apologized and then blamed his staff for poor communications. Not once did he take responsibility for overbooking. This obviously was his modus operandi which seems to be the case for many in the medical profession. I formed an unfavorable opinion about him and unfortunately (for him) have related this story many times. He’s probably a fine surgeon, but projects an air of arrogance with his tardiness.

Being late is a simple choice. We may believe that we have a legitimate excuse, but again, it begins with a choice we make. When we are early for an appointment or meeting, we send a signal that we truly value the other person. This small, uncomplicated act does wonders to build strong and positive relationships.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


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