"CEOs can't wait to read Sunny Bindra's articles every week."

Why always being late is a discourtesy, and costs money

“How did it get to be “OK” for people to be late for everything?
Because as far as I am concerned, it’s not OK.
In recent years it seems that a meeting set to start at 9 am, for some people means in the general vicinity of any time which starts with the numeral ‘9’. Like 9.30 for example.
People drift in at 9.10 or 9.20, or even later. And they smile warmly at the waiting group, as they unwrap their bacon sandwich, apparently totally unconcerned that others have been there since five to nine, prepared and ready to start.”

GREG SAVAGE www.gregsavage.com.au (7 June, 2010)

One of the best things I like about Twitter is the serendipity. If you follow the right people, you will inevitably uncover some far-flung gems of writing. The excerpt above is not recent, but I found myself nodding vigorously through the blog post I clipped it from. Thank you, @RookieKE, for pointing me at it.

Greg Savage is an Australian business advisor, speaker and blogger. He is angered by the fact that people simply refuse to be on time. Most people are becoming utterly blasé about showing up a few minutes late for pretty much everything. Here in Nairobi, ‘traffic’ is a convenient scapegoat, used even by those who are late every day for every engagement in every part of town, including their own offices.

As Greg points out, keeping 10 people waiting for just 20 minutes is more than 3 collective hours wasted. If this is repeated a few times a day, every day, in a month you will end up with…a very large number.

In most busy lives, time carries a price. How lowly do you rate those whose time you squander? So I agree with Greg: “You are not running late; you are rude and selfish.” And when you are the one who asked for the meeting in the first place, need some help, or are trying to sell something…well, that now becomes unreal.

In these parts, another angle to tardiness can be observed. Kenyans are pretty much always on time when they are meeting someone higher up in the pecking order. Most would not dream of being late for a meeting with the boss, or a major customer. Yet those same fellows will be serially late for meetings with their peers or friends. And will blame ‘traffic.’

We also observe that bigwigs are pretty much never on time for meetings with underlings. It seems to be a badge of honour to be able to keep lesser mortals waiting. You do it, because you can. And guess what? That underling you kept waiting will now do the same to his underling…

Which reveals something: it’s the leadership, stupid. If the boss sets a bad standard in time-keeping, the organization will never respect time. And it will suffer millions in lost hours simply because the person at the top lacks the personal discipline.

This applies to nations too.

I once had a boss who would lock the door 5 minutes after any meeting was due to begin, and answer the door personally to latecomers. After the first few times, no one was late. Ever. Magical, isn’t it?

At the end of the day, being on time for (most) things is a personal standard and a professional courtesy. If you don’t have it, you are revealing a whole bunch of other traits you may also lack.

Now, having just written all of this, will I be late for my next meeting? Quite possibly. It’s been known to happen. You can’t control all the forces that may prevent you from making it from A to B at time C. But you can anticipate. And be genuinely sorry when you are late. And make amends. That’s all any of us can do, but it matters that you do.

Buy Sunny Bindra's book
here »

Share or comment on this article