Management Tactic #5: Be. On. Time.

This may be the most important leadership post I’ve written so far. It’s not getting the #1 slot because I’m sure there’s something better for that, and slots 2-4 are already taken. So #5 it is.

I’m going to share two things with you in this post: One, why you shouldn’t be late. Two, the secret for always being on time (no, it’s not setting your clocks 5 minutes early…that actually just makes you feel like you always have extra time, even when you don’t).

I want to preface this post by saying that I am not always on time. I don’t like to arrive somewhere and have to wait for someone. It’s something I’m working on.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Late. Ever.

Quite simply, you shouldn’t be late because you inconvenience those who have arrived on time. I know this may sound harsh, but you are literally wasting their time if you choose to be late.

This applies to all areas of your life, but I want to focus on business-related lateness. Imagine trying to have a staff meeting where 8 people arrive on time, 3 people arrive 10 minutes late, and 1 person arrives 20 minutes late. The whole point of a staff meeting is to discuss things as a group that you can’t discuss over e-mail or in smaller groups, so those people are integral to the intent of the meeting.

In that situation, if a person is 10 minutes late, they’re not just wasting 10 minutes of another’s person’s time–they’re wasting a total of 80 minutes from all of those people who were on time. That’s inexcusable.

Worse yet, lateness is contagious. If people know that one person is going to be late, they’re much less likely to be on time themselves. Pretty soon, instead of 4 people being late, 8 people are late and only a few are on time. Every time you’re late, you give someone else permission to be late the next time.

Got thyme?

Another Huge Reason Why You Shouldn’t Be Late.

Have you ever noticed that you take more risks when you’re driving when you’re late? You’re rushed, your hurried, so maybe you speed through that yellow light or careen past cars on the highway in an attempt to make up lost time.

Driving while late is extremely dangerous.

I definitely do this. And this is coming from a by-the-book, 10-and-2, use-my-blinker-in-parking-lots guy. I’m a very safe and aware driver. Except when I’m late.

The Secret for Always Being on Time.

It’s simple: Get a smart phone.

People are late for a myriad of reasons, but I think a number of them involve some level of concern that they could be doing something else with their time. Why leave work 5 minutes early when you could do 5 more minutes of work instead of waiting around for someone? Why would you ever purposely put yourself in a situation when you would need to wait?

Because of the reasons I discussed above, that’s why.

So how does a smart phone help? It gives you something to do while you wait. You can entertain yourself or continue working if that’s your prerogative. I spent 30 minutes waiting at the vet’s today, but the time flew by because I was a reading a book on my iPhone’s Kindle app and answering work e-mails. It was time spent, not wasted.

Just consider that the next time you’re stalling a departure so that you won’t have to wait when you get to lunch or the coffee shop or wherever. You have a whole world in your pocket. Just go ahead and leave, and if you arrive at your destination before the other person, do something productive or fun on your phone. By being early or on time, you’re doing your part to create a culture of punctuality.

What I don’t have is a way to ensure people get to meetings on time. Smart phones don’t help as much there, because one of the core rules of meetings is that you should start them on time. I don’t really like negative reinforcements (you could shame someone by closing the door to the meeting room when you start or put $5 in the cake fund jar if they’re late)…but even positive reinforcements (like giving a cupcake to everyone who’s on time) can come across as negative to those who feel like they were justified in being late. Any suggestions?