Don’t be Late! Seriously, don’t be.

LateOf all the things that we’re willing to waste, I think for most of us, time is near the bottom of the list. So why do we waste other people’s time?

Recently, I waited outside for a fellow professional – for 20 minutes. When she arrived, she muttered a half-hearted apology. Wow, after 20 minutes I needed more explanation or sincerity from her.   When I didn’t get either one, I concluded that we don’t see eye-to-eye about what matters in life and in business. If she ever wants to be my leader, I doubt that I will follow.

A leader’s job is to build a productive team. That means a team that is engaged in the work, respected and honored. When a leader does not honor something that we can never replace – Time – we are not being honored. I am very aware that corporate cultures make assumptions about many things and time is one.   Just because it seems to be a pattern in the organization, does not mean it’s a good practice.  Emotional intelligence is about being empathetic.  Being prompt is empathetic because we acknowledge the feelings and value of others.

Your actions speak more than anything you will ever say.   You may apologize about how terribly busy you are or that your previous meeting ran over but the fact is that you have expected other people to accommodate you. You appear to have assumed that their time matters less than yours. You may not really believe that but your actions indicate that it is truly the case.   When you say one thing and do another, we believe what you did. Sure, even the most conscientious among us will be late sometimes. If it’s your habit or if it’s the exception, what action will you take to prevent it or to make amends?

Here are some suggestions to break the Being Late Habit:

  1. Manage expectations upfront. Tell the people with whom you’re speaking that you have a hard stop at a given time then stick to it so you won’t be late to your next appointment.
  2. Double the amount of time you plan. If it’s humanly possible to get there in 30 minutes, the reality is that it might really take you 60.
  3. Plan to do less in a meeting. Do more, in advance, to agree on the agenda so your meeting is not jammed full and runs over.
  4. Reflect on what being late gives you. The psychologists will ask, “How does that serve you?” Your late arrival draws attention to you. Maybe that is something you like.   If so, be honest with yourself and consider the consequences.

Here are some suggestions to make amends for the Occasional Lateness:

  1. Explain yourself and own up. Apologize genuinely. Maybe you simply goofed. Be responsible for your actions. It happens to all of us…sometimes.
  2. Buy the person you kept waiting an online gift. Go to and get them a modest gift certificate. That will go a little ways toward saying how much you value them and their time.

What are your suggestions about how to prevent or make amends for being late? I’m eager to hear them – when you have a minute.


  1. Michelle Sangillo on October 8, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Another great article, Liz. I don’t always read your articles, because, I’m usually running somewhere or trying to make a deadline that I don’t want to be late for. It’s kind of ironic that I read this one because I’ve been very, very busy lately. But, I had to share a thought about “busy” being used as an excuse for tardiness. First, it does seem to be the biggest excuse people use, and it always rubs me the wrong way. It’s like saying, “My time is more valuable than your time” or “What I do is more important than what you do” or, “You just don’t matter that much to me”. And, how arrogant is that? Things happen to the best of us–like traffic, even over-sleeping, but “I’m busy” doesn’t cut it. We’re all busy. Thank you!!!


  2. Liz Keever on October 8, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Thanks, Michelle. I appreciate it. The “I’m so busy” thing is just a question of priorities, isn’t it?

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