Sunday, April 6, 2008

Why is He Always Late?

By Dr. Donald E. Wetmore

We’ve all had this experience. We walk into a meeting for six people at 2:00 p.m. and five out of the six are there but one is not and so we wait. And we wait some more and eventually the other person comes strolling in and our 2:00 p.m. meeting now begins at 2:15 having kept five on-time people waiting, wasting more than a full hour of the organization’s productivity time.

When queried, the late comers believe they really could not have made the meeting on time. “You don’t understand the responsibilities I have”, they will implore. “The buck stops here with me.”

So here’s what happens. It’s 1:54 and our late comer is about to leave his office with all the good intentions of getting to the 2:00 p.m. meeting on time and his phone rings.

What does he do? He answers it. “This could be an important call.” he reasons and after all, “This will only take a minute.” he assures himself.

Buy it takes several minutes for this call and there’s that one follow-up call. It is now 2: 07 and proceeding down the hall to the 2:00 p.m. meeting our chef of tardy sauce encounters one of his team members who has an urgent request. He stops and listens. “Don’t expect me to turn my back on Sandy. She’s one of my key people! Yes, Sandy, what can I do for you?”

It’s now 2:15 and our starting-time-challenged straggler arrives at the meeting having kept the others waiting and wasting time but convinced he could no have done otherwise. “Sure, you can get to meetings at 2:00 p.m., but you don’t understand my responsibilities. I can’t make these meetings on time.” he explains.

Do you know this person? No doubt you do and maybe several others like him.

But here is the irony. That so terribly busy person who can never get to the meetings on time is never, ever late for a 4:17 p.m. flight out at the airport. Why is that? Because if you arrive 15 minutes late for your flight you’ll be walking to your destination rather than flying to it.

So here’s what happens.

It’s 12:59 p.m. and our friend, Lester Late, in his office, has just two minutes to get outside in front of the building to catch the last ride to the airport for the day. If he misses this bus ride he misses his business trip.

So, he picks himself up and proceeds to his office door and his phone rings. What does he do? He lets it ring. He can’t take the risk of getting bogged down on a lengthy call. He knows that if this had been just thirty seconds later the call would have gone to voicemail.

Now down the hallway he is confronted with his team member Sandy who has the most urgent, crucial thing to discuss. What does our carelessly clocked fellow do? He tells her that this issue is very important and that he will call her from the airport to discuss fully.

Our friend just makes different choices when en route to his ride to the airport than when going to a meeting. Can he get to the meetings on time? Yup. It’s a choice.

Why is he always late? It’s a choice. His choice. It is the choice to regularly prioritize something else over the importance of getting to the meeting on time.

Does it make a difference what your job title is as to whether you will get to meetings on time? I don’t believe so.

Take the busiest job of being President of the United States. Can the President get to meetings on time?

If you are George W. Bush, the answer is yes. He has been a stickler about holding on time meetings.

And Bill Clinton? He was notoriously late for meetings of all types. The joke was “Real time v Clinton time”.

I don’t mean this as a criticism but simply an observation. Both men had the same job and one was on time for meetings and the other was not. The difference? It was a choice to make meeting starting times a priority.

Now go to your meeting. Go ahead. Go now. And get there on time.

Get your copy of “Meeting Madness”, a humorous look at the pressure meetings puts on us. It’s no cost. If you would like a copy, email your request for “meeting” to:

Dr. Donald E. Wetmore
Professional Speaker
Productivity Institute
Time Management Seminars
127 Jefferson St.
Stratford, CT 06615
(203) 386-8062 (800) 969-3773

Professional Member-National Speakers Association

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John Worswick said...

Don , it looks as though I might be in jeopardy of wasting time as I did not first set up an account before trying to post a comment. Hopefully you won't have to read it twice. I just wanted to suggest that maybe choice is not as involved as suggested,but that desire plays a part, in that, we all the perpensity to follow our greatest desire whatever that may be. Maybe Mr 2:15 simply did not have a desire to make the meeting on time so he found other things to occupy his time until he decided that the meeting was now his greatest desire. What do you think?

I also know that you are a big proponent of a balanced life. That seems to make alot of sense.( & probably dollars as well)I think thats it's prudent to take time to consider issues & the decisions that may have to be made as a result of them. It can be hard to do though if your not used to doing so. To wrap your brain around the fact that to take time to stop & think now will save more time later is not an easy concept in the society we live in today.

Thanks for keeping me on your list I really enjoy your insight & materials.

John W.

Christy said...

I can't wait to share this with my corporate friends. We have a big issue with this! I know how busy managers are, but I do still think it boils down to a choice. And not just choosing to be on time, but instilling it as a good work habit that not only increases your productivity, but that of your team as well.

sam said...


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Franklincovey said...

Thanks for writing, I very much liked your newest post. I think you should post more frequently, you evidently have natural ability for blogging!