When I have a coaching client who is often late to our sessions or who is constantly rescheduling, I ask questions, one of which is “Are you also often late to meetings with your colleagues?” Almost always, the answer is “Yes.” That makes sense to me, because tardiness tends to be a habit. It’s generally not a behavior that shows up only in one place, like your coaching sessions.

Regular readers of our blog know about our philosophy of Thoughtful Leadership. One aspect of this approach to leadership is Being Present. It’s hard to be, or at least hard to appear to be, truly present when you are running (physically or virtually) from meeting to meeting, showing up late, keeping people waiting, and interrupting progress. Of course, you apologize, but apologies ring hollow when you hear the same apology all of the time.

Being perpetually late is not only annoying, it also reflects poorly on you, as people may see you as disorganized, stressed, or even disrespectful of others. I know there are a lot of excuses for why you are always running late – too many meetings, too much work, you’re needed in these conversations, etc., but it’s important to think about how you can move beyond the excuses and apologies and break the tardiness habit. Here are a few things to consider and try:

  • Set expectations at the beginning of every meeting about how much time you have and what your hard stop is – and stick to it.
  • Have a backup plan. If you absolutely can’t leave a meeting that is running over and you won’t get to the next one on time, have a plan already in place for who will be on deck to cover one of the meetings for you. Be sure that the person understands your input and what you need, and can fill you in later.
  • Delegate someone to attend some of your meetings. Are you REALLY needed at every meeting you attend?
  • Decline meeting invitations. Again, are you REALLY needed at every meeting you attend?
  • Analyze two or three weeks’ worth of meetings to see what you discover. What throws off your schedule? Is it particular regularly-scheduled meetings? Is it certain people or times of day where you find yourself running late? Are you using your time efficiently, and are others using your time efficiently? Use your answers to plan a new approach and new behaviors (see below).
  • Once you analyze your meeting calendar, take steps to address what you learn. For example, maybe that half-hour check-in that always runs over needs to become a 45-minute check-in. Or maybe you need to set clearer expectations with the person who often wastes your time by bringing you into unnecessary meetings or meetings without a specific and clearly understood purpose. How can you be clearer with your colleagues about when to bring you into discussions and how to use your thought partnership, ideation, and decision making more productively?
  • Build cushion into your day. A consistently jam-packed calendar day in and day out is not sustainable. Be sure to take breaks and eat lunch, so you have a chance to refresh and will then appear less frazzled and stressed. Even if you believe you don’t need a break or that you aren’t frazzled, chances are those around you perceive you that way.

It’s time to break the perpetually-late habit. When you decide to take action to ensure you are rarely late, you’ll realize that this is a habit that is completely within your power to change. And your colleagues will thank you for it.

What are other ways to break the tardiness habit?
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If you enjoyed this post, you can read more like it in our book, The Power of Thoughtful Leadership: 101 Minutes To Being the Leader You Want To Be, available on Amazon.

To get coaching support for breaking bad workplace habits and reducing stress, contact Robyn at rmcleod@chatsworthconsulting.com.

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