The Importance of Respecting Other People’s Time (As Well As Your Own)

“Fashionably late” is a term I first heard when I was living in the US some 20 years ago. I have no idea how this came about, but as my friends explained it to me no one wants to be the first person to show up at a party. Besides, the hosts are often running around doing last minute things, so giving them a little extra time is appreciated.

I can attest to the host thing as my mother was often so busy before a party that she would have to dart into the bedroom when the first guests arrived to finish getting ready.

However, I just didn’t get it. I still don’t.

You set a time because you want to start and finish at a certain time. Delay the start, you finish late. This could mean anything from getting to bed late or simply not being able to read a bedtime story to your child.

Doesn’t it make sense for us to try our best to stick to our plans? Whether it’s a dinner party, a date, a meeting, or a luncheon, we have to allocate time.

Sure, there are those days when our schedule’s wide open, but there are others when agreeing to attend one of the above things might mean having to push back something else or completely reworking our entire day to make things fit.

To me, if someone tells me dinner starts at 8, then call me crazy, but I figure they want me there at 8.

Personally, I try to arrive 15 to 30 minutes early for my appointments just to be sure and simply wait in the car, or grab a drink somewhere nearby. This is especially true when I am going to somewhere new.

Now, it doesn’t always work out. But at the first sign of trouble (ie. traffic), I send a message to let people know three things:

  1. Where I am
  2. What the situation is
  3. How long I estimate the delay to be

By doing so, I feel I am showing my gracious hosts that I care. Delays are understandable, but there’s no excuse for not sending a quick message with my phone.

However, I know more than a few people that can’t even be bothered to do that. Jeez…that’s just sad.

The same people offer up no apologies when they arrive half an hour or even an hour late. To them, it’s no big deal. They seem to have forgotten that there are two sides to the equation. What about the other person’s feelings? What about all the planning they did? What about their time?

It’s one thing not to care about your time, but it’s another not to care about others.

Leadership in today’s high-speed world means respecting people’s time; the leader’s as well as others’.

That means setting a time and sticking to it. Failure to do so and your subordinates will view you as any number of things, including weak, easy-going, carefree, and available. Say you have a meeting set for 9am. But a few people are late, so you hold off. No big deal, right? Finally, everyone arrives around 9:20 and you get started.

Let’s analyze what just happened. First of all, you wasted X number of employees time. That translates into X times 20 minutes. If we’ve got 15 people there, that’s 300 minutes (of work time) gone. Poof.

Now, naturally people are going to stay late to make up that 20 minutes, right?! (You wish)

What’s worse is that you are sending people a message that they can be late for meetings. Once a trend starts, it’ll tend to continue. And if you can be late for meetings, what about projects, sales data, marketing campaign, and so on.

Starting on time is the mark of an organized person. Their time is valuable to them!

They have things to do and places to be so they have set up their schedule to run like a well-oiled machine. They don’t have time to waste here and there. Successful people know how valuable their time is and aren’t willing to waste it.

I wish I could say I’m always on time, but that would be a lie. Just yesterday I kept some cleaners waiting as I got wrapped up doing something else. My fault completely. And believe me, I felt bad about it.

When I woke up this morning and read this post, it made me realize how little we all seem to respect one another’s time.

What separates the 21st-century leader is that they must learn how to keep a balance between work and family; each deserving of their time. The workaholic may be respected in the office, but not with their family and ignoring our family has its own consequences as six people I know personally recently learned the hard way.

No success at work can make up for failure at home.

Respect yourself enough to run a tight ship, you’ll be amazed how much more you’ll get done and how people will learn to respect you if you do.

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