by Aubrey Patterson
Do you find yourself in meetings that are chronically late to begin?
To the punctual majority who are often pressed for time, being late is like saying, "This work is important, but, hey, it's not that important."
Arriving late was a way of saying that your own time was more valuable than the time of the person who waited for you. - Karen Joy Fowler
A Typical Late Start
We've all been part of this common scenario:
Some arrive a little early and start chatting. Most of the people arrive just in time to begin. A few have yet to arrive. Often one or two key members, who are usually the leaders, keep chatting until eventually one of them declares, "OK, let's get started."
Unfortunately, far too many meetings organically stumble to a late start, and then stagger to a slow end. Time, enthusiasm, motivation, and focus are the casualties of this pattern.
All of this makes people much less effective.
The Math is Simple
As the number of people waiting increases, the actual cost of a late meeting scales rapidly. A meeting of 12 people that begins 9 minutes late is 108 minutes of wasted time.
Simply put, time is zero-sum.
Every minute unnecessarily wasted eats into the time that participants have for other individual and team work that is equally essential to them.
One thing you can't recycle is wasted time. - Ohno Taiichi
Here are a few very simple habits to lead by example and begin our meetings on-the-dot.
🕑 Always be ready 5-10 minutes before a meeting and greet people with warmth. Others will quickly catch on and emulate our arrival times. When the leader has a reputation for being punctual (or late), others will respond in kind.
🕢 If we have a 1:1 meeting, and our guest is late, only provide the person the time remaining in the scheduled time. We shouldn't change an agenda and reinforce negative habits.
🕘 Stop using full and half-hour increments of time. Save time by breaking the habit of using one hour meetings when a 50-minute meeting will suffice. This mindful use of time will quickly be noticed and elevates the importance of investing time wisely.
🕘 Create a cushion of time between meetings to allow for checking email, phone calls, poor parking, and other realities of life. Be open about this and lead others to do the same.