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.
But 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.