When did it suddenly become OK or even fashionable to be late for meetings? So many meetings in the corporate world start late and by the end of the day diaries become a jumbled mess. But does it really have to be this way?
It was reported last week that Tony Abbott was snubbed by Vladimir Putin and given “an iron curtain” after arriving seven minutes late for a leader's summit in Indonesia. Good work Vladimir! If we had more leaders doing this we wouldn't think it's OK to always be late. A recent article in Business Insider reported how Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is constantly late for meetings, sometimes having staff wait hours after their initial appointment. As “super nanny” Jo Frost would say, “Marissa, that behavior is unacceptable!”
I spend a lot of my time presenting workshops and meeting with executives. I'm often in a boardroom to meet three or four people for a 9am meeting and frequently find at 9.05 that I'm still the only one in the room. A few minutes later I become bored and walk over to read the company values framed in a beautiful mahogany case. Values like 'honesty', 'integrity' and 'respect'. Checking my watch again shows 9.08am, and I'm still Robinson Crusoe. And what am I thinking at this point? “This company is full of shit. They haven't even read their values.”
Maybe I'm crazy, but shouldn't a 9am meeting actually start at 9am? I spent more than a decade working in the world of sport and learned very quickly that high-performing teams get the basics right, and punctuality is one of the absolute basics that shows discipline, organisation and respect.
Steve (Stumpa) Rixon (former coach of the NSW Cricket Team and now Australian fielding coach) taught me the most important lessons I could ever learn about meetings and communicating in teams.
When I worked under Stumpa he commanded a tight ship. “Firm but fair” was his sporting creedo. But you always knew the rules, and God help anyone who was ever late for training. If a fitness session started at 8am, everyone would be there between 7.30am to 7.45am at the latest, ready to start at 8am sharp.
If a player rocked up at 8.01, first they'd get the death stare and then Stumpa would take them to the side and give them a 'special' warm up consisting of high-intensity fielding drills and intervals; players were known to vomit and fall in a heap at the end of this 'special' activity. It didn't matter whether it was an Australian Test player or an 18-year-old rookie, they were all treated the same and the message was loud and clear – turn up on time, all the time.
Former Commonwealth Bank CEO Ralph Norris was known to lock the door after his executive meetings commenced, and too bad if you weren't on time. Rob Blain, the CEO of CBRE Asia Pacific, arrives at his meetings 10 minutes early and sits in the foyer so he is calm and relaxed before he walks into the meeting. Company leaders set the meeting culture, and if they are always late this cascades throughout the entire organisation and can literally waste millions of dollars in lost productivity.
$10,000 down the toilet
I sat in on a meeting with a well-known Australian company earlier this year.
Out of the 15 people invited for an 8.30am start, five were present at 8.35am, nine were there at 8.41am and the meeting finally started at 8.47am. Oops, it had started until Mr Big (the senior manager) walked in 'fashionably late' at 9.02am without even a hint of an apology and said “So, what have I missed?”.
The chairperson then spent 15 minutes recapping what Mr Big had missed, who all the while was checking and sending messages from his iPhone and occasionally looking up. Finally at 9.17am - more than 45 minutes after the allocated starting time - the meeting was on track.
Working out the average wages of the people present, a quick tap on the calculator showed Mr Big had just flushed $10,000 of the company's money down the toilet, and that was before the meeting even got started.
Some simple tips to get your meetings back on time:
1. Start on time, all the time – don't allow a culture where it's permissible to always start meetings 5 to 10 minutes late.
2. Be prepared – read the minutes and be ready to start participating in the meeting from the get-go.
3. Compress meetings back to 45 minutes so you have a 15-minute buffer before your next appointment.
4. Free up your diary by deleting the Days of Our Lives meetings you have with the same people at the same time each week where you talk about the same things but never make any decisions.
What importance do you place on punctuality? What is the meeting culture like at your workplace?