Professional Skills: Punctuality

Posted by Bridget Beirne
March 27, 2013

Punctuality is one of your most important professional skills!

"I'm waaaaaiiiting!"

"No. We'll wait."

"The waiting is the hardest part."

No matter what the circumstances, we don't like to be kept waiting. While Carly Simon may have made "Anticipation" seem cool, when you're living it- not so much.

I have a friend that is consistently late to EVERYTHING. Not here or there, not on occasion when things are crazed- always. They've been late to dinners, travel dates for carpooling, and theatre curtains (!). One of the final straws was when they showed up late for a performance I was giving. Now, I'm not saying they were trying to be rude or disrespectful, but even if the intentions were good, it made me feel- bad. Really bad.

The problem with a disregard for punctuality is just that- we send a clear message that the needs of the person (or people) we are meeting are unimportant. Trust me, I'm not perfect, and I'm certainly not implying that I have never been late in my life. But I do my best to strive for punctuality, in or out of a business setting. I want the people who are taking time out of their own day and schedule to know that I appreciate it, and will respect the time frames we've established.

Obviously, things happen- subways break down, traffic emerges victorious, people get sick, babysitters cancel- not everything is in our control. But being on time should always be a goal. Here are just some quick thoughts on punctuality that come to mind:

1. Early is on time, on time is late: Especially when you are going to an event which requires some set-up ahead of time, or one which demands you collect yourself and have things in order before your appointment. In order to do that, your "on time" needs to be before schedule. (In the theatre, everyone is required to be signed in backstage- regardless of what your prep may entail- a half an hour before curtain. Your pay can be docked if you arrive after "Half Hour"...)

2. Unless it's not: When your boss throws an intimate dinner party at their home, arriving a half an hour early is clearly out of bounds- one of the rare exceptions to #1 . But, unless it's an "open house" type setting, do be on time.

Professional skills 83. Do Unto Others...: Be the employee you'd like to work with, the presenter you'd like to see, and the audience you'd like to have in attendance. Showing up on time for a meeting or presentation shows respect for the presenter/facilitator- nothing is more distracting when standing in front of a group than people roaming in and out of the room at their leisure, and arriving late says that you're really not that interested in the subject matter OR the presenter. Ouch. And from the other side, don't keep your audience waiting! They have as much on their plate as you do, and beginning meetings and presentations on time says you respect that. Making them wait says nothing on their schedule could possibly be as important as you.

4. Clarify conflicts: We schedule things for a reason- everyone is busy. When someone wants to make plans with you, and you think you might not be able to make it, let them know. Our initial instinct may be to try and just squeeze it all in, and that's when problems arise. While you don’t need to go into specifics, saying "Can we schedule for 4:30 rather than 4pm? I'm booked that day and I don't want to be late to meet you!" can make a big difference. If your appointment is an immovable object, be sure and schedule your day around it to allow you to make all of your obligations on time.

5. Consideration, Respect, and Honesty: You're showing consideration and respect by being punctual. But what if life has intervened and you are running late? Rather than make your companion wait and wonder, fess up with a phone call so they can make whatever arrangements they need to. Keeping someone "on the hook" and waiting for your arrival is not only unpleasant, but a waste of their time. Give them the information they need to decide what to do.

Being late can derail our best of intentions. When it comes to puntuality, don't let the show start without you.


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