JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Just be on time for the meeting, OK?

Date

Performance Matters

Andrew May is a performance coach who has spent the past 15 years working with elite sportspeople.

View more entries from Performance Matters

Zoom in on this story. Explore all there is to know.

C'mon guys, this meeting was due to start 10 minutes ago. Show a little respect.

C'mon guys, this meeting was due to start 10 minutes ago. Show a little respect. Photo: Peter Braig

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?

21 comments so far

  • I think it is very important to start meetings on time. People who rock up ten to fifteen minutes late or worse with the excuse "Bad traffic" - Well get up earlier dummy! It is bad manners to keep everyone waiting and they usually do it because they are the head honcho. It starts a very slack workplace culture and I'm all for locking people out. Our manager has been turning up an hour late for years. It is slack.It wastes everyone's time.

    Commenter
    Whyohwhyohwhy
    Date and time
    November 24, 2013, 10:16PM
    • I used to be someone who turned up late because of: bad traffic; boom gate stuck down; long queue at the petrol station; hot water not working; cat threw up as I was about to leave etc. Never too, TOO late, and it all seemed perfectly justifiable so I can see where others are sometimes coming from, because we DO allow enough time to get there. What we DON'T allow for is anything getting in our way, and until we turn our heads around and see it differently - that LIFE gets in the way most of the time, we'll never change.

      My sister and BIL were always late for church. The BIL used to say 'well, we do have the baby', until one day my sister said 'there are people at church who've had another baby by now, and they're not late. If church started half an hour later than it does, we wouldn't be on time, we'd still be late'. Which was kinda when the penny dropped for me.

      That's worth thinking about if you're like I was. If your work starts at 8:30 and you get there every day at 8:40, what would happen if your starting time moved to 8:45? Would you still be there at 8:40, or would you be there at 8:55?

      Those of us who are often running a bit late always have legitimate reasons, what's NOT legitimate is not allowing for them in the first place.

      Commenter
      bornagirl
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 25, 2013, 10:37AM
    • bornagirl, my New Year's resolution this year was to be on time for things (including social activities) because I was similarly late "just a bit" for "good" reasons most of the time. I'm slipping again now - it's probably time to start lying to the family about when we need to leave to keep on top of lost shoes, spilled breakfast and hair that won't co-operate. My own included!

      Commenter
      Chatty
      Date and time
      November 25, 2013, 11:10AM
  • My company definitely has a culture of "late is OK" - mainly because meetings (instead of a phone call or email) seems to be the default in making any decision so meetings happen all the time. It is not unusual to have meetings booked back-to-back most of the day. And as our building houses well over 3000 employees spread across a fairly large campus those meetings could be in different buildings. 5 minutes late is the standard. It's not unusual for meetings to start 10 minutes late.

    As someone who prefers being on time it has been a huge adjustment for me but there's literally nothing to be done until the culture changes; that has to come from the top down and is unlikely to happen.

    Commenter
    TK
    Date and time
    November 25, 2013, 5:13AM
    • I used to wait for late people to turn up at meetings. These days I start exactly on time. If people can make the effort to be there on time they shouldn't be penalised for those who can't.

      Commenter
      Porbeagle
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      November 25, 2013, 6:16AM
      • I don't think so. Most of these people spend their time drinking coffee and talking about what they did last weekend. Being later for meetings where they justify their own existence to their peers isn't costing their employers any more at all.

        Commenter
        Tin
        Date and time
        November 25, 2013, 6:54AM
        • Who are "these people" you're talking about, and how do you know what they spend their time doing?

          Commenter
          Claire
          Date and time
          November 25, 2013, 11:11AM
        • @Claire - People I knew and observed whilst 30 years working in a top 100 Australian Company. (Personally I was never late for a meeting.)

          Commenter
          Tin
          Date and time
          November 25, 2013, 11:48AM
      • It's a generational thing as well. I may be getting old but I am seeing standards of promptness and propriety slipping. I also see a lot of laziness.

        When I started as a solicitor in 1993 you were at the desk at 7.30am; if you had a conference with Counsel you wore a tie and made sure you read the file before hand; and if in Court you were in Court 10 minutes before the appearance time. Now, as a Barrister in 2013 I have solicitors wander into conferences 20m minutes late sans tie (partners included) and without their file, just a notepad; they stroll into Court and sit in the back playing on their iPhones (which, tip for you young lawyers, the Justice, Judge or Magistrate can see and hates); and everything important is sent as a PDF attachment to an email leaving me the burden of printing, collating and categorising.

        I once asked a 26 y.o. solicitor to properly print the 300 page brief sent to me as an email attachment and to send me hard copy with observations. His response was to call me and ask: "How much does your clerk charge for printing? Why should we do this?" And they wonder why Judges get cranky.

        Commenter
        Andrew
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        November 25, 2013, 7:34AM
        • Not sure about that. In the late seventies one of my first jobs required every accountant in the place to spend hours waiting outside the General Manager's office until he deigned to spend his precious time with you. The auditors used to joke that they should have a category called 'waiting outside D's office'. Woe betide you should give up after half an hour and go back and get some work done. I was too young to stand above it and see it for what it was. I'm talking waits of up to two hours.

          Then if HIS boss called him, on would go his jacket, and he'd leave the room issuing a 'wait there ...' instruction. Shame we didn't have mobiles in those days, at least we could have played with them.

          Commenter
          bornagirl
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          November 25, 2013, 10:43AM

      More comments

      Make a comment

      You are logged in as [Logout]

      All information entered below may be published.

      Error: Please enter your screen name.

      Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

      Error: Please enter your comment.

      Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

      Post to

      You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

      Thank you

      Your comment has been submitted for approval.

      Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

      Advertisement
      Featured advertisers
      Executive Style newsletter signup

      Executive Style newsletter signup The latest news delivered to your inbox twice-weekly.

      Sign up now

      Advertisement