12 Oct

Punctuality: An essential sign of professional respect


I am amazed that although the world is moving faster than ever and time is increasingly precious, so many professionals remain lackadaisical about synching their schedules in a responsible fashion.  We all have 24 hours in a day and lead hectic lives, and it is basic common courtesy to promptly keep the appointments we make with our clients, prospects or team members. Being prompt means you value and respect your own time as well as that of the person or persons with whom you are meeting. How you stay on top of your appointments is a direct reflection on how you conduct the rest of your business, and tardiness instantly tarnishes your professional presence and reputation.

Be on Time

Are you managing your daily calendar to be where you said you were going to be? Sure, things do come up now and then to create unexpected delays, but showing up on time is a matter of personal responsibility. Far too many professionals rely on “excuses” to explain their chronic lack of punctuality, but eventually clients and prospects tire of excuses and will find someone else who behaves promptly. That means you need to allow plenty of extra time for car travel, especially if you live in a congested city like Atlanta.

Learn to expect the unexpected in case you get stopped by a colleague in the hallway, distracted by a last-minute phone call, or stuck on the road because there is a fender bender or a construction zone up ahead. You are fully responsible for getting yourself from point A to point B with grace and ease – and doing so will help ensure that you also get from A to B in terms of your career advancement.

Start on Time

Have you ever had the kind of boss who convenes everyone for a meeting but delays the start of it because one member of the team happens to be late? I understand why they might want to wait until everyone is present so they don’t have to repeat themselves and everyone hears the same message. But the problem with that kind of management is that it is highly disrespectful to the people who held themselves responsible for being there on time. It also sets a terrible precedent and example because it punishes those who are punctual and teaches everybody that it is okay to be late because meetings won’t start without you.

I remember how when I used to work at Macy’s I’d schedule weekly senior level executive meetings every Monday at 2:00 pm.  But inevitably there were always one or two stragglers who interpreted that to mean “2-ish.” So finally I began shutting the conference room door and beginning the meetings at the designated time, whether everyone was there or not. Sure enough, those few executives who missed the first half of the meeting felt embarrassed when they had to open the door and disrupt our conversation while they found a seat and tried to get up to speed. After I started doing this, however, the people who respected my time by being on time saw me as a more effective leader because I reciprocated with them by also respecting their time and their own busy schedules.

Have you noticed that everyone these days seems to disregard the importance of punctuality, as if being on time is no longer a hallmark of professionalism or a standard rule of business etiquette? If you have examples or thoughts on the subject – or maybe stories of how the value of your own time has been neglected and disrespected – I hope you’ll express and share them here.

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Sarah Hathorn is a professional image consultant, certified personal brand strategist, speaker, and author. Her company, Illustra Image Consulting, works with high-achieving future leaders and large businesses by enhancing their corporate and personal brand image to take their businesses and careers to the next level.

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Copyright © 2010, Sarah Hathorn, AICI CIP, CPBS



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Sarah Hathorn
Sarah Hathorn, CEO of Hathorn Consulting Group, is the go-to-expert in working with leaders and companies to create successful corporate DNA. As an executive coach, consultant and speaker she collaborates globally with clients and brands such as Kimberly-Clark, Sherwin-Williams, Home Depot and other leading organizations.
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