Be Early, Better Your Leadership Credibility
We’ve all heard the excuses for being late from chronic offenders, which can include bosses, co-workers and direct reports. Unexpected traffic, an emergency plumbing nightmare, and sick pets are all common offenders. How do you avoid this noxious behavior? Adopt a new mindset: Early is actually on time; being on time is really late; and late is never acceptable. Then create, implement and follow strategies to help you be early from this point forward.
Why is it so important to get this mindset if you don’t already have it? It’s the first step in establishing a discipline for the corrective action you must take for changing common patterns tied to being late.
Practicing that discipline can make or break your effectiveness as a leader because…
You will otherwise come across as that stereotypical person who is always rushing about disorganized, unprepared, disconnected, reactive and out-of-balance. We all know someone who’s always five or 10 minutes late, yet our image of that person… no matter how great or nice he is… isn’t totally positive. We actually think that person just can’t get his act together — even missing some basic competency that other people have.
If you, too, struggle with being late, realize that those around you are noticing it. They’ve also probably labeled you (at least in their heads) as someone who can never be on time, much less early. Once you’ve earned that label, it can be hard to get rid of it. The good news is you can do something about it!
Your unacceptable actions have told others that you don’t respect them or their time. And guess what? Now they don’t respect you, either. Through your routine tardiness, you’ve personally contributed to eroding company morale and your own reputation. Bottom line, your own leadership credibility is at serious risk — but fortunately not beyond repair.
An excellent first impression is critical in business, AND being early helps make a great first impression. It can also reap big rewards! As they say, the early bird gets the worm. For instance, in the case of being early for a meeting, you can work the room before it starts and maybe get some fresh insight that’s critical to the meeting’s purpose or to your professional advantage. You’ll also have an opportunity to relax and prepare before the meeting starts, so you’ll likely be more comfortable in your own shoes and capable of doing your job well. Additionally, should any last-minute problems arise — and they invariably do — you’ll be able to tackle them. Whether you don’t have enough coffee for the unexpectedly big turnout, or the technology suddenly crashes, you’ll be able to handle such challenges swiftly because you’re early and able to address them.
How can you motivate direct reports who are chronically late to change this behavior?