This week we continue the serialization of, How (NOT) to Be a Leader Volume 1, in preparation for the release of the next two books, How (NOT) to Build a Great Team and How (NOT) to Create a Winning Strategy. We hope you will enjoy Chapter 20 – The Waiting Game.
Be right there—taking longer than I thought.
Just got into a fender bender. Cops taking forEVER to write the report.
I threw my back out again, going to have to WFH. Can someone send me all the docs to review?
Slight emergency, gotta run to the vet.
Forgot my password, I can’t log in and nobody in IT is calling me back, so I won’t have feedback for you until tomorrow.
I’m going to be late for the Board meeting—tell them I’m meeting with a customer.
Bad day. Not going to make it by 10. Start without me, but you’ll need to clear your schedules to stay late so you can catch me up on what I missed.
The conference call access code didn’t work for me. What did I miss?
I thought the meeting was on Tuesday. I’m still at my beach house. Postpone.
I’m out of time, it’s just going to have to wait.
Be there in 10.
On my way.
Be there in 20.
That’s exactly right: your schedule comes first, and don’t let them forget it! Great leadership means making sure that those you lead are respectful of you and your schedule. Understanding and accepting that your schedule is the schedule that dictates theirs is their first step in a successful relationship with you. Make this known from the outset, and you will avoid conflict in the future. Not only is there the simple fact that you are busier than anyone else, but there are also specific strategic reasons to operate on your own time and to never feel guilty about making them wait. Don’t accept accusations of being disorganized or rude. Own your lateness and make it work. Here’s how:
Make an entrance. The more important the event or meeting is, the more grand your late entrance should be. This is an opportunity to make a statement about your importance, disrupt the meeting, and get everyone on their toes where they should be! When you enter a meeting in progress, make sure that your hands are full so that someone has to hop up and open the door for you, clear a place for you at the head of the table, and help you with your belongings. This physical manifestation of subservience is a sure‑fire way to start the meeting off right—it’s just starting after all because you’ve just arrived. Having a coffee in hand is a great way to say, “I took my time getting here” without having to say a word. Holding the remains of a muffin or sandwich says, “This meeting is inconvenient for me and interrupts my flow.” Showing up late in your gym clothes says, “I take care of myself first.” And walking into a meeting while wrapping up a call on your cell is the ultimate way of letting everyone know how very, very busy and important you are.
Be indifferent. You do not have time to care or even notice what affect your tardiness or absenteeism has on those you lead. It’s simply not your problem. The second you appear to care or be defensive about it, they will begin to manipulate you, and before you know it, you will be a slave to your team—not a dynamic of great leadership. So, rise above the criticism they might level at you, and ignore them entirely. The only conversation that matters is how they are going to start marching to the beat of your drum.
Never apologize. You can’t be indifferent if you’re defensive or apologetic. Never ever apologize for missing an event or call or being late to a meeting. It’s not your fault, it’s just the way it is, and they have to adapt. You’re the leader; your schedule is the schedule from which all else flows, and the more you put this into practice, the better for everyone. For that matter, never apologize about anything as a leader—it’s weak and for losers.
Save your energy and adopt a scapegoat. If being indifferent or not apologizing is a challenge for you, then the right solution for you is to have a scapegoat. An executive assistant saves you energy by making your excuses for you, while also giving you someone to lay the blame on for your disorganization, lack of respect, and general thoughtlessness. Of course, your assistant should care or appear to care and should be an excellent apologist taking full responsibility for your tardiness and absenteeism If not, fire them now.
Remember: It’s all about you, and practice makes perfect.
Let’s Get Real
As a leader, the Golden Rule applies to you more than anyone. Your actions and words set the tone for your entire organization, so when you are disrespectful and inconsiderate of others, this behavior will be mimicked. Your entire culture will suffer, and before you know it, you will be sitting alone in that conference room while your people play the waiting game right back at you. The intentional culture you want starts with your actions, your behavior, and the values you demonstrate daily. Disrespect others and they will disrespect you. Every child knows this!
Nobody is ever too busy to be considerate. Consideration is not a factor of time, it’s a factor of respect. If your busyness causes you to be chronically late, then you need to take a good hard look at your inability to organize and prioritize and get some help. Others are dependent on your leadership in order to reach their own goals, make their own deadlines, and manage their own workflow. Inconsistencies and lack of reliability on your part makes their jobs infinitely harder. No one will respect you or your time if you don’t start by respecting their time.
So, get it together: be on time, every time.