Punctuality Predicates Professionalism:

“Punctuality is the politeness of kings.”

—Louis XVIII

Punctuality: The Highest Form of Workplace Respect

We all know that being on-time or early to an appointment or meeting is courteous and respectful. However, crimes against politeness and common decency that are becoming more ‘commonly accepted’ at work.

How many times have you asked a co-worker to do one of the following…..

1) Return your call by the end of the day;
2) Review a 1-paragraph email and provide a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ approval;
3) Open his/her schedule for 5 minutes so you can get face time for an important question;
4) Help you meet a deadline;
5) Show-up to a meeting on time….not 10 to 20 minutes after it’s scheduled start;

…..and have found yourself completely “diss’ed” and wasting time by chasing after the person(s) involved?

Brother, Can You Spare the Time?

Punctuality in the workforce, outside of the Type A’s, is atrocious and seems to be getting worse by the day. The culprits? Here are a few of the most common “excuses”:

1) Apathy about his/her job (and yours especially)
2) Laziness
3) Rudeness
4) “Too busy”
5) Doesn’t want to be bothered with your petty requests
6) Doesn’t like you as a person.

When you look at it this way, there really are no good excuses for not meeting a deadline and especially for not meeting a small request on time. No matter how you slice it, if you can’t/don’t/won’t meet someone’s request on time without any explanation—all we can say about you is that you’re a first class south end of anorth-bound horse!

What Harvard Business School and Your Mamma Never Taught You

In his classic on-the-job-success ‘bible’, What They Don’t Teach You at Harvard Business School, Mark McCormack gives us the keys to career success: 1) Commitment; 2) Attention to Detail; and 3) Immediate Follow-up. What most folks don’t realize is that his pricniples are steeped in this ‘puncuality and politeness’ concept.

For example, juxtapose his prescription to the 6 Excuses previously mentioned:

Apathetic? Again, Lack of Commitment and/or No Attention to Detail, and/or Lack of Immediate Follow-up.
Lazy? Lack of Commitment and/or Lack of Immediate Follow-up.
Rude? Yep, No Commitment.
Too busy? No Commitment and Lack of Immediate Follow-up and/or Lack of Attention to Detail
Better than everyone else? Odds are you’re no good at any of the three areas.

What’s the moral here? Be punctual, always, for everything. If you’re not and you want to fix it from fear of losing your job, focus on learning how to have a higher level of commitment to your job and career. Pay more attention to the details. Always follow-up immediately—keep the lines of communication open, even if you’re not finished with the task, and ESPECIALLY if you’re going to be late with it’s completion.

Case Study: Punctual Patty

Luther was a new supervisor at a large not-for-profit. He spent many years in the business sector, and as a result, you might say he was “Type A” about everything. In another department, worked a young lady (Patty) who was trying to make a name for herself. Every week, her path would cross with Luther’s as they had a few project assignments to complete.

On The Dot
Whenever they had a phone meeting, Patty would call at the pre-arranged time. And, every time Luther answered the phone he would say, “Wow! Did you know its EXACTLY 9am!?” Luther had caller ID and a time stamp on his phone’s LCD screen, so he knew the exact time of his calls. He was impressed time and again when Patty will call at 1:00pm, 9:00am, 4:30pm ON THE DOT. She was never a minute late or a minute early. Luther loved it!

Prompt Replies
That wasn’t the only ‘show of respect’ Patty demonstrated for Luther and for others. She had a habit of responding to all of her emails within 8 hours of receipt. She would supply some sort of initial response with a timeframe as to when the sender will have the ‘complete’ answer. There was never any guessing when it came to the status of a request to Joan.

Make Time for Others
She would answer all voice mails within 24 hours, again, it was a hard and fast rule for her. There were never any exceptions. Finally, she would have an open door policy for those who reported to her. Her subordinates never felt like she was ‘too busy’ or stretched too thin to have time to talk to them or answer their questions.

Time for Quality
Patty was committed to 100% customer satisfaction. And all of her customers were elated with her attention to detail and immediate follow up. Most people thought they were the only ones who ever asked her for anything, that’s why they had such wonderful treatment. The truth is that Joan had 200 ‘customers’ that she attended to daily!

Punctuality Pays
When folks learned that about Patty, the initial reaction was astonishment. Most importantly, Patty astonished people all the way to the top of that not-for-profit—she became it’s president 10 short years. And to this day, she still has the same open-door policy and the same rules regarding prompt email and voice mail responses.

King Louis was correct, punctuality is the politeness that creates kings (and queens)!

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