Integrity Matters: Punctuality

Our time is valuable.

I am writing this post while sitting alone at a fantastic local brewery. It’s currently 4:16, and my 4:00 appointment still has not arrived. At this point, it’s probably better if he doesn’t show up at all. And this guy is a veteran, too. Shouldn’t he know better? Isn’t dependability part of the veteran DNA? I can’t help but reflect upon the importance of punctuality. In your civilian career, networking will be one of your most important tools, and your reputation within your network is built on your integrity and reliability.

Veterans are expected to be disciplined, hard-working, trainable, respectful, and punctual. Any veteran will tell you that every human being is different, and not every prior service member will inherently exemplify these traits. Justified stereotype or not, as a veteran, people hold you to these standards. If you falter in one area, particularly if that area is your ability to be punctual, the perception of your integrity and discipline as a whole is shot.

Early Is On Time

When you make a commitment, your word is on the line. It is imperative that you are where you say you’re going to be when you say you’ll be there. As a professional, garnering notoriety as someone who doesn’t follow through on promises is a killer. Plan your travel time in advance, and bank on every possible worst-case scenario. Bring along some work to do in your car in case you are early. If you’re doing it right you will be early often, so plan ahead to use your time effectively.

Always Confirm Your Appointments

Reaching out to your contact approximately 24 hours prior to your meeting will significantly reduce your chance of being stood up or the victim of a miscommunication. Leave your cell phone number so they can get in touch if something comes up:

“Hi ______, I’m looking forward to our 2pm meeting at Starbucks tomorrow. If anything changes, please call or text me at 555-555-1234. Feel free to reply with your cell # just in case. See you then!”

In my experience, Monday morning meetings are the most likely to be forgotten, so don’t forget to take a few minutes on Sunday to confirm. Friday afternoons are by far the most often rescheduled. Imagine that. In fact, you may be better off if you are able to avoid scheduling meetings at those times at all.

From a networking perspective, you gain absolutely nothing from lecturing your contact or displaying/expressing your frustrations.

If Your Connection Is Late

Yes, your time is valuable, but be empathetic. Life happens. From a networking perspective, you gain absolutely nothing from lecturing your contact or displaying/expressing your frustrations. I have a colleague that once sent a salty email after being stood up, only to find his contact had gotten into a serious car accident. You never know what someone is going through. Your grace in this situation may well earn you someone’s trust or loyalty, and many people will go out of their way to reschedule and be there with bells on. Reassure your contact with something like, “Hey, I assume something came up, so I’m going to head out. No worries! When can we reschedule?” If they are a no-show for a second appointment feel free to move on, but still, forego the lecture.

If You Are Late

First, don’t be late. Do absolutely everything in your power to prevent it. If something happens that precludes you from arriving on time, get in touch with your contact ASAP. Flat tire? Traffic jam? Call or text as soon as you know you’ll be late, with as much advance notice as is possible. Be considerate and offer to reschedule if your tardiness will put you there more than 15 minutes late. The exception here is if you are in a major incident of some kind. Take care of yourself (and others) first and explain once everything is under control.

I once completely missed a meeting due to a tech issue with my calendar. There I was, sitting carefree at my desk when I received an email that read, “Adam. It’s 9:35 AM, and I’ve been waiting here since 9:00 AM. I’m assuming I won’t be seeing you today.” That was it. Ouch. I was mortified. The best thing you can do at that point is sincerely apologize, explain briefly (but don’t make excuses), and humbly request another chance. During your apology, make sure to indicate that you know how valuable their time is.

Relax, Folks

I have to admit that beyond being annoyed about today’s missed meeting, I was also a bit disappointed. He never showed up nor contacted me, so I hope everything is alright on his end.  If this happens to you (which it will eventually), don’t waste too much energy brooding over it. On the bright side, I was able to catch up with one of the owners of the brewery (who is a terrific dude), get some work done, enjoy the beautiful weather, and write this post. Though I need a reminder myself sometimes, it’s always best to focus on the positives of any given situation.

Have you ever missed or been late for a meeting? Has anyone stood you up? Do you have some advice for others? Share your experiences in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

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