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Leaders are Considerate
By Bill Catlette

In his commentary Saturday after Senator Hillary Clinton's end of campaign/concession speech, MSNBC announcer Chris Matthews proclaimed that the senator had given a "thoroughly professional speech."

Political leanings aside, I would argue with Mr. Matthews' statement, for one reason: A speech that was scheduled to begin at noon didn't start until about 12:45PM because the senator was late arriving. In point of fact, she didn't even leave her home until about 12:25. Forgive what some will no doubt see as piling on, but a professional effort would have included arriving at the venue on time and not, as a result, keeping her audience, her friends, fans, and foot soldiers waiting for nearly an hour in an uncomfortably warm building.

In a speech to the Army War College, General Melvin Zais once remarked that, "the only reason that soldiers stand around and wait is because some dumb jerk officer didn't plan it right, or planned it so that they would have to pay for his not missing a deadline." The General is right, and to be fair, Senator Clinton is far from being the only culprit. Wasting other people's time is one of the most inconsiderate things we can do, and sadly, we do a lot of it.

Every day, doctors, ministers, managers, airlines, and lots of others break faith with and show callous disregard for people by disrespecting their time. Oh, yeah, there are indeed bonafide unforeseeable emergencies, but in reality, they constitute a very small part of the cause for our tardiness. Anyone who flies to or through the New York area is all too familiar with this. The chief reason that virtually every flight leaving the area is late is because the airlines and FAA have conspired to allow more flights to be scheduled than can possibly take off in a given period, even on a bluebird weather day. Were he still alive, General Zais would not be amused.

How many times have you sat well past the appointed start time for a meeting to begin because a couple of participants had deemed their time and priorities more important than everyone else's? Worse yet, how many times have you been that late arriving participant?

Many years ago, FedEx founder Fred Smith was a few minutes into his speech to an assembled group of senior managers when a group of three vice presidents strolled into the room, having taken a slightly extended break. Stopping in mid- sentence Smith glowered at the three guys now entering the room and barked, "You three don't even need to sit down. If what I've got to say isn't important enough for you to be here on time, you'll have to get it from someone else. Just go back to what you were doing." Once a Marine, always a Marine.

So what to do? How do we get a little better handle on this? Here are a few thoughts:

1. Make damned sure that if you're supposed to be somewhere at 3PM, you're there. No excuses. Stop assuming that your time is more valuable than anyone else's. It's not.

2. When you are running a meeting or other function, start it on time, period. Don't punish the innocent by waiting for the guilty.

3. If you are in a position to enforce it, levy a fine (that's right, financially punish) those who arrive late to your meeting. Make the fine substantial. I once fined two managers who had arrived late to a meeting $25,000 apiece from their operating budgets and $500 apiece personally. The $50,000 budget credit was transferred to the operating budget of the meeting's host, and the personal money went to a charity designated by the tardy culprits. Chances are you won't have to do it more than once or twice. Recommend that others do the same. You will begin seeing positive cultural changes throughout the organization.

4. If you are a meeting participant, allow a five minute grace period. If the meeting hasn't begun by the end of that period, excuse yourself until it begins. Don't make a scene, just leave.

5. Make a personal decision not to patronize organizations and so called professionals who waste your time. They don't deserve your business. In the case of airlines, check your intended flight on FlightStats ( before booking. There is a difference.

Want a more engaged workforce? Want the performance benefits of creating a great place to work? Bring Bill Catlette or Richard Hadden in to speak or conduct leadership training for your organization, or to keynote your association's next convention.

Contact Bill (901- 853-9646) or Richard (904-720-0870), and let's talk about how we can make your next meeting a colossal success!

Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette
Contented Cow Partners, LLC

phone: 904-720-0870
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