Friday, September 3, 2010

The Limited Networker Field Guide: The Eternally Overdue Late Bird

"Here I am! Did I miss anything?"
This is the another in the "Limited Networker Field Guide" series.

Name: The Eternally Overdue Late Bird

Environment: Running to their next appointment

Behavior: The Overdue Late Bird is a close relative of the proverbial Early Bird. The main difference is that while the Early Bird always gets the worm, the Late Bird almost never does, and often doesn't even know that the worm exists. The Late Bird is always running late for every appointment, meeting, or event. He doesn't mean to be late, but, somehow it always seems to work out that he is strolling in five to ten minutes after everything is supposed to start.

Broken Rules of Good Networking: Early is on time. The competent networker knows that the best time to arrive for any networking activity is early. Those who arrive early get extra time to make connections. They get to meet the best networkers in the group (who are also there early). They get a jump on accomplishing their networking goals and they get to own the room. They also establish themselves as someone who can be trusted to do what they say they will do.

Those who are chronically late show a disregard for other people's time. They come across as disorganized and ultimately untrustworthy. They are far less likely to get referrals (because who wants to lend their reputation to a disrespectful, disorganized person?) In short, their tardiness severely limits the strength and reach of their network.

Counter-Measures: One of the biggest challenges of dealing with the Late Bird is during a one-to-one meeting. At events, you have plenty of people to connect with, but with a one-to-one, well, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango and with a Late Bird, you'll often be left without a dance partner. If you think you might be dealing with a member of this species, be sure to be prepared. Always make sure you have something productive to do in the time while you wait for them. With today's smart phones, of course, you can do a lot of your simple office tasks, such as email and scheduling, while you await your partner.

There may come a point, though, with the more egregious of these folks, that you just have to get up and walk out. You'll have to decide what your own policy is, of course. You'll also want to be aware that the person you're meeting may normally be quite punctual but may just have had a bad day. Be sure that you have given them your contact information, just in case.

How We Can Help: Unfortunately, the very nature of the Late Bird's behavior makes it difficult to help them. Short of actually driving them to their appointment, there's not a lot you can do to get them there on time. In some cases your only option is a bit of tough love. Set a policy and let them know what it is. "OK, Barbara, we're scheduled for 1pm on Thursday. I'm really looking forward to seeing you. Just so you know, I've got several other things to get done that day, so if I don't see you by 1:15, I'm going to have to go ahead and run those errands. If that happens, I'll call you later to reschedule."

If they just can't amend their behavior, you are going to have to decide if you can continue working with them on a professional basis. If you refer them to someone, are you going to be comfortable with them showing up late all the time?

It's only your reputation, after all.

Photo credit: Ahmed Rabea

2 comments:

  1. Many years ago I used to be the late bird. Then a trusted friend took me aside and told me that he could not refer me because of my constant lateness. What I found out was that I was always about ten minutes late and here is the reason why. I knew how much time it would take me to get to any location and would leave my desk with the time allotment in mind. BUT, thinking it only took me seconds, I would then brush my teeth, go to the bathroom, touch up my make-up and then leave. When I finally timed all those little chores, the total time was ten minutes. That was why I was always ten minutes late. I had miscalculated how much time I was taking to leave!

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  2. This is the same mistake that I make. I know I have plenty of time to get to where I'm going and then I try to cram a few more things in before I leave (answer an email, make a call, etc) and then suddenly I'm rushing to make it on time.

    The trick is telling myself not to do that to myself and the person I'm meeting.

    I think it was my mom who told me that it's just as easy to be five minutes early as five minutes late.

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