Picture yourself in your dentist office, waiting, iPhone in hand, frustrated as you are now 15 minutes past the appointed time and the dentist is nowhere to be seen. This was my situation today as I was sitting, waiting, frustrated because I did my part as the “good patient” and arrived 15 minutes before my scheduled appointment. The dental staff was not ready for me and in turn, the dentist followed suit.
What really is the purpose of having a fixed mutually agreed upon time if both parties are not going to keep up their end of the agreement? I have had this happen to me in the past when renting a moving van. Again, I was the “good consumer”; I called ahead, put down a deposit, and arrived on time to pick up my truck. This is where I was first informed by the clerk that my definition of an appointment was incorrect. You see all this time I was under the impression that if two parties agreed on a date, time, cost, and location (terms) when both parties came together, in this case for the moving van, that the van would be gassed up and ready to roll. This clerk let me know that in Uhaul world, this prearrangement meant that “They’d do their best to have a truck when I arrived”. Wow.
With this new found time on my hands (waiting on the dentist) I began to reflect on how often I see this same behavior in my organization. It is not much of a jump to see where showing up late to meetings while others [the “good parties”] have kept up their end of the agreement and arrived on time relates to my dentist or moving van story. What thoughts they must be having about you (me), the late person. If you take time to think about it, what your behavior is saying is my time is more valuable than yours. I am sure this is not the first time as leaders you have heard this, perhaps some of you have even pointed this out to those offenders of meeting etiquette within your organization. I want to take this thought a bit deeper and question what impact subtle little choices like arriving late to a meeting really has on us as leaders.
We should all lead by example right? No one wants to follow a leader who talks out of both sides of their mouth. I heard this saying once “What you are speaks so loudly that others cannot hear what you are saying”. So it really is those small choices (be it smart choices or not-so-smart choices) that determine the effectiveness of our leadership. You can shrug off the example I have given of being late to a meeting as insignificant, but I am here to tell you that it speaks volumes over time to those you are leading. Do you think I will continue to go back to a dentist who makes me wait every time I have an appointment with him? Do you think I went back to that Uhaul dealer when I needed my next moving truck? Even worse yet, what do you think I tell my friends about these two experiences. It is the little choices that we make, over time, that stick in the mind of our teams. To be a great leader we must go out into our organization and lead without always speaking, seizing the opportunity to lead by quiet example.