Can you relate to this?
You called a meeting, or you’re a participant. The meeting is happening to align or discuss or present something that is relevant. Also to more senior managers in your organisation. So you made sure to schedule it in advance. Way in advance. You checked everybody’s calendar twice. And you found a slot that was free and unlikely to be jeopardised by something else that might drop in last minute. Everybody is there right on time. Except some of the more senior managers. So you wait. Two more minutes, five more minutes. No life is at stake but with regards to your project, this is an important meeting. You can’t move forward with out their approval and input.
You start feeling bad about taking up the time of the others, so you start the meeting. About ten to fifteen minutes later one or two people from senior management pop in. Giving the crowd an almost unnoticeable nod. Maybe they say “Hello, sorry I’m late.”, take their seat and check their phone for emails. About 20 minutes after the meeting began someone else comes in late. Either giving you a look like “I’m super stressed, don’t you call me out on missing half the thing.” or being apologetic to the point where you don’t believe the I’m-sorries anymore.
But, now everyone is here. Finally! You summarise the key points. You do your best to be very clear about what you need from your audience. What the choices are, what the consequences are of moving in one or the other direction.
… I could go on about how now someone might start a discussion about a very minor point. This doesn’t move anyone forward but gives those a platform that love hearing themselves talk. But, it doesn’t even get to this, because you heard it. That quiet sound of a vibrating phone with an incoming call. And yes, it happens: Someone from senior management picks it up and leaves the room only to return a few minutes before the meeting closes.
So there you have it, your unfinished business. And the joy of trying to find a follow-up meeting or chasing up people one by one.
I’m afraid I have no advice on how to deal with this. There’s a million different options – from stoic calm to certified fit. What I do have for you is a request: Don’t be like that yourself. Coming in late (regularly, very late) only shows two things. One, you have a total lack of respect and don’t mind wasting other people’s time. Two, you are unable to delegate and manage your own time.
If you do come late, don’t go all in with the apologies. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” translates into “I’m so important, I can’t help it”. Instead, try thanking the others for keeping the project and the business going while you weren’t there.