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Dealing with Lateness

by Dr. Vesna Grubacevic

Is your prospect’s, customer’s, employee’s or supplier’s lateness frustrating you?  Are you constantly waiting for them to get information to you on time?  Do you wish they were more organised?

Early versus late

When I work with business people, one person’s lateness or the other person’s organisation can be a cause for conflict.  It’s time we talked about time because different people have a different relationship to time.  Some people respect time and are either early or on time, while others are more laid back regarding time.  Some cultures accept lateness as part of their daily lives, while others expect timeliness.  Some people grew up in a structured and organised environment where timeliness was rewarded, while others grew up in an environment where tardiness was condoned.

When two business people with different upbringings, cultural influences and relationships to time get together, it can lead to challenges if they are unaware of how to best deal with these differences.  There are two main ways that people relate to time, and most people will exhibit a combination of the two ways below.

The Organised Person

A person who is organised will exhibit any combination of the following traits:

  • Is very organised and plans everything
  • Believes that there is a wrong way and a right way to do everything
  • Uses a diary (electronic or paper)
  • Makes ‘to do’ lists
  • Is always on time or early, and gets annoyed if other people are late
  • Needs to know the full story/picture right away and dislikes it when other people tell them only part of the story/picture or leaves the story/picture incomplete.

The Spontaneous Person

A person who is spontaneous will exhibit any combination of the following traits:

  • Enjoys the moment and is totally present in the moment
  • Is spontaneous and does things on the spur of the moment
  • Likes to keep their options opened therefore leaves decisions to the last minute
  • Does not use a diary or lists
  • Is late and has a reason for being late eg. I had to take a phone call
  • If they only hear part of the story/picture, they are happy to wait for the rest of the story/picture as they enjoy what they have heard so far.

Working Together

To create greater harmony in your business relationships where people have different relationships to time, the organised person needs to keep the following in mind when relating to the spontaneous person:

  • From time to time suggest to do things spontaneously
  • Really be fully present and engaged when listening to and relating to them.  Be in the moment rather than thinking about the next thing on your to do list.
  • Help them be on time by giving them an earlier timeframe.  For example, if your prospect, customer, employee or supplier is always ten minutes late, ask them to be ready at 11.10am instead of 11.20am (the time you really need to leave by).

Meanwhile, the spontaneous person needs to keep the following in mind when relating to the organised person:

  • Organise things from time to time, rather than always being spontaneous
  • Make lists of what you would like them to do
  • Complete your stories fully rather than leaving them incomplete to avoid them getting frustrated by the incompleteness
  • Work with their need to be on time, and give yourself extra time to get ready for meetings, etc.

Once you identify and appreciate the above differences in how your prospects, customers, employees and suppliers relate to time, you can then work together more effectively to stop any frustration, and instead create successful business relationships.

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