Don’t be late!


“Sorry about being a few minutes late” said the CEO who was interviewing me for a CTO position. He was only 6 minutes late, there’s that 7 minute rule right? “That’s totally fine, being less than 7 minutes is actually being early!” I stupidly responded.

“Sorry for running late” said the new VP who had a scheduled 1:1 meeting with me as he stepped into the room 8 minutes after the hour. “That’s totally fine, I always bring my laptop with me. That way I always have 5-10 minutes of catching-up-time” I respond.

Over the last couple of years, and particularly over the last few months I’ve noticed that people care less and less about other’s time. Why? When did it become okay, or even common, to be a few minutes late?

When you’re late, you’re communicating something. You’re not only saying it is acceptable to be late, but that your time is more valuable than theirs. Why is my time worth less than yours? Why is anyone’s time worth less or more than anyone else’s time? (You can measure time by billable rate, but that’s not my point). I personally see this as insulting.

If you’re a recruiter, hiring manager, founder, or simply someone sent to do a “champion call” with a potential hire do not be late! You’re trying to hire this person. They are likely employed somewhere and their own time is valuable. If you expect me to take you seriously don’t make me wait at all! Be there a few minutes early. The candidate will be waiting for you, I promise you.

If you’re an executive, a manager, a technical lead, or anyone with authority over the person you’re meeting with do not be late! Show this person you care and be there on time. I promise they won’t say anything at the time, even when you’re 30 minutes late to a 30 minute meeting. They will, however, fill out that 360 survey unfavorably if the behavior is common.

Keep in mind that context switching is expensive. If the person you’re meeting with is planning to be on time they might already be on their way and have already paid the price of switching mental context. If you’re meeting me I’ll likely start preparing 5-10 minutes beforehand and I’ll make every effort to be there 1-2 minutes early — don’t keep me waiting!

Obviously there are real reasons that will force you to be late. Let the person know you’re either not coming at all or that you expect to be late. It’s easy to email, IM, or even text message (snapchat?) and simply say “hey Noam, I’m running late, do you want to skip or reschedule?” but don’t send this after the meeting has already started.

This tiny behavior that has become the common practice in my world (of IT) extends beyond that world. Don’t be late to a date, don’t be late to your kids recital, don’t be late to your parents birthday party, etc.

It starts with respect and time management. If you value people’s time, they will value yours. If you’re not late to meetings they won’t run late and you won’t be playing late-domino (TM) all day long. If you’re like me, you have meetings lined up all day, every day, and sometimes you’re even quadruple booked! So let people know if you’re going to attend, be late, or need to reschedule.

Death to the 7 minute rule! Long live the never late rule!