Don’t Make Being Late For Meetings Painful For Everyone

leader late for meeting

Are you ever late for meetings? Including for your own meetings?

If others value punctuality, and I do too, the behaviour of the person who is late, and the meeting chair both greatly influence the success of the meeting. There is a lot that can go wrong when people come late, especially if they are the meeting leader.

These four simple approaches go a long way to ensure the meeting remains productive:

1. Don’t apologise.

Apologies only work if you are unlikely to repeat the behaviour. Apologising puts you on the back foot. You are letting everyone know you have made a mistake, when most likely your priorities vary from those who are there, and that is unlikely to change.

Apologising draws everyone’s attention to you, the late comer, especially if you let everyone know why you were late. The message you are sending is that others are more important than those in the room. 

Chairs who insist on summarizing what has gone on before for the late comer, annoy those who are present. These chairs waste everyone’s time and experience.

2. Don’t draw attention to yourself.

Enter the group as if your timing is impeccable. Say, “Hello everyone” or, “Good to see you all” take a seat, and tune in. If the meeting is yours, you might say, “Carry on” and take responsibility for contributing. Add your insight or experience to the conversation. If you haven’t had a chance to prepare, don’t disappoint everyone by letting them know, “I haven’t had a chance to prepare.”

Why let people know that what is important to them, is not important to you? Add to the conversation with what you do know even if you are less prepared than you want to be. Let people know when you agree with their contribution.

3. Stay focused on the group and their discussion.

The ideal preparation for every meeting is knowing the purpose of the meeting, the important outcome for the group, and the outcome you want from each item. Don’t focus on your reasons for being late. You have made a decision that something or someone else is a priority. When you enter the group, bring your full attention to tuning into the group’s purpose in your contributions.

4. The art of entering meetings late is to keep the focus on the group and their conversation.

How might you do this?

  • Look at people when they speak.
  • Assist the group with the process if the discussion is off track, bring it back on track.
  • Summarize the key points of the discussion, where the differences lie, and invite next steps
  • Let people know if you have anything urgent to say before the next item.

Chairs assist late comers by:

  • Welcoming the late comer with, “Hello, good to see you.”
  • Indicating the item being discussed
  • Staying focused on the conversation
  • Indicating the purpose of the item as information sharing, a discussion or a decision
  • Suggesting who might update the late comer in a break 

Make the shift from apologising and explaining to contributing to the purpose of the group. Be known as a contributor to moving the group’s agenda forward.

Diana Jones ©

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