92: Respect other people’s time

Some people in positions of power (leadership and/or management of other people) who focus only on their own interests, who are self-absorbed, and who think they are more important than they actually are, often fail to consider the impact of their behaviours and choices on others. The others are usually lower in the organisation’s hierarchy. They fail to consider the impact on other people’s time.

When leaders and/or managers are inconsiderate about the time needs of others, they lose the respect and credibility from which to build good work relationships. How leaders and/or management respect or disrespect the time of others is hugely symbolic and carries with it a host of consequences.

My focus here is on the behaviour of practice owners and/or managers. Often the practice owner is the practice manager.

Here’s a short list of time-related issues that matter most to people who are being managed:

Start and end meetings on time. Delaying a meeting because one or more people are late is not only rude but devalues the time of others. Punctuality counts. Even if the people who are late have a good reason for being late (they usually don’t) the meeting should start at the planned time. Usually, most are there and a few are late. You are annoying the majority because of the minority. Those who are late can be informed of what they have missed very quickly when they arrive or after the meeting along with an explanation as to why being on time matters. Persistent latecomers will need to be warned.

When a meeting starts late it usually finishes late. People will have things to do after the meeting and a late running meeting will make them late for these things. Also, as a late running meeting comes to an end they won’t be listening as they will be thinking about the next thing. The most important part of a meeting is usually the end when decisions are made and summaries issued. This is exactly when you want everyone to be listening. Where possible managers should schedule meetings so no one has to rush off to do other things at the end. Ending a meeting at the planned time is important. Meeting managers who run over regularly will lose the respect of the people they are managing.

If you as the meeting manager are running late then let the others know what time you will be arriving for the meeting. This courtesy allows others to decide how to best spend the time while waiting for you. They are frozen when they don’t know when you will show up.

If you have to cancel an appointment or meeting do it as soon as possible. Better not to cancel but if you have to the sooner you alert others that you can’t make it, the easier it is for them to reallocate that time.

Avoid scheduling last-minute meetings. No one appreciates having to push aside their schedule to accommodate late requests. Give people plenty of notice. I suggest a week at least.

Respect the time boundaries of others. Calling or engaging others late at night or over the weekend takes colleagues away from their families. This is unfair and unnecessary. You might want to work later or at the weekend but don’t expect your staff to.

Don’t make others wait for a response they need. Slow response times impede progress. Colleagues shouldn’t have to wait on the leader when attempting to complete important tasks. No one likes a bottleneck. Don’t be one.

Don’t volunteer other people’s time. Maybe the most disrespectful time-related action a manager can engage in is volunteering other people’s time without asking them. Managers who do this often think they are doing a favour for colleagues who will appreciate the opportunity, event, or function when in reality they are committing others without any idea of the issues that might cause.

How managers treat other people’s time says a lot. Be a better role model and give the respect regarding time that you want to receive.