Creative Leadership

The Problem With Chronically Late Leaders

From time to time everyone is late. We live in a world of distractions, and everything from traffic, last minute phone calls, to all kinds of emergencies make us late from time to time. The key phrase here is “from time to time.” But what happens when leaders (particularly pastors) are chronically late? Let me tell you something I hear from office, team, and church staff members all the time:

Our CEO never shows up on time for meetings, so the entire staff just sits for up to an hour waiting.
The worship service often starts late because the pastor isn’t available or we can’t find him.
The boss’s secretary has to regularly cancel appointments because he can’t be there as scheduled.
We’ve stopped scheduling anything to do with the Pastor because we never know if he’ll show up.
The pastor keeps the media department waiting to shoot video segments.
We never know how to plan Sunday services because we don’t get any information from the pastor until it’s too late.

Here’s what situations like this communicate:

1. The leader doesn’t value other people’s time.
2. His schedule is far more important than anyone else’s.
3. Being late is acceptable.
4. The leader doesn’t have his act together.

Does this sound like an organization you want to invest your future in? Chronic lateness is a far bigger issue than many leaders think. It’s a window on your values, your concern for others, and your inability to plan for the future. But in some churches it’s become such a part of the culture that the staff doesn’t know anything else.

Here’s a good meeting cost calculator. Next time you have a scheduled meeting, enter the information and start this clock on time. When he finally shows up, show him how much his tardiness has cost.

Maybe that will break through and get his attention….

 

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7 Comments

  1. It has been a long time since I was late for anything. Clients have told me that I should get paid just for showing up, let alone on time! It is so uncommon for anyone in the Service Industry to be on time.

    I am in the process of subcontracting part of a job I am doing and scheduled an appointment in advance a week ago for an appointment last Tuesday. I told the receptionists the last time I scheduled with them, the estimator was an hour late. This time he was and hour and a half late!

    I think the next time someone questions my rates I am going to tell them that I am worth it because I will be on time and won’t waste any of theirs!

  2. Is this really a problem? If there is a problem then obviously they aren’t from New York. Because in New York if you pull that kind of behavior, you would open the door to a host of Danny DeVito characters unleashing an unholy landslide of sarcastic and disrespectful remarks.

    The dialog might go something like this, “Where have you been? Nova Scotia for lunch? And you probably ordered one of those foo-foo meals that takes an hour to prepare, and an hour to eat with the proper bottle of wine. YOU’RE FIVE MINUTES LATE! Next time you’re buying lunch for everyone here!…”

    And that would be just the foreshadowing remarks you would have to live with for at least the next month.

    Any poor unsuspecting individual that dare to transgress on everyone’s time would find themselves in a feeding frenzy of great white sharks tearing into any shred of decency or respect they might think they deserve. And it doesn’t matter who they are. Because the people that work for or with you, are all being held to a high standard. You open that door there, you are guaranteed a negative response that you would never forget, even if you have a legitimate reason.

    Growing-up in New York and observing that kind of response, I learned without ever having to go through that myself. God’s Grace.

    I guess I should keep this balanced. When I was working for the federal government …it didn’t work so well… Maybe that’s why I didn’t get quite so many promotions, but the times I was able to pull it off were priceless.

    So is there anyone you have in mind that needs a New York lesson?

  3. Thanks for posting this Phil. Time is a precious commodity that can’t be replenished, so when people are consistently making others wait for them, it’s stealing their time. I also see this as a character issue.

    It’s true what you said- about when the staff doesn’t know any different than starting late- and running behind when the leader demonstrates lateness… it’s the norm and it’s acceptable. The problem with that is if it’s the culture, is part of the churches branding or story, and that’s not an inspiring story to tell to those you want to connect with.
    I’ve noticed the lateness more so in the south than in the west. Maybe times have changed, but being on time to meetings, interviews, lunches, rehearsals, etc., was everything. It had the power to help make or break your success and future endeavors. Being late was a strike against you from the beginning.
    An observation: It seems often times the person who is consistently late, is the very one who is impatient and doesn’t like waiting for others. Go figure.

  4. So true! Keeping people waiting is rude and says they don’t value others time. My father was a pastor and chronically late. He always kept everyone waiting. I have always seen it as a character flaw and lack of respect for others. When I got married, I told him the wedding was at 2 pm. When he showed up, apologizing for being 30 minutes late, I laughed and told him that he was right on time because the wedding was actually at 2:30. It was the only time I can ever remember him being on time!

    We all have character flaws and things that we need to overcome. Lateness is a character flaw that can be overcome….it’s a battle of the mind and lack of self-discipline and empathy. 🙂

    1. That’s an incredible story – because it was your own father! And having to give him a different time so he’d show up at your wedding on time – is amazing. You win the award for dealing with lateness!

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