Tardiness vs. timeliness

We like to be on time at Collegewise. It’s something we expect from our colleagues, our students, and ourselves. We even talk about it in the “Culture, values, and unwritten rules” section of our employee handbook:

“Timeliness is Wise. Be on time. To everything. Don’t leave a family waiting in your office or on a Skype appointment because there was “so much traffic.” Don’t roll in five minutes late to a meeting with your team because the line at the coffee shop was too long. If you struggle with punctuality, here’s a system: (1) consider what you would do if there were a million-dollar cash prize at stake based on your on-time arrival; (2) whatever you answered for #1, do that.”

When you’re late, there are multiple prices paid. You’re paying with your reputation, and whoever is left waiting is paying with their time. Not everything has or needs a hard start time in life or at Collegewise. If someone throws a barbecue and says, “Come over around noon,” no reasonable person expects you to be knocking on the door at 11:59. But it’s not hard to tell the difference between a time that’s intentionally soft and a specific time that’s a mutual agreement in principle. If the message you send to the world is that you’re chronically late, the world will respond accordingly and decide you’re not as reliable as you could be.

I really enjoyed Seth Godin’s recent post, “Good intentions (how to be on time),” because he not only gives late-comers the benefit of the doubt by assuming they don’t actually want to be late, but he also helps them think about the factors leading to their tardiness and offers some steps to address the problem.