Editor’s note: A version of this article appeared on Shep Hyken’s blog and is adapted here with permission.
When I was a kid, my father taught me about being on time and why it is important. There were two times he gave me the “show up on time” lesson—neither of which I’ll ever forget.
Before I get to the story and the lesson, let me give you some insight into my personality. I’m a people-pleaser. I like to make everyone happy. Maybe that’s the reason I’m so focused on creating amazing experiences for my clients and my clients’ customers—and, of course, everyone else.
It was my father who taught me about being on time. It happened when I was doing magic shows at children’s birthday parties. I’ve written about this in the past, so I’ll share the short version of the story here. I created a magic show that took two minutes to set up. I would arrive at the birthday child’s home and the parents could show me the room they wanted me to perform in and two minutes later I was ready to go. So, I thought showing up five minutes early was acceptable. Well, my father disagreed.
He asked me when I thought the parents would start wondering if the magician was going to show up on time. I remember my answer: “Probably about 15 minutes before the show.” He said that was correct, which is why I needed to be at the show 20 minutes early—before they started to worry.
The first lesson is that showing up on time to work is important, as it removes concern and worry and, most importantly, creates confidence.
Lesson number two is perhaps even more important. One day, I arrived a few minutes late to lunch with my father. That’s when he told me that showing up late—to anything—is a sign of disrespect toward others. It’s more than showing up late—it’s about making other people wait. It sends the signal, true or not, that you think your time is more important than that of the others you meet with.
I remember how I felt that day. As the people-pleaser that I was then and still am today, I was mentally devastated. I never wanted to let anyone down—especially by not doing something as easy as showing up on time. That was a huge lesson that stuck with me my entire life.
Of course, there can be legitimate reasons for tardiness. A delayed flight is out of your control. Maybe there is an accident on the highway and even though you left early, you’ll still be late. You get the idea. By the way, that’s one of the reasons the cell phone was invented—to let people know you’re running late. (Okay, maybe that wasn’t the real reason that the cell phone was invented, but it sure is a good use for one—as long as you don’t text while driving!)
If you’re going to be late, don’t wait until it’s time to be there to let the other person know. Once again, this is a sign of disrespect. Show respect for everyone around you, and especially for those who count on you and those you do business with. It’s surprisingly simple. Start by showing up on time. The time is now—so don’t be late!
A version of this article by Shep Hyken appeared on his Customer Service Blog. You can read the full version here.