by Sara Luther
with all due respect...

…show up for the call

In most of my blogs there’s a hint of humour. This isn’t one of them.

Something is trending in my world, and I need to share it. People aren’t just late for scheduled calls – they’re ghosting them completely.

It’s been very noticeable this year. People confirm a meeting and they’re late. Then they’re really late, and sometimes they don’t show up at all.

It’s discombobulating. Many of these people are my clients or potential clients. We have a strong relationship or are working to cultivate one, in service of work we both believe in. And then…this.

I truly believe no one is out to get me, or intentionally throw my day off. I have honed and harnessed the power of positive intent. But the inability to honour commitments is a real puzzler for me. Why is it so hard? And why are we all pretending to be okay with it?

For many organizations, workloads remain pandemic-like in the stretching of resources, and the most valued resource is their people.

The workplace hangover from Covid still has people feeling depleted, disrespected, or worse. Further, the corporate messaging of “your wellness matters!” – when workloads remain high with insufficient interventions or limited offers of assistance – it does not sit well.

People are juggling too many balls, and some are going to drop. Showing up on time appears to be one of them.
As a result, we don’t seem to have the same level of personal accountability; there are few consequences when we fail to meet reasonable expectations. And it’s not just in the workplace.

My son has a high school classmate who arrives 45 minutes late to class every day! What is the response? Wrong question. Is there a response? Answer: no.

So, we arrive in a land of apathy around commitments. People’s time is paradoxically scarce and expendable.

For all my frustration, I confess I’ve found myself on the other side of this exchange, running a little late and knowing others will tolerate it. This behaviour is not okay, and that’s not the person I want to be.

“The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.” James Clear, Atomic Habits


So how do we correct this behaviour? Step one is simple: let’s talk about what’s happening!

More nuance in how to respond to this behaviour in others.

Always come from a place of care and concern. Period. You don’t know what’s going on and emergencies happen. When I email a person who is 15 minutes late, I say, “I had us scheduled for…I hope everything is okay.”

Even if there’s not a good reason they’re late, you’re still being a decent human and investing in the relationship.

How to lead through it

Now it’s time to move from being reactive to proactive. I’m sharing our new approach at Forwardworking in hopes that it may be a model useful to you.

As a short-term solution, we now reach out to everyone we have scheduled calls with day-of to confirm.

In the long term, we are transitioning one of our engagement practices to an everyday practice.

For big projects and program work, our initial meeting always starts with “Conditions for Success.” I walk the group through an activity to distill what we need from each other to ensure it’s worth our time when we gather.

The most common asks are:

● Come prepared
● Be willing to listen
● Be open to new and different ideas

And of course…

● Be on time!

I will be using “Conditions for Success” for all engagements going forward.

Whatever we’re working on together – be it a one-day retreat, a half-day workshop, or helping a struggling team – there will always be a series of touchpoints and follow-ups. That’s our cadence of communication. It’s also an opportunity to practice good habits and demonstrate mutual respect.

And sometimes, yeah, that meeting could’ve been an email. If we realize we don’t need to gather, so be it. Time is precious, let’s respect that.

If this struck a chord with you, let me know!