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Don't Be Late


I have always tended to be on time for appointments, even a bit early, a habit probably inherited from my father. Maybe this is one reason why I have felt at home in Finland, where punctuality is expected and the norm.


Teaching seminars around the world with participants from many nationalities often posed a challenge given how different cultures view time and punctuality. It was particularly frustrating when I wanted the whole class in the room at the beginning of a session to receive instructions for an exercise that required them to work together in teams.


I sometimes addressed the potential problem of tardiness by collecting ideas from the group on how it can be avoided. A consensus often emerged to levy a small “tax,” perhaps 2 Euros, for being late to class, with the proceeds donated to a charity at the end of the program.


From my experience this light touch penalty and more importantly, peer pressure, usually helped reduce or even eliminate tardiness.


However, I recall one participant who sauntered into the room late after lunch on the first day. Everything stopped for several moments as we watched him walked calmly to his place. Before sitting he took out his wallet, asked that someone pass him the charity money jar, and dropped in a €20 note.


He then announced, “Since I already know I am going to be late throughout the week, I am making an advance payment.”


Behaviors can be difficult, but not impossible to change.


John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself.” Sometimes it helps to remind people that they are always working as part of a team, community, or group whether they realize it or not. Being reliable, even showing up on time, is one step towards building the trust required so that a team can operate effectively.

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