What being tardy says about you

Here is an interesting article I read last week. Take a moment and read it too.


The author says some things that I believe to be true but he says them far better than me. In a nutshell, he says this: when you are chronically late, you are communicating something and everyone knows exactly what you are communicating.

If you have a problem with tardiness, here is what the real deal is. Your tardiness tells people that you don’t respect them and you don’t respect or value the situation (whether it is a meeting, practice, or whatever).

Which of us would be late to a rocket launch if we were working in the control room? Which of us would be late to a meeting if we knew we would get a $5,000,000 check for showing up on time?

Maybe I am a bit spoiled. In my business world and professional music world, I am used to people showing up on time. I wouldn’t hire or put up with people that were excessively tardy. Except for rare emergencies, I know they are just going to be there.

For example, if I book 30 professional musicians in Nashville and we say we are starting at 10:00, I don’t spend a second worrying about whether any will be late. They won’t be. And in my live taping last year, we needed probably 75 people to be on time for a dress rehearsal. In spite of atrocious Atlanta traffic, not one was late.

Because I am a bit spoiled, chronic tardiness annoys me, even when it is in volunteer groups such as a church. For me, music is serious business. I respect the music making process (i.e. practice) and I want to work with people that respect that process.

To be even more transparent, when I find myself working with musicians who don’t respect their fellow musicians or music enough to be on time, I often find myself wanting to quit and go find some musicians who DO care. I have never really gone that far, but have often wanted to.

Hey, I know that things happen. I am late sometimes too. But I am talking here about chronic tardiness. I have a feeling most of you reading this don’t have this problem. You are mostly pianists and music leaders and you know it is important to be on time. But for those of you who are habitually tardy, here is a bit of advice.

1) At the very least, don’t give us long excuses for why you are late when you come in. That wastes even more time and we have to listen and pretend to be sympathetic. We may be smiling, but we are not really sympathetic regardless of how much we pretend to be.

2) Acknowledge that there are consequences to the disrespect you are showing. You do hurt morale, you do affect how people view you, and you do negatively affect the commitment level of other people in the room.

3) Just fix yourself. Accept that your time is not more valuable than the people you make wait on you. Decide you are going to respect your commitments and the people working with you. And lastly, accept that you really probably don’t have some unique excuse that makes you an exception to the rule. Children, traffic, and weather do not qualify.

How important is this for musicians? Very important. Top professional musicians are on time. They respect the music and the musicians they work with. The ones that don’t care quickly get a reputation and are not professionals for long.

It would be nice if we all cared as much. I know that logically and logistically, an amateur cannot always be as committed as a professional. I know that there are more important things in life than a church choir or a musical performance. I know that sometimes, tardiness is unavoidable. But chronic tardiness should not be a characteristic of any musician.