Earlier this year, I attended an internationally recognized Internet business conference. I was writing the Reinvent column for the Wall Street Journal at the time, so one of my goals was to interview the top thinkers present.
I set up the interviews way in advance, and before I knew it, between conference sessions, networking meetings, and interviews, my 2.5 days of conference time were completely booked up. Things proceeded pretty smoothly until my last morning at the event, when I was stood up by three interviewees in a row. One had woken up late and couldn’t get her act together. The second was stuck in another meeting. The last had simply forgotten about our interview altogether.
If I’d known these meetings were not going to take place, I could have gotten on a plane home to my husband and two year old son a full half day earlier. But instead, I was stranded in an overcrowded press room, waiting for hours while I anxiously checked my Smartphone.
I’ll grant that the three interviewees in question were high profile individuals with a lot of success to their names, but that didn’t make it okay that none cared that they had inconvenienced me and wasted my time, none were terribly apologetic, and none circled back with me later to make amends. And I kept thinking that if they were willing to stand up a reporter who was going to profile them in the WSJ, who else had they blown off that day?
This scenario occurred over six months ago, and you can see that it still irks me. The negative impression this behavior made was substantial and long-lasting.
The message to leaders is that your time is not more important than someone else’s. If you make a commitment to meet with someone, no matter how busy or preoccupied you are it is not appropriate to abruptly cancel or leave them hanging. And if something happens that is beyond your control, don’t just shrug your shoulders. Be humble and sincere in your apology and do whatever it takes to make it up to them. They’ll remember it, trust me.