The Courtesy of Kings


Let’s start with my entry for the 2014 Least Surprising Statement of the Year Award…

I had a meeting last week.

Costa, York, 2pm. I arrive – with my apologies ready – at two minutes past. The person I’m meeting isn’t there. No matter, the ring road’s busy today (and there’s another entry for the LSSY Award…)

Ten past. He still hasn’t come. I check my phone for messages. Nothing. Quarter past, twenty past…

And I know at this point some of you are thinking, ‘What’s the problem, you’ve got your iPad. You could still do some work.’ Well, yes… In my view you can ‘work’ in Costa – in the same way that you can play a round of golf in your wellingtons.

I gave up at half past two: at least I’d be early for my next meeting. He phoned just as I got in the car. “Sorry, Ed. Held up. You still OK to wait? I can be there in twenty minutes…”

…Making him nearly an hour late. ‘Punctuality,’ I could hear my Dad saying. ‘Remember, Ed, it’s the courtesy of kings.’

No, I politely explained, I wasn’t OK to wait. I had another meeting. “No worries,” he said. “We’ll catch up later.”

Except we wouldn’t catch up later. This was the second time he’d kept me waiting. Neither time had he phoned to say he’d be late or apologised for wasting my time. I crossed him off my list of potential TAB members.

Everyone can be late for a meeting. We’ve all been held up by a sudden emergency or caught in traffic. But what everyone should do is ring and say, “I’m sorry: I’m going to be late…”

It’s difficult to write this post without it turning into a rant, but I find as I get older there are certain things that just irritate me (you know what I really want to say, don’t you?) And they irritate me to such a degree that they’re a real barrier to working with certain people.

Ah, damn it… I knew I shouldn’t have started down this road. Stand back. My other pet hates:

People who can only see the short term gain for themselves when they’d actually make far more money in the long run by building a mutually beneficial business relationship

People who talk about themselves incessantly and never express any interest in the person they’re talking to (and I’m sorry to say this is nearly always men…)

…And it’s compounded if they go on to try and sell me something without finding out or being interested in whether I might actually need it. We’ve all been there and we’ve all walked away thinking, ‘No. If you were the last widget salesman on the planet and my life depended on a widget the answer would still be ‘no.’’

I took a break there because – to be honest – I was worried it was just me. Had I developed early-onset Victor Meldrew Syndrome? I asked a couple of Board members. And I needn’t have worried. In fact I should have taken protective clothing…

“Liars,” one of my more gentle and rational Board members exploded. “Don’t tell me you’re going to do something when you know you’ve no chance and no intention of doing it. Tell me the truth. Not what you think I want to hear.”

I nodded my head. “Thanks for that. Hadn’t thought – ”

“And people that think they’re some sort of super-negotiator,” she carried on. “You agree a price, everyone’s happy, then they come back and start arguing about coppers. Or they ‘lose’ the cheque book. Or Doris in accounts is off sick and they can’t pay.”

I eventually calmed her down. Only to take both barrels from another Board member. “Mean people,” he said. “Not realising that if I bought the coffee and sandwiches this time, next time it’s their turn. If someone does that then I won’t deal with them.”

So let me throw it open to you: because there’s a serious business point in this. All of us might just recognise ourselves in some of the replies – and we might well be losing business. What are the character traits that really irritate you – to the extent that they’ll stop you working with someone?

I await your replies with interest. I’ll read them after I’ve bought a flak jacket…

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7 comments

  1. Rory Ryan · September 26, 2014

    I’m delighted about the content of this blog. This morning I finally received a project brief from a potential new client. We were due to meet next Tuesday on the basis that he sent the brief before I went on hols (yes, I checked email and read the brief on hols). He has made four arrangements to meet and broken all of them. In his brief he sets out the normal stuff and at the end devotes a section to timelines with a ridiculously hard to meet programme for the design team and building contractor. Analysis: 1. He expects me to work on his project when I am on holiday. 2. He is happy to dither and have no accountability for programme himself but when it comes to others he demands they hop when he wants them to whether it is unreasonable or not. 3. He expects me to work on developing his brief along with two other architects before appointing the lucky architect – no appreciation of my time.
    So he won’t be a new client of mine – big fat fee proposal heading to him next week and I will put €50 down to say he doesn’t even respond.

    • edreidyork · September 26, 2014

      Morning Rory – perfect timing! I’ll watch this space with interest to see whether he gets the message!

      • Rory Ryan · September 30, 2014

        Ok. So here’s what I sent (setting out a fee quote takes too much time!)
        Joe,
        I have reviewed the brief and the project and decided that it is not one for me. There are a number of contributing factors.
        – The projects that I work on require a high level of compatibility between architect and client – my instinct is that this may not be something we achieve.
        – For example the timelines that are set out are very tight and yet so much time was taken to get the brief assembled.
        – The expectation to carry out work on the brief whilst other archtiects remain in consideration is not something I would proceed with.
        – The high content of renewables is the remit of a M&E engineer
        – The request for details of a similar project carried out unsatisfactorily indicates (from my viewpoint) that confidence issues may arise were a relationship to proceed.
        I would like to wish you well in your project and hope that you appoint an architect that will meet your needs and works well with you.
        Regards,
        Rory
        Guess what his reply was? ‘Thanks Rory’.

  2. Peter Beresford · September 26, 2014

    On the theme of “People who talk about themselves incessantly…” someone told me recently that if they’ve asked three questions to the person they’re talking to and not got one back in return, chances are it will be a one-way conversation so they give up there & then rather than waste time and get bored to death. Easy to say if you need something from Mr Boring but it’s a fair point…

    • edreidyork · September 26, 2014

      That’s a great technique, Peter, but you’re right, not always easy to carry out!

  3. Dave Rawlings · September 26, 2014

    On the subject of telling the truth, do we ever tell the inconsiderate person how we feel about their behaviour? No, neither do I – but I’m going to think about how I might word it in future.

  4. simonjhudson · September 29, 2014

    Punctuality is a big deal for me too – our time is ludicrously valuable and the less of it I have left the more valuable it becomes. I’m so uptight about it I usually call or txt if I think I might be late. It’s really not hard.
    It’s all about respecting the other person and if you can’t respect their time you really can’t respect them. In that case I don’t really want to help them.

    Not replying to emails to confirm that you have what you need. I don’t advocate writing a single email that is unnecessary, but when someone spends hours crafting the information etc. you need you really should at least say that you have received it. Thanks would be nice

    Not letting me pay for drinks, snacks etc. sometime. It’s almost as bad as expecting to be paid for and it creates a sense of indebtedness that is inappropriate. But at least you still have your cash.

    Driving in the middle lane / outside lane when the other lanes are clear. It’s enough to make me want to fit missiles to my car, or scythes to the wheels. Grrr!!!!

    Actually, when it comes down to it, these and all the other irritants, large and small, tend to be about common courtesy.
    I deeply believe in the Pay it Forward principle; if we are all good to each other with no expectation of immediate reward then we all ultimately benefit manifold.
    The last chap that made a really big deal about that got nailed to a cross, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.

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