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…