Are you having to endure an increase in canceled phone calls, lunch meetings and appointments? Is society's level of integrity (keeping one's word) devolving into a quagmire of "Something came up and it's more important than you," or is there a mechanism triggering an unsettling trend of cancellations and rescheduling?
It is happening multiple times a week. Clients, suppliers, prospects, friends and colleagues are canceling our set 'appointment' at a disturbing rate. Regarding appointments, there is distinct shift from, "My word is my bond" to "My word is a approximation of a bond I may or may not honor due to unforeseen circumstances."
Excuses are on the uptick as well. These excuses have no set pattern. Our morning meeting ran long. My client called with an emergency and we had to address that first. There was a last minute trip to Chicago to meet a prospect. I didn't expect the vehicle inspection to take two hours.
To understand Cancelmageddon, let's start at the end and work backwards.
4th - When a person cancels or asks to reschedule he basically sends the clear, yet unspoken, message, "Something more important than you came up."
3rd - That person was forced to choose between his appointment and something unexpected.
2nd - The unexpected is often precipitated by either:
- An overly optimistic sequence of appointments
- A lack of contingency
- Unfettered access to each of us through mobile technology
1st - That person plugged appointments in a calendar turning a blind-eye' to the fallout from 2nd, 3rd or 4th above.
How is this happening more today, than ever before? Technology has allowed us to fit more into a day. Efficacy has run amok.
To spell this out in the simplest yet broadest terms, let's use the following Before & After Surge in Technological Innovation scenario as an example:
What took an hour to do in the past, now takes minutes. Instead of enjoying all the discretionary time, we fit more in. Why, because we each LOVE to get more done. Instead of one thing accomplished in an hour, let's say we have six things we can now accomplish. In days gone by, one task had a chance of unexpected consequences. Now, we have six tasks with unforeseen results. The shift from 1x to 6x raises the odds of an unpredicted choice by 600%. We are only human. Plans change. Odds are, with technology doing what it is supposed to do, each of us is facing an unfortunate message we are receiving and sending,
"Something came up and it is more important than you."
Is technology messing with your integrity? Yes... but... don't blame technology, use it.
Start at the end and work your way backwards. Use technology and your intention to:
- Send a Clear Message - "You are the most important person" (Especially at 2 pm on Wednesday.)
- Eliminate the Chance of Choice - Communicate early and often about the commitments you have made. You always have a choice. People will respect you more when you keep your word.
- Always Build-In Contingencies - As a guideline, put a half an hour buffer between calls. One hour on either side of meetings and at least two hours surrounding uncertain activities. Put non-appointment activities (emails, tasks, flexible activities) in the buffer zones.
- Direct Your Attention to Possible Fall-Out. For each appointment, quickly imagine three scenarios which could mess with your plans. In turn, plan accordingly for fall-out.
Use technology to your advantage. Turn the tides of (perceived) disintegrating integrity.
Your word is your reputation.