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I formed a small group that comes together to discuss work on personal projects, similar to a Master Mind group.

While the members are enthusiastic about participating in the group, they are admittedly not the most timely. There are often days when a member of the group will arrive late to the meeting, causing the scheduled start time to be delayed until their arrival.

We have a rule for the group to not miss a meeting twice in a row unless it's a serious emergency. However, this has not helped motive everyone to make the meetings. There are a couple of members who would frequently provide a late notice that they are unable to make it and would either ask to meet virtually or be caught up on what they missed later on.

I worry that if the group continues down this road it's going to result in a disbandment. This group has been helping myself and others to keep up with our personal projects, and I feel that abandoning the group is going to de-motivate people from actively working on their projects.

What can I do to help encourage some of the less timely members to become more timely?

Notes:

  • Switching to virtual meetings has not always helped, as members missing the in-person would sometimes still not show-up without providing reason why.
  • Moving the time to a later start has also not helped. The people who do show up late to the meeting end up showing late to the later start times as well.
57

Start at precisely the agreed time and only very briefly pause the discussion to welcome late-comers. They are the ones who broke a promise, it is only right if they feel a bit awkward (and not you).

I once had a job teaching students photoshop. It was voluntary but we had one useful rule which was to always start at exactly the given time, especially on day one! If there was a break, we would say: Alright, we'll have a 10min break, so we will continue at 8:43. And we would be in front of the class and begin speaking at precisely 8:43.

It feels a bit funny, but it's a really friendly method and after the first day, everybody had understood and punctuality was not an issue anymore! :)

If we however failed to be strictly punctual on the first day, punctuality of the students suffered considerably.

  • 3
    One of my professors did that, and as a late comer asked a question about something which he missed because he was late, he didn't get an answer - only the comment: "If you would have been punctual, you wouldn't have missed that part". Never was a person late again. That might be a bit unfriendly, but it worked very well. Not sure if that works in this scenario. – Arsenal Sep 6 '18 at 22:21
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    I had a boss that used this rule for his meetings. We were to start the meeting on time, no matter who was there--even if he himself was late. This is a great rule, respectful of everyone's time, and I agree that it's actually very friendly and not punitive. – Wayne Conrad Sep 7 '18 at 13:36
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By appeasing their lateness you are sending out a clear signal that being late is okay.

Stop doing that.

It's not too late now but from day one you should have enacted repercussions to the tune of:

  • Providing an agenda
  • Starting at the agreed upon time
  • Not facilitating people's haphazard "I will be late" notices
  • Not getting late-comers caught up by wasting everyone else's time

At this point you should use your next meeting to announce your intention of my bullet points from above to be effective as of the following meeting.

3

You can always try offering a "carrot" to those who are consistently on time. For example, start a scoreboard that tracks how often certain members are on time, with a $5 Starbucks gift card (or whatever is appropriate) each month to the most punctual. If there are multiple "top scorers", then turn select randomly or turn it into a contest.

I've seen this work well for things like seminars (with dozens or hundreds of participants) where the leader wants everyone back in their seats at a certain time. After each break, those who come in on time are given raffle tickets, with one or two prizes immediately given away. Those who come late get no chance to win anything.

Anyway, as the old saying goes, You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. To some extent you can't control human nature, and if some of the members aren't motivated enough to make the effort into making the group work, you might be better off cutting them loose, or finding a way to work around them. Hopefully you would still keep a motivated core group that is always on time.

The challenge here is that the people who are really busy and have trouble being on-time, might also be the ones you most want in your mastermind, because they are actually making good progress on their projects. So, as another old saying goes, Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. It may be you want to reorganize your meetings to allow 10 or 15 minutes for nonessential discussion, to allow the latecomers to participate in the essential discussion.

  • 2
    The carrot that we would use for planning meetings for a local town festival was food. If you got there early, it was easy to dish up some and snack during the meeting. Otherwise, you had to wait 'til afterwards. (or be really obvious about doing it, as the food was off to the side of where the chairperson and secretary sat, facing everyone else) Most people tried to get there about 15 min early. Of course, we had a budget for it (and it was low, as myself and another guy did the cooking) – Joe Sep 7 '18 at 17:42
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    @Joe so the carrot was ... actual carrots? :) – Andrew Sep 7 '18 at 17:43
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    I baked bread, the other Joe usually made something soup or stew-like. If he wasn't going to be there, I'd make a batch of pasta. So there weren't always carrots, but they were likely in more than half of the meals. I've brought carrots and cut up vegetables for Friends of the Library meetings, though ... so definitely carrots for those. Friends meetings are trickier, as it's after the library closes, and we can't hear the door from the meeting room, so if you're not there in time, you're locked out. – Joe Sep 7 '18 at 17:49
2
  • Create a group chat (Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, GroupMe, or just text). Some apps allow you to send out event reminders and you can sometimes @ALL people in it. Some apps are great because they will tell you who saw the message.
    • This will help people be accountable for each other while creating light pressure as people contact with other members is easy and there is little excuse for unexcused/unannounced absences or delays
  • Remind people that you are all busy and have your own schedules.
    • Again, to create a small sense of urgency that other people's time is being wasted by someone being late
  • Encourage people to makes suggestions that may help them be less tardy.
    • Maybe someone has to drop a kid off at practice before and just hasn't said anything. There could be a variety of excuses but sometimes people aren't vocal unless encouraged
  • Try to reinforce the arrival time by having a 15 min arrival window.
    • This will give a solid timeframe of when to arrive while being slightly flexible
  • Keep track of who is late the most and if it is a trend for certain people, pull them aside and have a 1-on-1 to ask them what the issue is and if there's anything that can be changed to help them arrive earlier.
    • To go on about people not being vocal, some people still aren't even when encouraged unless directly confronted. There is always a reason, even if that reason is because the person is just not timely. At least talking 1-on-1 will allow you to get an idea why people are tardy.
  • Encourage people to carpool if possible.
    • This not only makes other people accountable for others, but makes them at fault for making other people late and may encourage people to be more prompt

Is there any incentive you can create/bring? Maybe donuts and coffee? Don't bring a ton, but enough for everyone. If people are late, there will be none left.

This is tricky because being too strict may result in people feeling pressured or a hostile/authoritarian environment. However, people who are detrimental to a group, well-- are just that.

  • Welcome to Interpersonal Skills! Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Kaspar Scherrer Sep 6 '18 at 14:42

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