Today Samuel wrote me this question... "Would you count moving a meeting from 1:30 to 2:30 as a broken promise? I have to do this a lot as nobody respects blocked calendar time in this corporate culture. I want to know if this kind of schedule tuning would be perceived poorly."

Great question Samuel!

Yes, I think it is a broken promise. The receiver of the promise (your developer) is the person who decides if they feel a promise has been broken, so they are the best person to answer that question. You might ask them if they feel it was a broken promise.

If they see it as a broken promise, no amount of explanation or rationalizing about why (or how broken) matters. Promises are binary: either they are kept, or they are not. In this case, you scheduled a meeting ("made a promise") and couldn't keep it.

Don't get me wrong; I'm really glad you moved it instead of canceling it. And, I'm really glad you just moved it a little bit, instead of by 3-4 days. Those are really important things that show me (and your developers) that you care about keeping your promises.

The real issue: "nobody respects blocked calendar time in this corporate culture." "But wait!", you might say, "That's not something I can control. I just work here."

True... and false.

You can't control other's behavior. You can control your behavior.

You can't control meeting requests. You can control how you respond, declining meetings that conflict with blocked time.

You can't control other's lack of respect for your blocked calendar time. You can control whether you respect your own blocked calendar time.

You can't control whether others get upset that you don't attend meetings. You can communicate in advance that you won't attend a meeting because you have a conflict.

You can't force others to look at your calendar. You can encourage others to look at your calendar to find open slots.

Each time someone disrespects your blocked calendar, they are saying: What I want is more important than what you want. More important than what you've promised your team. More important than what your team needs.

If you don't respect your blocked calendar time, why should they? When you give in to meetings and continuously bend over backward to accommodate others, you're reinforcing their bad behavior. They are getting their way, and you're left to clean up the mess.

Maybe it's time to say "Sorry, I won't be attending your meeting due to a conflict. I always keep my calendar up-to-date, so feel free to check my calendar for open time slots." And you'll have to say it multiple times, probably in different ways.

And people may not like to hear it, especially at first.

But soon they will learn that you mean what you say. And they will learn to work within your boundaries. Your team will also gain a new respect for you and see you as a stronger, more confident leader.

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