This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend The National Speakers Association Carolinas Chapter meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.The chapter is comprised of wonderfully talented people from all across the Carolinas. It is about a four hour drive from my home in Savannah to Charlotte, and trip is made up of three extremely boring interstate highways. The kind that easily become parking lots if anything out of the ordinary occurs, like a speeder pulled over by a patrol car. Desperate for some entertainment many of the drivers slow down to gawk, resulting producing a traffic jam.
I endure this drive often, not simply to attend a speakers meeting where I can hone my skills and interact with other professional speakers, but numerous other times so I can visit my grandchildren who live in Charlotte. On this particular weekend it was a two for one: the chance to learn from an extremely talented storyteller and teacher named Doug Stevenson, and spend precious time with Sam (age 8) and Harry (age 6).
I am often asked if I would consider teaching manners to children. My reply is a resounding “No.” My first job was as a teacher of French at the high school level. And for a good reason. I never felt comfortable around small children but thoroughly enjoyed teenagers. That’s weird, I know. I have turned down requests for teaching manners to children, unless of course they were my own. My daughters had manners lessons on a regular basis and not necessarily upon request.
During my visit with Sam and Harry (oh, and my daughter and her husband!), I found myself teaching manners to children, my own grandsons Friday night we went out to dinner, taking the boys to Red Robin, their favorite eatery and possibly the noisiest. As we entered the restaurant, my daughter reached for the outer door. I quickly took the boys by the hand and pulled them back as they raced for the open door. Then I quietly asked if they had ever heard of “Ladies First.” They gave me a puzzled look so I explained that holding doors for ladies and allowing them to enter first is good manners. I went so far as to suggest that they should always hold the door for their mother.
Holding doors became quite a game for the weekend. Neither my daughter nor I could get anywhere near a door that wasn’t already being held by both Harry and Sam. Now that I am back home and the boys are back in their usual routine, I wonder if they remembered today to hold the day for their mother. I am thinking that maybe I do teach manners to children, and I have discovered it’s fun. Maybe I will try it on some other unsuspecting children.
Meanwhile it is back to speaking and writing about business etiquette for adults who want to add the polish that builds profits.
Here’s to teaching manners to children and holding doors for others, regardless of age or gender…
Everyone knows, or thinks they know, that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. I don’t completely believe that. Many times you do get a second chance. You may have the opportunity to meet another time with that interviewer, your new supervisor or the prospective client. Of course, the goal is to make your first impression the best that you can. Why blow it to start out?
We all also know that things don’t always go well or as planned so if you make a faux pas during that initial encounter, don’t despair. You can make it right the next time or subsequent times that you meet. Just think about what you can do to right the situation immediately and grow that relationship.
Apologize. When ever you can, offer an apology. Perhaps you forgot the person’s name or you arrived late for your appointment. Say that you are sorry.
Don’t over apologize. Going on too long leads to groveling and begging. This will do nothing to enhance your image.
Laugh at yourself. If you do something foolish, like the new salesman who got up to leave the meeting and walked into the closet, use your humor. Laugh at yourself. It shows a human side and puts others at ease.
Don’t get flustered. Show your professionalism by keeping your cool. We all make mistakes such as thinking that cell phone was turned off when it was not. A bit of poise can go a long way.
Learn from your mistakes. Make a note to self that says, “I will never do that again.” Look twice before you pick which knob to turn. Leave your cell phone in the car (shocking thought).
You will have more opportunities to blow that first impression, but don’t make the same mistake twice.
You can always learn more about how to make a positive first impression and what to do if you blow that first impression by ordering a copy of my DVD on First Impressions. Or if you want to, call me and we can talk about it.
Business etiquette may seem out-dated to the new generation of small business owners and their employees as well as large corporations who don’t see a need for it in this digital age. Those who overlook the value of business etiquette are losing business everyday.
Perhaps it occurs when the customer walks in and no one bothers to offer a greeting.or an acknowledgement of any sort. It may be that the customer’s name is never used. Perhaps the employees look as if they are dressed for a day at the beach rather than at the office.Any number of details can either cost you business or win customers over.In any case there is a direct connection between business etiquette and the bottom line.
We all know that people do business with people they like.Here are some aspects of business etiquette that can improve your credibility and like-ability.
Make a good first impression.You only get one chance. Smile, make eye contact and ask how you can help. Every customer has the right to expect recognition and courtesy within the first few seconds.
Professional appearance counts. Clients and colleagues will judge your level of professionalism before you even open your mouth so dress appropriately at all times. In the business world it is always better to be dressed more conservatively than not. If your organization does not have a dress code, create one. Don’t leave how your people should dress to their imagination.
Work at remembering names. When you are introduced to people, focus on their name, not on what you are going to say next.If you repeat the name in the form of a question as soon as you meet the person, you will stand a better chance of remembering it the next time. For example when you are introduced to John Doe, reply by asking. “John Doe?” That way you can clarify that you heard the name correctly as well as reinforce it in your memory bank of names.
Be on time. Even being a few minutes late for a meeting is not acceptable. It indicates a lack of respect or importance of the people with whom you are meeting. If you cannot avoid being late, call to let someone know. Don’t send an email message since you can’tbe sure the person you are trying to reach checks email every two minutes.
Pay attention to your social media manners. Don’t mix your persoanl and professional accounts. Use your own photo and professional name. By now most people should realize that someone who is considering hiring you or doing business with you will look you up on line. They won’t be impressed with you if you use a cute or racy name and if you post photos of yourself dancing on the table at the New Year’s Eve party.
Anything on the Internet is in the public domain so tread carefully online and in email.Never say anything that you don’t want the whole world to see. Never write when you are tired, emotional or angry. Consider that email has no tone of voice so for sensitive or complicated matters pick up the phone or walk down the hall. Personal interaction is much more effective in building and maintaining business relationships.
Do not pull out your smart phone or other communication device during a meeting. Keep it off and out of sight. The message you are sending to others in the meeting or presentation is one of disrespect and lack of interest. “Reading under the table,” is more obvious than you think.
There are certain words or topics to avoid in your business communications. Cursing has become almost common place, but it is a sure way to lose business and possibly your job. If you curse, you dilute your message by showing a lack of courtesy and professionalism as well as a limited vocabulary.
Publicizing your political beliefs has no place in business unless you are trying to lose customers. If you have any doubt about that, think of the recent episode with Chick-fil-A.Ultimately taking a public stance on an issue back-fired.
No matter what business you are in, business etiquette is vital to your success. It starts from the top down so the owner or CEO needs to demonstrate courtesy and respect. There is a definite trickle down effect. Given a choice, customers and employees will go where they are treated well. Ultimately business etiquette will show up in the bottom line.Polish builds profits.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, your thoughts might be turning to romance in the office. The girl or guy in the next cubicle is looking awfully attractive. In fact you may already be head over heels, but haven’t yet revealed your feelings. What should you do?
If you decide to pursue your interest, you may be jeopardizing your love life and your career. On the other hand, if all goes well, your job performance may improve and your personal life will take a turn for the better.
According to the American Management Association, almost one-half-49% to be exact- of office romances result in marriage or a significant long-term relationship. After all, most people spend more of their time in the workplace than anywhere else.So if you decide to make the romantic move, be smart and know the rules.
Know the company’s position.Some companies have policies against dating among coworkers; others just ignore it.Although most organizations don’t want to intrude on their employee’s private lives, the shadow of sexual harassment looms large. It is never wise to date someone who is your supervisor or who reports to you.
Set the ground rules in the beginning..Discuss early on how you plan to handle the relationship around the office, and what you will do if things don’t work out.While that requires a level of maturity and discipline that is often hard to come by, do it if you both want to keep your job.
Consider the effect on your job performance. Being in love can be distracting.If your focus at work is on the object of your affection and not on your job, you are putting your career at risk.On the other hand, job performance could improve if you are trying to impress that other person.
Be discreet and professional. It is never a good idea to discuss your romantic relationships with coworkers so keep the details of your dating to yourself.The wise couple is careful that any interaction in the office is purely professional.It’s a matter of having your career and dating it, too.
Don’t let the love of your life get away. Be wise and be discreet. Use your head; but don’t lose your head.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
P.S. If you have ever had an office romance, I would love to hear about your experience. You can post your comment in the box below or contact me directly.
Having good relationships among colleagues is vital to organizational and individual success. Friendships among coworkers lead to greater job satisfaction and increased productivity, but they should be kept casual rather than close. When coworkers become “best” friends, problems can arise and job performance may be affected.
Here are some suggestions for keeping workplace friendships professional and productive.
Follow the “one-year” rule. That is, go slowly in letting the business acquaintance become a friendship. Allow yourself time in getting to know your coworkers. First impressions may be lasting, but they are not always the most accurate.
If someone seems overly friendly or inquisitive, be careful. When other people seem overly interested in personal details or business affairs, think twice before you answer all their questions. Revealing too much too soon can make you vulnerable. Once you’ve shared information, you cannot take it back.
Test your new friends with low risk confidences. If you hear your private comments being repeated to others, the lesson should be clear. Until you have a strong level of trust, hold back on revealing anything that you don’t want the entire office to know.
Always keep in mind that any kind of gossip should be avoided in the workplace. That means not spreading personal information about your coworkers or passing along organizational rumors.Small talk in the office is good for relationships as long as the subjects are appropriate. It is a good idea to steer clear of anything that is personal or speculative. If the company is talking about cutting costs, that doesn’t mean lost jobs until you hear it from the top.
Be friendly, be kind, be courteous, but be professional. Keeping your personal friendships outside the office is just good business.
If you have ever had an office friendship become a problem, I’d love to hear about your experience and how you handled it.
Yesterday as I was literally racing down the road to get to an appointment on time, I had a sudden revelation. This was not uncommon for me. I am never late–well almost never, but I am always dashing into meetings or appointments at the very last moment with coat tails flying. Of course, by doing so, I am usually stressed and having to pull my act together in seconds.
Fortunately I live in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, where we have what is called “Savannah time.” No one is expected to arrive early. Most people show up right at the appointed hour. Others wander in at their leisure, always with an apology and an excuse, but late all the same. I feel myself on the verge of joining the latter group.
I tend to think I can get one more thing done before I leave for the meeting or that I am obligated to answer the phone that rings just as I have my hand on the door knob. When I finally get into the car and check the dashboard clock, I realize that if I am lucky, I may not be late.
I seldom allow for traffic issues along the way or remember that I live on an island whose only access is a draw bridge.More than a few times I have sat and watched some mega yacht or a lazy sailboat pass through. When will I ever learn?
The answer is now. That is my number one business etiquette resolution for 2013. I am going to be on time. That doesn’t mean arriving just in the nick of time. It means following the advice of the late Vince Lombardi who said,: “If you are five minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, don’t bother to show up.”
From now on my goal is to arrive five minutes early. No more than that because I don’t want to intrude on those setting up the meeting or managing the event.
Punctuality is critical to good business relationships. The people who are late are sending a message to others that they do not value other people’s time or that they who are late have more important things to do. Think how you are viewed when you don’t make the effort to be punctual. Do you want to be seen as inconsiderate or self-important? That probably won’t help you grow your business or represent your organization positively.
So in 2013, join me in vowing to be five minutes early for every activity, never on time or late. Let me know how you do..
Happy New Year to all,
P..S. Please let me aassure you that if you hire me to speak to or train your employees, I will be on site well ahead of schedule. I promise.
If Santa is making his list and checking it twice, I thought it might be a good idea to do the same. The list I have in mind is about holiday etiquette reminders. I’ll keep it brief and to the point since I suspect that you, like me, are short on time trying to get everything done. In the rush of the season, you don’t want to have an etiquette relapse.This is the perfect to time to impress your clients, colleagues, family and friends with your polish and good manners.
Holiday Cards: Did you get them out on time? Did you personally sign each one and hand write the address on the envelope?
The Office Party: Did you go? Did you remember to dress conservatively/ Did you make an effort to circulate and speak to everyone there?
Dining Etiquette: Did you wait for your host to begin eating before you did? Did you keep your napkin in your lap until the meal was over? Did you avoid talking about business?
Business entertaining: When you took your client out to dinner, did you make sure that the server knew to bring you the check when the meal was over? Did you give your guest the seat with the view?
Corporate gifts: Did you check to be sure your client could accept a gift? Did you come up with something more creative than a mug with your company logo?
Thank you notes: Did you write your thank you notes by hand or are you planning to as soon as you can after the holidays?
Did you remember to tip all those who ave provided service to you throughout the year?
There is still one week until Christmas so you have a few more days to impress.
This will be my last newsletter to you until after Christmas Day. I somehow assume that Christmas morning you will not run to your computer first thing to check your email. Look for my newsletter on Wednesday.
Do you sometimes feel tipsy during the holidays? Most of us do, and not from all the holiday parties—it’s from all the holiday tipping. This is another seasonal tradition that seems to have taken on new life. Tipping those people who serve us in a regular basis throughout the year has become customary during the holidays. While it is not necessary to tip everyone who provides service to you, it is important to show appreciation for those people who make your life easier on a regular basis.
Here are a few tips on tipping during the holiday season:
Tip according to the quality and frequency of the service rendered.
Consider your own budget in determining the amount.
Present your monetary tip in a card or a small gift box..
Give it personally whenever possible.
Do it within the week of the holiday or shortly before.
Offer it joyously.
Now that we’ve established the process, let’s consider who and how much. The following general guidelines should help eliminate some of the confusion as well as the stress of holiday tipping.
Housekeeper – one week’s pay for someone you employ personally
Gardner – $20-$50
USPS mail carrier – cash gifts are not acceptable so give a small $15-20 gift
Newspaper carrier – daily $25; weekend $10
Teachers, tutors, coaches and trainers for your children – an inexpensive gift from your child
Baby sitter – one night’s pay plus small gift from your child
Full-time nanny – one week’s or one month’s pay depending on length of employment plus small gift from your child
Dog groomer – one half the cost of a session
Dog walker or sitter – one day to one week’s pay
Nail technician- cost of one session
Massage therapist – cost of one session
Hairdresser – cost of one session
Personal trainer – cost of one session
Note: If you regularly tip any of these service providers, you can reduce the amount of your holiday tip.
Good judgment and an attitude of gratitude should be your guide.
Now is the time when you should be sending out your holiday business cards. You can wait until the last minute if you like, but your clients and colleagues may already have left the office for the holidays or they may be too swamped at that point to notice your card.Send them now while they can be appreciated.
If you haven’t purchased them yet, it is not too late but you may not be able to have your name or the company’s printed on them. But that’s all right since my first recommendation is always to sign your name to every card along with a brief handwritten note. The holiday business card that comes without a personal note or message seems more obligatory than celebratory.
Purchase a quality card. It is not necessary to spend a fortune, but good quality says you value your clients and colleagues enough to “send the very best,” as Hallmark would say.
Address the envelopes by hand. While it is easier and faster to print address labels, you lose the personal touch. Consider paying someone to do this for you if you don’t have the time to do it yourself.
Invest in holiday stamps and avoid the postage meter. That’s just one more personal touch and a festive one.
Use titles when addressing your cards. The holiday business card should be sent to “Mr. John Smith” not “John Smith” or “Ms. Mary Brown” not “Mary Brown.” By the way, “Ms. ” is the correct title to use in business.
Email greeting cards may be tempting because they require less time and trouble, however, that may be the message you are sending to the recipient. It is not rude to e-mail your holiday wishes, but it is not the most effective way to do it. Your cute and clever electronic message with singing Santa’s and dancing trees is a fleeting greeting. The recipient will click on the URL, download the card, open it, read it, smile, close it and, in all probability, delete it. Chances are good that your “real” card will have a longer lifespan. Most people save greeting cards throughout the holiday season, and many display them around the office.
Don’t Be A Turkey During The Holidays: The Complete Guide to Etiquette and Protocol For The Holidays is available for purchase on my website and on Amazon in The Kindle Store. My business etiquette tips readers may request a complimentary copy in PDF format by contacting me. This offer expires 5 p.m. EST on Friday, December 7th.
Now that we have closed the book on Thanksgiving (unless you still have some left-over turkey in your refrigerator), it is time to turn our attention to the next holidays which include Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s. Just before Thanksgiving I sent you an article .titled “Holiday Etiquette: Don’t Be A Turkey During The Holidays” In it I announced the publication of my newest eBook ” Don’t Be A Turkey During The Holidays: The Complete Guide to Etiquette and Protocol During The Holidays.” I did not limit the topics to Thanksgiving alone. You can be a turkey or not any time of the year.. My goal is to be help you avoid being given that title and to be the consummate professional during the holidays and throughout the year.
I listed eight questions that might be puzzling you this time of year. I promised to answer them during the weeks leading up to Christmas. Since invitations are already arriving for the office party, let’s start there. Here are the questions and the answers:
Is the holiday party mandatory? Not everyone enjoys the office party and some look for any excuse not to attend. I regret to inform those of you want to stay away, that the holiday office party is required. It is part of your job. When you do not attend, you might be viewed as someone who is not part of the team. You can’t afford to lose points in the eyes of the boss. So put on your best attitude and go!
What are some of the biggest mistakes that people make at the holiday office party? There are almost too many to list so I will go with the most obvious.
Drinking too much
Hitting on your co-worker
Wearing clothes that are too revealing
Not talking to the boss
Making a cameo appearance and the dashing for the door
In my next post, I’ll answer your questions about your holiday greeting cards. Other topics that I will cover before the end of the season are holiday dinnig etiquette, thank you notes and tipping. If you have specific questions that you would like to have answered, please contact me.
Have fun at the holiday office party–but not too much!