Business etiquette is not dead

Business etiquette is not dead

Business etiquette is not dead

I continue to be amazed by some of the behaviours demonstrated by supposedly successful and senior people. Etiquette might sound like an old fashioned concept but courtesy and manners continue to be essential in business.

Firstly, we need to deal with the perception that etiquette is stodgy, pretentious and based on rules that are socially or morally prescribed and therefore intrusive to our sense of individuality and freedom.

This article is based on one I spotted in LinkedIn Today recently (good on them for broaching it) but it is a subject I’ve written about previously. I see in business generally, as well as the mining industry specifically, that new social media and communication channels have blurred the lines of appropriateness.

Many of us are left wondering how to navigate this unchartered social territory.

To begin with, quite simply, etiquette is really just about making people feel good. It’s not about rules or telling people what to do, or not to do, it’s about ensuring some basic social comforts.

So here are a few business etiquette rules that matter.

1.     Send a Thank You Note

I am shocked at how infrequently people send thank you notes after meeting with me, sharing a meal or attending an event.

If you have a job interview or if you’re visiting clients or meeting new business partners — especially if you want the job, or the contract, or the deal — then take the time to write a note. You’ll differentiate yourself by doing so and it will reflect well on your company too.

Consider that the most valuable thing you have today is your time. If someone gives a chunk of theirs up to help you, it seems only appropriate that as the person who benefited from someone else’s time, you spend a small amount of yours acknowledging them!

The absolute fall back is to send an email. It’s never as good as a hand written note, but it is considerably better than doing nothing.

Either way, the art of a thank you should never die!

2.     Know the Names

It’s just as important to know your peers or employees as it is to develop relationships with clients, vendors or management. Reach out to people in your company, regardless of their roles, and acknowledge what they do.

We all spend far too much of our time these days looking upwards and attempting to impress senior management. But it’s worth stepping back, acknowledging and getting to know all of the integral people who work hard to make your business run.

3.     Observe the ‘Elevator Rule’

When meeting with clients or potential business partners off site, don’t discuss your impressions of the meeting with your colleagues until the elevator has reached the bottom floor and you’re walking out of the building. That’s true even if you’re the only ones in the elevator.

Another angle on the elevator rule…

My office is in West Perth, Western Australia. I imagine that it’s one of the most concentrated square kilometres of mining industry businesses existing anywhere in the world!

On any given day there are countless meetings going on in highly public places: coffee shops, streets and small parks. I find it absolutely incredible some of the things I hear by simply sitting at a café, while often large groups of mining professionals talk openly and loudly about confidential deals, job interviews and general scuttlebutt and private options about other individuals.    

Call it superstitious or call it polite – whatever – just don’t risk damaging your reputation by conducting conversations in this way.

4.     Focus on the Face, Not the Screen

It’s hard not to be distracted these days. When in meetings with someone who has their email device in their line of sight, I notice an almost constant diversion of eyes to the device. It is as if we all have to multitask to feel efficient and productive.

But we don’t!

When in a meeting or listening to someone speak, turn off the phone and don’t check your emails.

If you leave your device out of meetings, you will stand out from the crowd. You will also send powerful messages to the other people present that you are there for them and they are the most important person while you are with them.

5.     Suspend Judgement

We all have our vices and we all have room for improvement. One of the most important parts of modern day etiquette is not to criticise others.

You may disagree with how another person handles a specific situation, but rise above and recognize that everyone is trying their best. It’s not your duty to judge others based on what you feel is right.

You are only responsible for yourself.

We live in a world where both people and businesses are concerned about brand awareness. Individuals want to stand out and be liked and accepted by their peers, both socially and professionally.

The digital landscape has made it even more difficult to know whether or not you are crossing a line, but the article reminded me that it can be very simple if you just think of etiquette as a positive. It is a way of being—not a set of rules.

So before you create that hashtag, post on someone’s facebook page or text someone mid meeting, remember the fundamental question: will this make someone feel good?

And remember the elemental act of putting pen to paper and writing a note. You’ll make a lasting impression that a post on your social media page will never match.