Have you ever attended a program where the presenter asked everyone to please turn off their cell phones and then, with uncanny timing, someone´s phone rings at a particularly inopportune moment? What about overhearing an employee´s cell phone conversation? Sometimes there are things we just don´t need to know. Issues like these fall under the business etiquette umbrella. Like teen speak (please see yesterday´s post) and other etiquette gaffs, knowing what to do with your cell phone at work has a lot to do with projecting a professional image.
What about chewing gum? Smacking gum and blowing bubbles are fine if you´re working solo, but once you enter the conference room you need to adhere to certain rules. If you´re wondering how to talk to your employees about these seemingly innocuous crimes, consider giving them some real tangible reasons for sticking with some basic rules of conduct. Just because you´re not interviewing for a job doesn´t mean you don´t need to worry about image. And something else: we don´t work as islands. In other words, what one person does in a company affects the perception by others OF others. If one person acts a certain way, then a client may assume that others in the organization have similar sentiments. Don´t be afraid to tell your staff that everyone represents the company no matter where they go. I don´t want to delve into privacy issues here-what people do on their own time is generally their business. But if they are in any way representing your company, say at a networking event, then they need to remember that whatever they do or say can reflect on what you and many others have worked very hard to build.
And what about you, their leader? People draw conclusions about your leadership abilities based on the way you speak. If you think you may lack presentation skills, don´t take cover. Instead seek feedback about your communication style from people you trust. Practice improving your speech. Observe others who speak well. Bring in a communication consultant, someone who specializes in business etiquette. Hire a coach. Let people know you´re working on this. You might be surprised by the support you get and you could inspire others to do the same. The good news is that speaking well can be learned. Ignoring the problem, however, only makes it worse.
Good manners are more than simply remembering to say please and thank you. It´s knowing when to take the lead (conducting a business meeting, entertaining a customer/client during a conference), how to write a succinct and thoughtful business letter, how to converse during a phone conversation, and how to pen a carefully thought out e-mail (without banging on the desk after hitting the "send" button too fast). When we fail in business etiquette we slowly erode our companies´ chance at growth and success. You may not always be able to associate an etiquette mistake with a loss in revenue, but you can be sure that if the same problem occurs over and over again, chances are you will see some tangible evidence, often in accounts receivable.