The 21st Century Guide to Business Etiquette
A few months ago I StumbledUpon (literally) an excellent blog post by Max Andrew Dubinsky, entitled “A Gentleman’s Guide to Staying Cool in the 21st Century.” As I dug further, I happened upon it’s predecessor, “A Gentleman’s Guide to the 21st Century.” I was immediately and wholly impressed not only by the tastefulness but also the ease of implementation of these tidbits, and set about applying them to my own life – with fantastic results.
So it is in homage of Max’s posts that I submit to you…
Be honest, sincere, and trustworthy.
Money talks, but most people don’t like what it says. Pit capital and resources against long term trust, genuine relationships, and honor, and 9 out of 10 business people you work with will turn down the money in the long run. That 10th person? You probably don’t want him or her in your corner, anyways.
I am an outspoken advocate of “nothing succeeds like the appearance of success,” and I truly believe you cannot be successful unless you believe in yourself, but, as a business partner of mine once taught me, you can be humble, grateful, and level-headed about it. Thank people for their kind words. Attribute your successes to the help of those around you – and mean it. If you have to arrogantly assert your successes, you’re not that successful.
Don’t be a black hole.
If someone calls, emails, tweets, Facebooks, texts, etceteras you, write back on time, every time. Even if it’s just to say that you’re a bit behind and need a few days to write back in full. There’s nothing more aggravating than flakiness, and I for one will pay more to work with a vendor or service provider who is available and accessible.
Be considerate in your correspondences.
With the above said, do everything in your power to make corresponding with you easy and hassle free. This means no page-long emails (less is more!), NO voicemails (who has the time to drop everything and listen to you say something you’re going to repeat when I call you back?), and no hiding behind the keyboard when someone requests your time for a phone call. Correspond with people via their preferred medium, and you’ll be amazed at how successful your communications become.
This simple but powerful lesson – perhaps one of the most important in life and in business – has been shared by wise men ranging from Confucius to Dale Carnegie to Ghandi. If you haven’t figured out the tremendous value of active listening skills, you are doing a disservice to yourself and others.
When someone is on your home turf, pay for lunch.
If you want to avoid awkward arguments, check out the tip in The Gentleman’s Guide
If you’re on someone else’s home turf, let them pay for lunch (if they offer).
Don’t insult your host by insisting to pay. Offer, accept, and sincerely say “Thank you.” ‘Nuff said.
Do what you say.
Never make someone regret they relied on you. Ever.
If I’m waiting to hear back from you on an unresolved matter, and you’re off tweeting and emailing me about unrelated back-burner items… that leaves a bad impression.
Spell it out.
This applies to a number of things. Namely, if you need something, don’t beat around the bush; businesspeople don’t have time for roundabout. Just tell me what it’s going to take to get the matter resolved. This also applies to things like email signatures and answering machine messages; if you need me to include the previous correspondence, say so. If you’re replying from your mobile device and being terse, say so. If I must include my order number and the time I called, say so. You get the point. Make sure I don’t have to chase you to do the same.
Celebrate those around you.
Make a point to celebrate the successes and milestones of your employees, your vendors, and your service providers. Bring snacks.
That’s a pretty good laundry list to start. There are certainly a lot more nit-picky bits of etiquette I’m sure to ramble about down the line (just wait till I start on the use of language in business interactions…), but for now, I encourage you to digest these, comment on them, and hopefully, implement them into your own professional (and personal) lives.
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