Investment in etiquette education is key.
By Tidimalo Khobane
Business and Social Etiquette are the soft yet valuable part of the business world. It is an important part that I would like entrepreneurs to internalize as they enter the business arena and as they grow their businesses. It is an area that many people ignore, but it is an area if ignored can have regrettable and damaging costs.
In this article I will focus on first impressions, integrity and reputation.
- Why do first impressions, integrity and reputation matter?
It takes a number of years to build a reputation but a second to destroy it, this shows that reputations can be determined or destroyed within seconds – that is the reason why first impressions, integrity and reputation matter. You do not want your hard work over a number of years to perish in a split of a second. You might never have a second chance, you might never recover.
It is always important to ask yourself this question – If you were to describe yourself in a second what would you say? What do you think your colleagues, your clients, your community will say? Surely you would like all of them to mirror your description of yourself.
In any circumstance being it business or private life, consciously or unconsciously, people judge someone’s personality, character, professionalism based on first impressions. Hence the investment in etiquette education, to ensure that what you project on your first meeting and who you would like people to know you as, match. Etiquette education guarantees that you are ready for that first encounter.
I always wondered why lawyers were so knowledgeable, even with inside information that is not easily attainable. It is because they investigate, they research, and they make anything and everything their business. They do not want to be caught off guard – they want to be ready to take on any possible eventuality. They want to succeed!
This is the strategy that everyone must invest in if they wish to succeed in life – that of preparedness – preparing for any possible eventuality, preparing for success.
You must have an agenda for every day of your life, a purpose because everybody else does. Do not leave your agenda to chance, if you do, other will dictate it for you. Be selfish in defining your destiny. Ensure that you are on the right path, identify the possible obstacles, put plans in place to mitigate or deal with the obstacles should a need arise. Always remember if you fail – it is your integrity, reputation at stake- not that of other people.
- Learn to protect your name
I once attended a friend’s son graduation lunch. My friend gave a speech. In his speech he said “Son I am very proud of you and your achievements. Go out there, work very hard and do yourself proud. I do not need a cent from you. The only thing that I truly beg you to do is to protect my name, my reputation and my integrity. I have worked very hard to preserve this jewel – my name, it is priceless”.
YOUR NAME, YOUR REPUTATION, YOUR INTEGRITY IS PRICELESS
Always remember that no amount of money can buy reputation, integrity and respect – your earn them
Here are a few guidelines that will assist you in creating first impressions, avoid embarrassment and command respect in the business arena
Preparing for a meeting
Prepare for a meeting like you are a lawyer preparing for a complicated court case. You need to take time to know and understand the people you are meeting. Research and engage with all the information you can get hold of with regards their business as if it was your own. It is always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. Polish your understanding of current affairs, for example, you can make an effort to find out what is happening locally and globally within their respective industry, go above and beyond to display your interest in their business. You don’t want to find yourself looking to the ceiling for companionship when there’s a real human standing right next to you, whom you can’t engage with because you have no idea how to engage professionally in a business set-up.
Preparing for internal meetings is just as important as preparing for external meetings whether it is with your seniors, colleagues or subordinates. Read over the meeting material and familiarize yourself with issues at hand. Write down the issues that you want to put across, those you need clarity on and those you would like to contribute to.
Define what you want achieve at the end of meeting your goals. By doing this important exercise, you demonstrate that you have read your documents and applied your mind. This will give you an edge over your peers thus creating positive impression about yourself.
If you are unable to attend a meeting send an apology on time if at all possible
Submit your report to allow the meeting to continue as if you were present. Let your presence be felt in your absence! Brief the chairperson of the meeting or whoever will be representing you on the content of your report and invite any questions and queries. Request a brief and the minutes of the meeting so that you can be on the same wave length with those who attended.
Arriving at meeting venue
First impression starts as soon as you enter the gate it is important to be courteous and cooperative with the guard at the gate, courteous with the receptionist once you reach the office, courteous with whoever greets you as you walk in. The reason I am stressing the courteousness is that it does not matter how educated, senior you are – bad manners can cost you.
An entrepreneur expert at a TV interview said – Education will open doors for you, hard work will take you to the next level, good attitude and respect will contribute to your success.
During the meeting
Study the mood of the meeting, establish if the person you are meeting wants to socialize first or wants to get straight into the meeting. Listen carefully, avoid interjecting. refer to the chairperson of the meeting when you wish to make a contribution. Make your contribution, precise and to the point. Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the exact next steps. Thank your hosts for the meeting opportunity. Remember a meeting whether internal or with outside parties is a project and like any project you need to have objectives, a plan for both strategy and implementation. During the meeting, you need to work towards arriving at a point where your objectives are met. You need to strive for a positive and successful closure.
Avoid engaging in the following topics, personal, religion and politics – if you do, be generic!
After the meeting
Deliver what you are tasked to deliver on and deliver on time. Making an excuse should be an exception to the rule. If you are unable to deliver, advice the relevant individuals timeously. Remember you might get away in making one excuse. The second excuse might cost you, your credibility.
Entrepreneur’s need to always keep in mind that good impressions can last for years, yet it takes one bad move to ruin it all. It is also worthy to note that commendable integrity and a sound reputation go a long way in earning your business good standing and prestige.