Behaving with impeccable manners is one of your strongest strategies. It builds and sustains your reputation, which as an entrepreneur or a consultant is your most valued asset. Your reputation precedes you in all new introductions, with prospective clients, and with existing clients and colleagues who speak of you.
There is great power in excellent manners. It allows folks to trust you. Those extra gestures of politeness are respected and welcomed in our too-fast world of 140 character communication. Sometimes a colleague won’t specifically understand why he or she thinks so highly of you, but will always hold you in high esteem, and say so.
Here are some of those gestures of good manners:
- Write a brief note of thanks following every initial meeting, even if you were not the one requesting it. This should be automatic and within 24 hours of the meeting.
- Acknowledge your client/prospect/colleague’s ideas, even if you will not participate in them.
- If you have pursued a prospect several times by follow-up email or voice-mail, but have received no response, send a closing note that acknowledges the conversation or meeting your shared, and say you will be available “whenever the time is best.”
- It is not weakness to be available, but graciousness. If you are not available later, you can say so then, with your kindest regrets.
- Do not expect others to have the good manners that you exhibit – impeccable behavior is more and more rare.
- Do not take others’ rudeness personally (it won’t help your situation nor change anyone’s behavior).
- Be generous with your advice, even if you have not signed on to the work. But don’t do the work itself before you have a contract.
- Be supportive of the idea, even if you doubt its ultimate success. How many times have you mis-judged the next new thing?
- Be polite: if you feel you must issue some warning about an idea, do it in positive terms, as a suggestion to safeguard against the unexpected.
- Take the time to share some bit of news, or an announcement of a potential competitor, or an article that may be useful. Do this with clients, colleagues, vendors, and prospects. This is part of your generosity – that you are thinking of someone and taking the time to show you remember them. Be simple about this – attach the information and just send a brief message with it, “thought of you and hope this is of interest.”
- Spend time with younger folks who seek your advice, even if they can not be clients or prospects. They will grow older and more advanced in their careers, and remember that you were kind to them. This includes teaching as well as one-on-one meetings.
- Listen more than you talk. Much more.
We live in an aggressive get-ahead world, filled with competition. Excellent manners are the inverse of this aggression – the yin, not the yang. There is great power in having so much abundance that you can share a note of thanks, an hour of your time without expectation of gain, a message with a piece of useful information for no reason other than to share it. You will be remembered for these gestures.
I adore this! I’m frequently taken about at how rude people are by phone and email. People’s stress levels are high, I understand but I hate feeling scoffed as a result of it!
Yes, Judy – this is all too common, and very strange in the face of our “service” economy where excellent customer care is so highly prized in customers’ buying decisions and brand loyalty.
Amazing that people don’t realize what a differentiator good manners are and a handwritten or personal note really stands out. It makes the recipient remember you and makes them think more highly of you.
I’ve been doing some radio interviews for my book, and I send a letter immediately after each one to the host. Most send an email back that they rarely get one or hear from their interviewees. I use that time to mention that if they need a fill-in that I’m available.
We’ve taught our kids (adults) that message and I know they’ve seen the results for themselves. As you say, it’s not weakness, unless you’re a weak person and then it comes across as whining/begging/other negatives. There’s a way to use manners as a weapon. If someone doesn’t like you or is trying to undermine you, they are cut off at the knees when you’re very polite. There’s nothing for them to do and they don’t know how to respond.