Leading with Civility
Let's think about this 24/7 professional. What can you do? How can you lead with civility, no matter what your position is within an organization? Well the first thing you do is lead by example. Be the leader that you want to see. Don't just turn these on, don't take that person who behaves rudely and try to model the behavior for them. Make this choice for yourself. Embrace it, challenge yourself to be a little bit better in small ways in everything that you do. You can educate the people around you that there's a way to consciously build successful relationships. That's basic etiquette training. This material isn't mysterious. In fact, it sounds common sense, it sounds obvious when you say it out loud, and yet these mistakes happen all the time. Oftentimes when I'm teaching it's that cynical and sarcastic person who's sitting there in the room with their eyes rolling back in their head who's the person who most needs the message of sincerity that I'm there to deliver, that the compan...
y's investing in me being there to deliver. It's fundamentally important. Education is part of this. Positive communication is another part. It's easy to be critical. It's easy to participate in negative gossip, to put other people down. It takes more time and more commitment to build people up. To commit to communicating in ways that are not superior, that are not demeaning. That are respectful, considerate, and honest. If it's within you power, enforce basic standards within your workplace. How do you do this? This can be hard. I think it's all about thinking into the future. It's all about forward action and forward facing direction. So you can't walk in and say we're gonna punish people for behaviors that have happened in the past. But you can articulate standards, you can talk about expectations, and talk about how they need to be met moving forward. That attention to the future, I think, is where you have the most power and the most potential to make improvements. Those three goals are so important. Let's talk about them just a little bit. Think before you act, make choices that build relationships, and do it sincerely. The most recent edition of Emily Post etiquette is almost 700 pages. I could stand up here and talk about etiquette for three days and we would never be able to read the material that's contained in that one reference book. And that's not the wedding etiquette book, that's not the business etiquette book, that's not the children and parenting book. There is no way to cover that volume of material. But we can cover the basic expectations that are communicated by the standards that are articulated in those books and in those reference manuals by thinking before we act, making choices that build relationships, and doing it sincerely. By embracing those three goals we put the principles of all good etiquette, consideration, respect, and honesty into action. How do you make those core principle explicit in what you do? You stop and think. You take care with other people. You invest in those other people. You do it from a place of sincerity and integrity. For customer service, I like to think about anticipating needs and exceeding expectations. There are costs to bad behavior, there are ways that organizational culture is negatively impacted by rude behavior or incivility. There's a working definition for rudeness or incivility that says that these are behaviors or infractions that cause emotional harm or distress. But aren't so egregious someone's likely to mention them to you. Combating rudeness, combating incivility with three principles is a way to improve organizational culture to foster climates and environments that are respectful, are considerate, and are honest. I will tell you that work cultures that are considerate, respectful, and honest provide an incredible foundation for customer service. It's important how you treat customers, there's no question about it. But how people treat each other. Makes that treatment of the external client. It makes the behaviors of that front-facing employee believable. If they feel respected, if they like the place that they work it's that much easier to greet the person who walks through the door with a smile. To smile before they pick up the phone and talk to that person on the other end. Cultures of civility and respect are foundational for good customer service. They bring authenticity to that experience. They make it possible to anticipate needs and then exceed expectations. Because your thoughts aren't about the problems in your workplace, your mind is free to care about others. This is my favorite 24/7 professional example question. On the way to work a person cuts you off. You swear and make a rude gesture, I will spare you the gesture, which the other driver sees. Later as you walk in, your new boss comes out to greet you and you both realize your recognize each other. I'm guessing this was the person in the other car. I was giving a seminar once, two people in that room had had this happen to them. It's not so unlikely. There's something about that space, that space in the car where we give ourselves a certain latitude, a certain permission to behave in ways that we might not necessarily behave with other people. I did a motor manners campaign for Ford where we referenced back to a book that Emily Post wrote in 1949 about motor manners. People have been doing this, this is a particular manner that has not changed since Emily Post was writing about etiquette in the middle of the 1900s. She noticed the power that a car had to transform the otherwise civil and humble driver into an absolute monster. Oftentimes it's the first day at work when you're not so familiar with the path in, the route in that you're actually not driving so well. So I actually think there are also some conditions on the ground that make this particular problem that's more likely to occur. You don't know where to park. You're trying to navigate and watch and figure it out. So one of those two people in the room, and this wasn't the only seminar where I had someone experience something like this, but it was definitely the only one where I had two people in the room who'd experienced. The guy in the back was hysterical, he was really funny, he says, "I know how I handle that." I said, "Help me out, what did you do?" He says, "I walked right up and said, 'It's a pleasure "'to finally meet you.'" Something about a little good humor can really diffuse a difficult or awkward situation, no question about it. We're all not at our best sometimes. Nobody's perfect all the time. Despite our best intentions, despite the call to action to embrace these principles and these ideas in all areas of your life. A willingness to smile, to be gracious with yourself as well as the people around you is an important part of having good etiquette of conducing yourself well and with integrity. So let's think about that 24/7 concept. Well, actions outside of work do affect you. Social situations become business instantaneously. You want to hold yourself accountable, particularly at off-site business ventures and use those core principles of etiquette regardless of what others think. What are those principles? I keep driving them home because they're so important. Consideration, respect, and honesty. When we first developed this system at the Emily Post Institute it was the fourth generation of the family that really started to articulate these concepts, they spent a long time trying to decide whether kindness was one of those core principles or not. I think kindness is important, but I think ultimately if you're really being considerate, respectful, and honest kindness is gonna seep into the equation, it's gonna become part of how you manage yourself, how you conduct yourself. It informs that question of honesty. What do you think of my outfit? That is really atrocious, I can't believe you chose that color. Why would you say that? Well it's honest. How can it be hurtful? It's the truth. There is a brutal truth, there is also a kind truth. That will keep you warm all winter long. It's the art of good etiquette. You can let kindness inform your honesty.