Archives For Business Etiquette

It happens all the time.

The people that matter, the people you’re sending a letter, the people who will read it or see it, they will know if you get it wrong.

They will know you don’t know what you’re doing—unless you have a reliable point of reference to check your work and to answer your question.

It happened to me today. I’m addressing a letter to a personal friend of mine, I have known him for years. He happens to be the president of a university.

On the inside I write Dear, (first name) because, like I said, I know him, it would be pretentious for me to put a full title inside a personal hand-written letter to a friend.

But the envelope must be right. How do you address a letter to the president of a university?

Who cares?

  • I do/you do
  • His/her assistant
  • He/she will know (not because of pretentiousness, but because as I said above, the people you address, will know you got it wrong and, even if just for an instant, they will wonder why)

There’s a solution, an answer, a book and web site you absolutely must know about.

Sometimes it seems like a small detail, but forms of address carry the same weight as proper spelling of one’s name. You wouldn’t want to spell someone’s name wrong, you don’t want to get the form of address wrong either.

Robert Hickey’s book must be on your shelf, in your library, in your office, and anyone sending/addressing correspondence on your behalf must have access to it.

It is a small thing.book_cover_SM

But everything speaks.

Don’t say anything you didn’t intend to say because you got something small “wrong.”

Order Honor and Respect HERE

Use the online resource HERE

Getting ready for a job interview?

Most people feel a bit of anxiety about the process.

In the moments or even days before the big interview, the imagination can run wild pondering and wondering what questions may be asked. Afterall, the point of the interview seems to be to eliminating candidates until only one remains?

I can guarantee, with almost 100% certainly, your interview will not be anything like this video!

OK, now that we know something like that isn’t going to happen, let’s look at possible interview questions.

I like this one because it is unconventional: 12 Unconventional Interview Questions

Here is solid look at 30 possibilities: Break Down the 30 Common Job Interview Questions into 3 Types Career Stories

Another thing to consider—questions about salary: Answering Salary Questions

What questions have you been asked, or do you ask, during interviews?


Want to bring your career to a halt or worse?

If your answer is “no” then you ought to consider what you should and should not talk about at work.

We must control both what we say and how much we share in our professional life. The word “professional” turns many people off because they associate it with corporate stuffiness.


1: the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person(see 1professional)

2: the following of a profession (as athletics) for gain or livelihood

Consider the “conduct, aims, or qualities” of professionalism in relation to your conversation at work.

Success in your career can hinge on the appropriateness of your casual conversations at work. Aim high! Here are two resources that will help.

Do you ever feel awkward making an introduction?

Do you know who to introduce to whom?

Does it matter?


Or, maybe you have figured this out—care to share any tips, pointers, or thoughts on how to introduce people without fear?

Maybe you’re comfortable in personal social situations, but a bit uncertain in professional social situations.

Please share your experience!

We’ll talk more about introductions as the week progresses . . .

Have you had any awkward moments making introductions—something memorable that occurred?

Or, how do you feel when you are introduced in a way that is respectful and courteous?

I am not kidding; the best consultants use mirrors.


I do not mean mirrors as in the old saying about “smoke and mirrors” – I do not actually know what that is, other than I am certain it is about deception (if you look it up, let me know what you find).

What do I mean by consultants using mirrors? I mean the ability to show a company who it is, from a different perspective, and build on what made the organization great to begin with.

Too often, way-too-often, successful brands with decades of sustained growth do something crazy. They bring in outside experts. These experts have little or no knowledge of the corporate culture. They may even have false impressions about the corporate culture. At worst, they lack sincere interest in your organization.

I know it is strange for me to say-seeing how I am an outside consultant-but allow me to explain.

Frequently, the consultant or contractor with the most ideas, the most unusual designs, gets the job. These different ideas are usually different because they are outside the reach of anything from the past. Allow me to interpret that: external advisers are predisposed to come up with developments out of alignment with the enduring corporate history.

The more changes implemented outside the successful corporate culture, the more diluted and transformed the culture becomes. This is how ancient civilizations conquered one another: after the initial invasion they removed (exiled) 50% of the citizens of one nation and brought foreigners from other nations in to take their place. The remaining citizens resist change at first, but eventually they became enamored with “new” ways of doing things.

Outside consultants can behave in the same manner. They can dilute and destroy the foundation of your culture.

Do not get me wrong, I’m not talking about businesses that are on the decline, or those too inflexible to change what they are doing. I’m talking about companies that are successful and want to be even better than they are now.

The best type kind of specialist avoids entirely new and different methods of establishing a brand. Instead, he and she will get to know the company, find out what makes it tick, discover where it origniated and how it arrived where it is. They will hold up a mirror and reveal what the organization is doing right and where the strengths lie; he or she will help the organization to appreciate and understand what made it great and build upon that foundation in new ways.

Anyone can point out deficiencies and provide alternatives, even creative, trendy and blingy ones. It is good money if you can manage to get paid for it. The end product will be detrimental to the organization in the long run. Wise consulting depreciates the flaws by building on success, not turning it upside down.

Times change and the way a company does business needs to change to keep up. Use your consulting budget to hire consultants who can tell companies how to do what they have been doing successfully in a new way, one that sustains and preserves the culture. Do not waste your time and money with the consultants who come in with a bag of shiny tricks they have used and repackages for the last dozen clients.

Be wary of those bearing a whole set of ‘better’ ideas. Look for consultants who will invest time and effort to get to acquainted with your company, your history, your character. Build on what you have done right for years or decades.

And by all means, feel free to give me a call! 🙂

I have a little quiz for you. It might be a revealing way to determine whether or not you need to upgrade your wardrobe for business. Ready? OK. Answer this question and if your answer is “yes” then you need a clothing intervention.

Did you spend more time picking out the skin for your iPhone, iPad or Android than you did picking out what you wore to your last business meeting?

Don’t get the wrong impression; I appreciate the appearance of a sharply dressed smart phone just as much as the next person. But unless you intend to hold your phone or tablet in front of you all day, it is not likely going to be the first thing people will see. It also has very little to do with the first impression you make on a client.

How you present yourself at work should be given as much thought as how you would present yourself if everyone you will encounter today were to be rounded up and sat in an auditorium to hear a presentation from – YOU!

Judge Not!

I know what some of you are thinking. You want to point out that we are not supposed to judge people by what they wear. You are absolutely correct.

Meanwhile the rest of humanity will continue to judge you; if you do not pass the standards they are looking for, you will be passed over for someone who does.

Do not judge others, but do not be shocked that others are judging you. It’s going to happen.

Do you suppose you will have any luck transforming the world from being judgmental by dressing in a manner that is too casual or “original” when you go to work?

Choose Wisely . . .

Only you can make the right decisions and improve your personal presentation, and the presentation of your iPad case.

Everything Speaks!

It does not matter what kind of work you do, where you graduated from, or what training and experience may have accumulated; finding and keeping a job is challenging in 2012. I want to share with you how to increase your chances by keeping one thing in mind: everything speaks.

Obviously we speak with our words and body language; we speak through our resume and cover letter. But we also speak through other things that we may or may not be fully aware. For instance, we speak through our attire – what we wear at work every day or when we actually get that job interview speaks volumes.

Dressing too casually does not project a professional image. It can send the unintentional message that we do not take the job seriously.

We speak through our attitudes and actions. The following list of etiquette mistakes were put together by the Protocol School of Washington .

Top 5 Business Etiquette mistakes and how to correct them

  1. Unprofessional office attire (dress two levels above your position)
  2. Improper handshake (use a firm, web-to-web handshake)
  3. Poor eye contact (make eye contact 40% – 60% of the time in between the eyebrows)
  4. Poor dining skills (when in doubt watch the host)
  5. Cell phone rudeness (keep phones on vibrate and use your library voice)

85% of job success is connected with social skills

Social skills are no longer an option. Developing personal awareness of what we say through our attitudes and actions is a life-skill we can all develop and continuously improve. It is the little things that ‘speak’ – the little things we are constantly ‘saying’ with our actions that will either speak for us or against us at work.

Everything speaks – be aware of what you say!

Are You A Courteous Person?

The one thing courteous people understand is that courtesy means being willing to adjust your behavior to the needs and feelings of other people.

Courteous people understand that their fellow human beings are not perfect. They would never embarrass or degrade anyone – but rather do what is necessary to put everyone at ease. This is not to say that courteous people are spineless but that they operate from principles and know how to react in advance, when someone’s behavior or speech becomes inappropriate.

The most courteous people understand more than just the basics of the rules of etiquette. Some may not even know it by that name, but they live by it anyway. Etiquette is grounded in timeless principles; it never goes out of style. In our ever-changing world of codes and behaviors and new customs, etiquette prepares those who face and engage our others to be prepared and interact and behave with courtesy and respect for all.

Civilization would not be civilized if it were not held together by this glue of civility. Just think about places in the world that lack the value of civility and courtesy – human life and property are things that can be used to intimidate or manipulate other people. But in civilized cultures, we do not allow the threat of destruction of human life and property to be used in such a manner. To violate that code of conduct is to break civil law.

If Emily Post was right, and civility is the glue that holds our society together, imagine the bonding power it can have in our place of business, in our schools, and in our families. Whereas some adhesives do not hold as well when used excessively, this is one glue that we want to be used as much as possible.

Know someone who has made an impression on you with their courtesy? Let them know it. Or let them know it and tweet about it.