It’s true, many of the etiquette books around these days don’t hold up in the business world. Still, those professional etiquette workshops “the man” made me take had value. Shake, even if someone is visibly sick? Yes. Lift your glass when being toasted? Nope. Arrive late for calls and meetings? Obvious.
Then what gives? Lateness, lack of follow up, and lack of formality are prolific today, even among enterprise consultants, salespeople, managers, and executives. The worst thing about perpetually more casual behavior in business is it’s a death spiral. Business culture is organic, not static, and our daily interactions either raise the bar or push it down.
Entrepreneurs, freelancers, and creative independents, this is as opportunity to differentiate ourselves. I’m calling myself out and asking you to join me. Let’s set the example by bringing back (a little) decorum.
Three basics to get us going:
1. Say what you’re going to do, and do it. A simple formula â€“ Learn it and live it. Your word matters; treat it like a contract. Think before making commitments. Once made, follow through.
2. Thank people. Walt Disney was known for handwriting thank you notes daily. Try it for your most important ones, it feels great and people remember. Always formally thank customers and people who refer you business. Failure to appropriately thank others is lazy and tragic. (Self-disclosure: A little behind on thank you notes myself; I’m going to start catching up today.)
3. Learn names and use them. A dollar for every time you’ve heard, “I’m not good with names;” you’re a zillionaire. Excuse, copout, laziness. Make it a point to learn people’s names and use them, it’s fundamental. The first rule to remembering names (and anything) is intent to remember. When we care enough to remember, it’s amazing how easy it usually is.
Why bother with decorum? Many reasons, here’s one. You represent your company, yourself, your cause, your town, your community. Entrepreneur is a hard road, requiring more of us, not less. Independence is not a reason for a lack of decorum; rather a responsibility to embody it. Whatever your perspective on business etiquette, consider applying a little more protocol, formality, and decorum. Represent.
Chris DiFonzo is a co-founder of OpenDesks a service that connects mobile business people (home-based workers, individual entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small teams) with open desks in professional office space.