Tag Archives: professional conduct

Covid’s Lasting Impact on Professional Conduct

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This blog post on Covid’s lasting impact on professional conduct is written from the perspective of a business etiquette expert living in Savannah, Georgia, the Hostess City.

Whoever thought that six months after the coronavirus emerged in the US, we would still be suffering its effects in all aspects of our lives? Few of us believe that things will be the same as they were pre-pandemic. A question on the minds of many is what the long-term effects on our business and professional conduct will be.

Emerging from Corona

My home, Savannah, has long been noted for its charm and grace. Visitors to our city are wowed by our cordiality and friendliness. When we emerge from COVID-19, fearful of physical contact and personal interactions, will we still be able to display that Southern charm for which we are renowned? If we must hide behind masks and practice social distancing, can we maintain the hallmarks of our unique business environment and Southern hospitality? How will your city survive?

It can be done, but it will be different. The firm handshake that defines the business professional may become a faint memory. Hugs and kisses, also part of our business culture, may also fade away while we wait to learn that it is “safe to go back into the water.” Thank you, “Jaws” director Steven Spielberg.

Meeting and Greeting Post Pandemic

How will we meet and greet others from this point on? What will happen to the handshake?  If you are not comfortable shaking hands, decide now how you will handle that. Be ready to say, “Please excuse me for not shaking your hand, but I am not comfortable doing that yet.” Nothing else needs to be said.

I am not a fan of fist or elbow bumps in the business environment. They are too close for comfort and not worthy of a polished professional.

Wining and Dining

Wining, dining and conducting business over meals, a critical part of relationship building, will not be the same. Until we feel confident that the virus is not a threat to our collective health, something as simple as sharing a cup of coffee may be complicated.

When you consider where to meet for your business meal, you will want to check with the restaurant about their safety precautions. Make sure that they are following the recommended guidelines so you can concentrate on the business at hand and not worry about the environment.

Smiling through Your Face Mask

Face masks will be part of daily business attire, making it challenging to exhibit charm and friendliness, but it can be done. Although people cannot see your smile through your mask, they can hear it in your tone of voice and see it through your eye contact. It has never been so much what you say as the way you say it that counts.

Professional Conduct Will Survive

For the foreseeable future, there is little doubt that it will be necessary to follow the safety guidelines currently in place. Life will be different, and it will take some getting used to. Old habits may have to be broken, but courtesy and kindness (aka professional conduct) do not have to fall victim to the coronavirus. Whatever needs to be done to protect ourselves and others going forward can be done with the same grace and charm that Savannahians have always shown in their personal and professional lives.

How Much is Rudeness Costing Your Business?

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Business Etiquette - The Key to SuccessHave you ever thought about how much rudeness may be affecting your bottom line? What is the cost to your company when the people who represent you lack proper manners?

Do you know how many clients are turned off by employees who would rather carry on a conversation with each other than with the client? Can you count the number of people who hang up and call someone else because the person who answered your phone put them on hold without asking permission?

How does the client rate your professionalism when the employee who welcomes him to your office looks as if she is dressed for a day at the beach? Are your employees treating each other with courtesy and respect? Do they work as a team and help each other out or do they act like cast members on Survivor?

Try taking this quick true/false quiz to test your own business etiquette expertise. Then run it by your employees to assess their rudeness quotient.

    1. Business etiquette is based on rank and hierarchy.
    2. If the information on your business card is incorrect, draw a line through it and write the correct information on the card.
    3. Business casual means dressing down one notch from business professional.
    4. In today’s relaxed business environment, it is not necessary to ask your clients’ permission before using their first names.
    5. Callers do not mind holding for information as much as holding for a person.
    6. Handwritten notes are out of place in the business world.
    7. A man should wait for a woman to put out her hand in business before offering his.
    8. When composing an e-mail message, complete the “To” line last.
    9. Small talk around the office is a waste of time.
    10. If you receive a call on your cell phone when you are with a client, it’s fine to check to see who’s calling, but don’t answer.

Answers:

    1. In business, you defer to the senior or highest ranking person, regardless of age or gender.
    2. Handing out business cards with information that is outdated is unprofessional. Have new cards printed immediately.
    3. Business casual is not an excuse to wear your favorite old clothes to the office. It’s business. Look professional.
    4. Don’t assume you can call clients by their first name. Use titles and last names until asked to do otherwise.
    5. Clients will wait patiently while you search for information on their behalf.
    6. Handwritten notes have become as rare as the typewriter. Stand out from your competition by sending your clients handwritten notes.
    7. In business it is off-putting when a man hesitates to extend his hand to a woman.
    8. If you wait until you have carefully proofed your message before you hit “send”, you will never be embarrassed or have to apologize for your email errors.
    9. Small talk in the office is a great way to build relationships among co-workers.
    10. It is just as rude to check your phone to see who called as it is to take a call in front of a client. Turn your phone off and check your messages later.

If you had trouble with any of these questions, your employees will, too. If you want your employees to be at ease in business situations, to represent you well and help build your business, give them the information they need. If you haven’t engaged in business etiquette skills training lately, do it now. Don’t let rudeness cost you business.

No one is born with good manners. People have to be taught, and from time to time, they need to be reminded of what they already know.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.

 

Customer Service Means Taking The Heat

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Customer Service

Are you good at taking the heat when your customers lose their cool?

Have you ever noticed that no matter how hard you try to please and provide good customer service; there are people who seem determined to be difficult?  These people get downright cranky or out and out angry.  Trying to soothe an irate customer is challenging, especially when so many people feel entitled to act as rude as they possibly can.

Let me suggest a process that I learned from a fellow speaker, Judy Hoffman, the author of Keeping Cool on the Hot Seat: Dealing Effectively with the Media in Times of Crisis.  She also produced an audio program, Dealing with Angry People, where she outlines a method for “taking the heat.”  She uses the acronym “HEAT” for handling troublesome encounters and diffusing tense situations.

“H” stands for “HEAR”. That one thing we seldom do.  We don’t hear because we fail to listen. Some people are hard of hearing; others are hard of listening. We don’t pay attention to what the customer is saying because we are either too busy thinking of what we are going to say next or because we assume that we know what the problem is before hearing the person out.

Listen. Don’t interrupt.  Let the person finish the tirade before you jump in. You’ll be amazed at what you can hear when you keep your mouth shut.

E” is for “EMPATHIZE”.  The dictionary definition of “empathy” is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Let your customers know that you understand how they feel and why. Recently I was with friends at a local restaurant. We had reservations, but the table we had requested was not available and would not be for some time. Even though we all behaved like polite adults, the hostess took the initiative to say that she wouldn’t blame us if we had gotten upset. She acknowledged that she herself would have been unhappy. Good call on her part.

A” is for “APOLOGIZE”.  Offer an apology even if the problem is not your fault. It is easier for some people to say they are sorry than it is for others.  Don’t pull a third-grader and try to blame someone else. Often all the angry person wants is to hear the words, “I’m sorry.”  Taking the high road and apologizing, even when you didn’t do it, can calm even the most irate customer.

T” is for “TAKING ACTION”.  Once you’ve heard the person out, empathized with the situation, offered an apology, let your customer know what you will do about the situation and do it.  Even if your action is to take the issue to a higher level for resolution or compensation, act without delay and let the customer know how you are handling the problem.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to remain angry or have an argument with someone who won’t fight back.  If you resist the urge to become defensive and confrontational, your unhappy customer will soon lose steam and begin to calm down.  Your cool headedness can diffuse a hot situation when you remember to “take the heat.”

A Different Perspective on Business Networking

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All business people are networkers whether they realize it or not.  If they’re not, they need to be or they will soon be out of business. Some people are more effective at business networking than others. They work at it with purpose while others wander aimlessly through the process.

When and where can you find opportunities to network? The answer is simple: anytime, anywhere.

Every time you meet someone, greet someone, pick up the phone, send an e-mail message, engage someone in conversation, write a note (yes, people still write notes), you’re networking.

You don’t have to attend a community function, an after-hours reception, a fundraising event, a meeting or a conference to network. Anytime you interact with another person, you’re networking. It can happen at the mall, the grocery store, the post office, walking the dog, riding in an elevator or waiting for your next flight to take off.

What do you need to understand about networking to be effective?

The purpose of business networking is to build relationships and grow your business, but you can’t be successful at networking if you don’t understand what it is. Some people think that it’s who you know and others believe that it’s who knows you.  Networking is a combination of those two and more.

Business networking is about what you know, and more importantly, it’s about who knows that you know what you know. (Try saying that fast three times in a row.)

It’s not enough to be famous if no one understands what makes you famous. As part of your networking strategy, be clear about who you are, what you do and what you have to offer.   Your area of expertise and the unique skills you possess are what others need to know.

How can you be sure that people know that you know what you know? By being visible and by using every opportunity to showcase your expertise. And by preparing that infamous elevator speech. You know, the one you can deliver in 30-60 seconds, the time it takes to ride between floors on an elevator—hence, the name.

Your elevator speech needs to be a capsulized version of what you do, how you do it, who you work with and what results or solutions you offer.  It needs to be interesting and spark curiosity.

Your elevator pitch shouldn’t be a static, memorized statement. Instead of a canned, formulaic, verbatim regurgitation, engage your listener by asking a question posed as a problem that your product or service solves.

Once people know that you know what you know, you become the expert and the “to-go-to” person. It’s a lot easier to have people come to you rather than having to chase them down. Would you agree?

Lydia Ramsey is on a mission to stamp out rudeness. She is a Savannah-based business expert on business etiquette and professional conduct, a sought-after speaker and established author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products. More information on professional conduct is available in her best-selling books Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners. Invite Lydia to speak at your next conference or meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replying to Invitations is Good Business and Good Manners

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Failure to reply to invitations is a common occurrence today. Whether the occasion  is all business, purely social or a combination of business and social, event planners and hosts need and deserve to know whether  you plan to attend or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s a seated meal, a cocktail reception, a meeting or a seminar. The person or organization issuing the invitation needs an accurate count of the attendees in order to provide the right amount of food, beverages and materials.

Replying to invitations is a matter of good business and good manners. It is part of your personal packaging and a demonstration of your professional conduct.

Know the difference between “RSVP” and “Regrets Only.”  If the invitation reads “RSVP,” you are required to answer one way or the other. “Yes,” you are coming, or “no” you are not. If the invitation reads “Regrets Only,” you need only let the hosting individual or organization know that you will not be attending. If you do not reply, the expectation is that you will be present.

As soon as you receive an invitation, check your calendar, make a decision and take action. The only acceptable reason to delay is if you truly are not certain of your plans. It is inconsiderate to wait until the last minute to see if something better comes along before you reply. If you have a legitimate reason for delaying your response, let the hosting group know. Otherwise they may wonder if you received your invitation and will set about having someone call you for your answer.

When you are invited to a meal function and find that you cannot attend after you said you would, you must let someone know of your change of plans. It is unforgivable to accept an invitation to breakfast, lunch or dinner and fail to show. If you do, you probably should be calling from the hospital to explain your absence. In the event of a true emergency that prevents your phoning ahead of time, call your host first thing the next day with your explanation and apology.

When organizations go to the trouble to bring people together for food, fellowship or professional development, they should not have to guess how many will show up. It costs both time and money to operate this way. When businesses plan events for their colleagues and clients, they deserve a professional and thoughtful response.

It is simply a matter of good manners, proper etiquette and professional conduct.

Here’s to your good manners!

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.

The Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn Etiquette

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Of all the current social media choices available to us, it seems that LinkedIn is the one most preferred and used by business professionals. Once again when there is a new arrival on the Internet scene as there was with LinkedIn, officially launched in 2003, it came to us with few instructions.

There was no manual on how to use it and when to use it. You had to search the Internet, talk to your techy friends and dig around on your own. And once again as with our cell phones, smart phones and other technological devices, there was no set of rules for LinkedIn etiquette. They have simply evolved over time.

With its numbers growing by two every second, its professional users need to be aware of the rules of professional conduct for managing their LinkedIn accounts. LinkedIn members use this form of social media to actively look for jobs, read work-related content, perform “professionally-oriented searches,”  join professional groups and promote themselves and their products or services. When used correctly, you can attract other business people to you. When LinkedIn etiquette is ignored, you can turn people off.

So what are the do’s and don’ts of etiquette for LinkedIn? To come across as a polished professional on the Internet, here are my suggestions.

Five Do’s for LinkedIn Etiquette

1.   Personalize your requests for connections. Avoid sending the default message. Use the person’s name and tell them who you are and why you want to connect.

2.   Use a profile picture. No one wants to connect to a faceless silhouette.

3.  Keep it professional. If you want to post personal information, use Facebook or another form of social media.

4.  Nurture your relationships. Regularly send useful content or individual messages to people in your network. There is no point in having 500+ connections if you don’t engage with them.

5.  Respond promptly to messages. Treat your LinkedIn messages the same as email by sending a timely response—the same day if possible.

Five Don’ts for LinkedIn Etiquette

1. Don’t spam your connections. Whatever you send should benefit your connections. This is not a self-serving platform.

2.  Don’t post more than once a day. If you “over-post, you will turn people off.

3.  Never ask people you don’t know for recommendations. On the other hand, don’t post recommendations for people whom you don’t know.

4.  Never send a message to someone saying  “I see you viewed my profile.” That’s like calling someone back when they didn’t leave you a voice message.

5.  Don’t use it as you would Twitter or Facebook. It is critical to know the etiquette for each network. Your LinkedIn connections are not interested in what you ate for lunch.

The polished professional knows the rules of LinkedIn Etiquette in order to create and maintain an effective network of connections.

Happy Networking!

Lydia

Business Etiquette For The HolidaysYour copy of my new holiday eBook is waiting for you in The Manners Store or on Amazon in Kindle. It is not too soon to start your holiday planning and brush up on your business etiquette. Right now you should be selelcting your holiday cards and updating your mailing list. This book will guide you through the process and offer tips for addressing the envelopes.Don’t wait to get “Business Etiquette for the Holidays; Building Relationships Amid the Perils of the Season.”

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear from you. Please contact me.

Is Your Business Etiquette Ready for the Holidays?

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Everywhere you turn this week and last13-0811-Lydia-Ramsey-eBook-Cover-230x300[1], somebody somewhere is reminding you that summer is over. Fall is here, no matter what the temperature is where you are, and it is time to focus on work. There is no more serious vacation time until the holiday season arrives. And, folks, it will be here before you know it. Therefore my advice for you is to prepare now.

That may sound a bit far-fetched, but trust me, there are certain things you need to be doing. I haven’t seen any holiday decorations up yet, but I am willing to bet one of you has–and I don’t mean those icicle lights that some people put up five years ago and haven’t bothered to take down.

Is your business etiquette ready for the holidays? What do you need to do now to prepare for the season?

Step 1: Order that special holiday greeting card for your business this month. You will want to have the name of your company and your name printed on it. You will want to make sure that the quality of your card speaks to the quality of your business and the value of your customer. And keep in mind that the polished professional always signs each card personally—even those with the name printed on them.

Step 2: Review and update your address list. Make corrections for people who have moved on or changed their name or address. Add the names of your new clients.

Step 3: If you can get the envelopes before the cards come in (not possible if you have your return address printed on them), start to address them. Better yet, assign that task to someone else, preferably someone with an attractive handwriting. You are not going to use those computer-generated labels that are so impersonal.

Step 4: Decide on an appropriate gift that you want to give your special clients and order now. If you have any doubt about your company’s policy on gifts or your clients’ policy, this is the time to check that out.

Step 5: If you will be planning a holiday party for your employees or perhaps your clients, you might want to select the venue now before some other business professional beats you to your ideal location.

If you take care of these five steps now, you will be amazed how much less stress you will feel when the holidays hit.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.

After the Job Interview-A Handwritten Thank You or Not

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A subscriber recently sent me an email asking about handwritten thank you notes after the job interview. She wanted to know if it was necessary to send one during these times when etiquette and professional conduct seem to have vanished. My answer to her question was a resounding “Yes.” What you do following the interview is just as important as what you do before and during this stressful event.

In my presentations to college and universities students in particular, this question always comes up. At one session there was a recruiter present from a local bank. She told the students that the people who stood out for her were the ones who took the time and made the effort to write a thank you note following the session. She even went so far as to say that she saves the notes she receives.

Key points to keep in mind when sending a handwritten note:

  1. Your handwriting does not matter. You want it to be as legible as possible, but don’t use poor penmanship as an excuse not to write.
  2. Use a quality fold-over note or correspondence card. This is no time to skimp on cost.
  3. Address the envelope and put the stamp on it before the interview. That way, when it is over, you return to your desk, write the note, slip it into the envelope and head for the nearest mail box.
  4. Your thank you note serves as a “sales” letter as well. Use the opportunity to say why you want the job, what your qualifications are, and how you would contribute to the company. Your thank you note is also an opportunity to address anything you overlooked or needs clarification after the interview.

Handwritten thank you notes make a really good impression, but if time is of the essence, send a follow up thank you by email. The Internet is definitely faster than the postal service. The next step is to write a note as well. It may seem redundant, but the paper note will have a longer shelf life than your email and keep you top of mind with the interviewer.

The handwritten note is one of a vanishing species. Very few people think it is important and therefore they do not send one. You will stand out from the crowd and your professional conduct will not go unnoticed when you write your thank you. Your education, skills, experience and expertise are documented on your resume. Your interpersonal skills are evidenced by your personally written thank you.

Good luck to those job seekers!

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.