Our very own CEO, Jo Caruana, has been working as a business and etiquette consultant for over 10 years and has accumulated a wealth of knowledge to prove it. That’s why we’ve asked her to share some of her valuable insight to help you ensure your business etiquette standards are up to scratch. And if they’re not, don’t worry, we can help!
Jo, firstly, do you think business etiquette has changed in the last five years?
Business etiquette is very fluid so it’s constantly changing and evolving to reflect the times. But there are some basic principles I think you should always adhere to. Such as: displaying basic manners (please and thank you go a long way), respecting people’s time and deadlines, and being gentle in your communication (i.e. not assuming people always know what you’re talking about, or that it’s as important to them as it is to you).
Modern rules of business etiquette generally relate to being someone that people want to work with. That is, somebody who is positive and enthusiastic, rather than somebody who may be highly qualified but is simply difficult to work with. I recommend you fall into the former category if you want to climb the career ladder or build a business you want people to love.
Well, now we’re intrigued. What is your one golden rule of business etiquette?
Put simply, ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’! If you commit to this in all your business endeavours, you really can’t go wrong. This means maintaining high standards, communicating effectively, and always treating others with respect.
At the end of the day, we all go into business relationships hoping for them to work out, so try to see the good in people and always aim to deliver a positive outcome. Don’t bring unnecessary tension or negativity into your business dealings. Instead, show up with an empathetic, positive and open mind.
Different companies understandably have their own interpretations of business etiquette. How do I gauge what’s expected of me when there isn’t one clear-cut way of doing business?
That’s a great question. Well, within a company or organisation, rules and expectations should be determined by the CEO running the show. If you are that person, I’d recommend having regular conversations with your employees about how you want them to conduct business. But first, ask yourself: what are my company’s core values, and how do I want them to be implemented?
Here at Finesse, for instance, we have an evident ‘fluffy email’ policy (I firmly believe in making every email as pleasant and personable as possible). So, when onboarding new members of our team, I make sure that this is made clear from the outset that we want our clients to enjoy our emails, not dread them. I consistently provide feedback where I think there is room for improvement because I know the team can’t read my mind. Ultimately, it’s always a question of making your expectations clear, and articulating them.
If you’re not quite sure about your own business’ approach to etiquette, however, it might be a good idea to work with a consultant who can help you clearly establish your expectations and formalise them for future reference. Once you clearly understand those expectations, it becomes so much easier to communicate them.
Similarly, how should I establish a common business etiquette language when embarking on a new professional venture with an external party?
I’d say mirroring is the way to go. Emulate what that other person (or company) is giving you and respond to it accordingly. As human beings, we are natural chameleons who can adapt to our surroundings in an instant, and business should be no different. People’s body language, tone, and even the words they use (in person or in correspondence) will indicate how they prefer to do business. Then, it’s your job to absorb that information and match that energy going forward.
What are some business etiquette mistakes you frequently encounter in your consultancy work?
Consistently showing up late, not communicating effectively and just being rude are surprisingly common, and always a big no-no.
I fear I may have made a bad business impression in a meeting. How can I come back from it?
One thing we always talk about in our consultancy sessions is the fact that you never get a second chance for a great first impression. It’s just the way it is! But if you are in this position then don’t panic. There are things you can do to come back from a not-so-great initial meeting.
If you’re disappointed by the way you came across (perhaps you were very nervous, you arrived late, or life simply got in the way) we’re here to say that that’s OK – it happens to the best of us. The important thing is to acknowledge that it happened, and not sweep it under the rug. What you don’t want is to create an uncomfortable elephant in the room that will inevitably taint the rest of your interactions. Instead, take responsibility for the situation and propose an opportunity to make up for it. Taking ownership of your shortcomings and offering a solution shows that you are self-aware, mature, and respectful of other people’s time and energy – which is ultimately all anyone can ask for in a professional relationship.
Need a hand with your business etiquette? Book a free 30-minute consultancy session with our CEO, Jo Caruana, today.