Do you know far it is from middle Georgia to Knoxville, Tennessee? A long way. But, it was well worth the time in the car (and all the McDonald’s french fries) to get to visit a group from Kimberly Clark.
They were so welcoming. With a poster in the lobby. I tried not to overreact, but I felt like a star. I did.
I spoke to a group for just over an hour about business etiquette…how to wow your customers and engage your coworkers. I talked, they listened, they laughed when I wanted them to and didn’t when they probably should have. It was a great, great morning.
As a presenter, the best thing that can happen is that change actually takes place because of something you suggested or taught. Makes any effort worth the trouble. So, how happy was I when I found some followup questions in my Inbox from a few who attended the session? Very happy. They were thinking about things I had said and that’s the first step toward change.
I thought I would share with you their questions and my responses. Enjoy!
1) If someone is clearly breaking etiquette in a meeting setting (loud side conversation, working on laptop when not related to meeting, etc), does it fall to the meeting organizer to bring them in and what is a good way to do that?
KTL: First of all, this should be addressed privately with this person. Don’t call them out during the meeting while the room is full of people. You want the offender to be cooperative, not embarrassed. If that person’s supervisor also attends the meeting, it would be more appropriate for the conversation to be between the 2 of them. If not, the meeting organizer might say something like, “Would you mind helping me out in the meeting this afternoon? I have several things on the agenda and I wonder if you’d help me keep the group focused.” Assign the person to be the meeting advocate. Word of caution: before you verbalize anything, make sure the offender is actually hindering progress rather than simply being an aggravation.
2) Similar to question one, if someone is trying to have a side discussion with you in a meeting and you are trying to pay attention or are aware it is distracting, what is a good way to deal with that?
KTL: Be straight up. Say something like “I would like to hear more about this, so can we chat afterward? I need to hear the dates being discussed here.” As much as you might like to look at them dead in the eye and say ‘Shut. Up.’, you can’t do that. You could even jot down your number or email address for them as your signal that you’re sincere.
3) What are some of the bad habits that people fall in to that are based on where they come from? Example would be the Yes Ma’am, Yes Sir discussion we had in the presentation and how that is part of being raised in the south. Are there others that stand out to her for people from the Midwest, northeast, etc?
KTL: People from the West coast typically dress more casually for work; people from the North/Northeast tend to speak abruptly and without much emotion or “fluff”. Aren’t we fortunate to live in a country where we can experience such diverse “cultures”? There’s a trap door in your question, so here is my vague response: these are only “bad habits” if they are considered offensive. If you’ll remember, my comments regarding the Yes Ma’am/Yes Sir discussion included the caveat that the speaker should remember who they are talking to. An older (Southern) person will appreciate the respect implied by a Yes ma’am. But, it’s not necessary for a peer. If you traveled to LA for a meeting and showed up in trouser jeans, an open collar shirt and loafers, it wouldn’t be out of place or shatter most dress codes. Bottom line: Know your audience and offer few distractions.
4) How frustrating is it for Kate in dealing with the current generation of high school students who communicate almost exclusively via text message? To quote someone, they can’t send a thank you note because they can’t spell out the words Thank You. They would send a “ty” note.
KTL: LOL. It’s vry frust8g!
There is definitely a level of frustration among my etiquette peers as well as company owners and hiring managers. It’s disappointing to bring in a job applicant who attended a great school, has a high GPA, looks the part, but can’t carry on a conversation OR write a complete (nevermind compound) sentence. Mentoring programs have never been more important because we know that most kids don’t get sound instruction at home and schools aren’t providing it either. You have also identified a gap in our education system, in my opinion. People/social skills are no less important than math and science skills. Schools teach kids about nouns and verbs but fail to say “And look the person in the eye when you speak the words I’ve now taught you to spell.” As parents, professionals, companies and individuals, I hope we will take every opportunity to be a positive influence for our future generations. We have to tell them what we want them to know and, unfortunately, not many kids are being told about etiquette.
Thank you, Kimberly Clark, for a great meeting!!