The Spirit of the Season

Holiday Greetings from Polished Professionals

 

December is almost here and our thoughts are turning to our various holidays, and these days that gives way to the inevitable discussion about ‘holiday’ greetings.

Over the past number of years I’ve seen an increase in the number of “It’s not Happy Holidays, it’s MERRY CHRISTMAS” posts, and I find these unfortunate.  The frustration that leaps from these posts is palpable, but I’m not entirely sure where it comes from – when any greeting is given in warmth and friendship we ought to receive it the same way.

Whether your faith or belief system is based in deep religious roots, or a certainty that Santa does live at the North Pole, it should not be so easily shaken that you rail against a ‘happy’ greeting.  Instead of worrying which greeting is used, we ought to recognize that the words (no matter which ones they are) come from a place of affection and warmth.

I think that we are immensely fortunate living where we do, and when we do: our melting-pot-cities and societies are made up of many traditions and holidays, and this is what gives our lives richness and depth. Let’s embrace it, not fight it.

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How to ask for a favour

Need to ask someone to do something they don’t necessarily want to do? Try this simple change of language and see what happens.

 

Your Stories
We love hearing from you! If you have a tip, trick or story you’d like to share we would love to hear it.  Send us a note and we’ll include it here.

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Job Well Done

When someone does a good job, tell them. Please Ring For Serivce

Then, tell their manager.

Not only does it give you a good feeling, but reinforcing good customer service becomes a virtuous circle.

I particularly like doing this when I talk to anyone in a call centre who does a good job. Let’s face it, if you work in a call centre chances are you work long hours and deal with many annoyed, frustrated or downright angry customers. So when I speak to someone who is friendly, professional and helpful I want to make sure they know that I appreciate it.

This week I had to ring a call centre because I wanted to cancel my membership in a car sharing service. The service itself is fine but I never use it and wanted to stop paying the monthly fee. I was hoping to be able to do this online, to avoid the inevitable sales pitch but, of course, they want you to go through the sales team. In any case, I called and spoke to Lloyd, who couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, in spite of the fact that I was calling to cancel.

At the end of the call Lloyd asked the final ‘is there anything else I can do for you today?’ question, to which I replied ‘yes, I’d like to speak to your supervisor or manager to tell them how helpful you’ve been’. I love doing this. Not only does it reinforce good customer service but it also comes as a pleasant surprise to both the sales person and their manager. In addition, many call centres have points systems, so when you do take the time to provide positive feedback, the sales rep gets a ‘gold star’ and is often rewarded.

Is there a downside to doing this? Yes, sometimes you have to wait on hold for a bit to get the manager on the line, but that time is well spent because not only will you make their day, it will leave you feeling pretty good as well.

I highly recommend you try this the next time you get a nice person on the telephone.

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Come and go during conference sessions: Don’t do that. Do this instead.

Come and go during conference sessions: Don't do that. Do this instead.

This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*

Many of the topics I cover in this series come about because I witness or experience them. This is one of those topics.

This weekend I attended a conference in town. It was a great event. I heard knowledgeable key note speakers, met terrific people and sat in on interesting breakout sessions. However, it was during the breakout sessions that I noticed an unfortunate trend: people who enter and leave, and re-enter, and re-leave (such an annoying act that I’ve had to invent a word for it…) the sessions.

Come and go during a conference session: DON’T DO THAT
No matter how quiet, or unobtrusive, or stealthy you think you’re being. You’re not. Ever.

Now, I appreciate that on occasion we can find yourselves in the wrong session, particularly when there are multiple sessions taking place at once, however, that’s not what was happening in this instance. I went to four sessions on Saturday and in every single one, people wandered in and out, over and over again, and not just at the start but throughout.

People entering and exiting a room is bad enough when you’re in a large space where doors are at the back but Saturday’s sessions where taking place in small boardrooms; there was no way of going unnoticed and yet these repeat offenders seemed oblivious to that fact.

What truly surprised me about this was the number of times people would come in and go out, and come in again, as though they were looking for the best session. This is terrible conference behaviour. It shows an incredible lack courtesy towards everyone in the room, but particularly the speaker.

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‘Hey!’: Don’t do that. Do this instead.

This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*

HEY!

Relax, it’s 2016
Yes, yes it is, and life is generally less formal than it used to be – which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, there are times when a lack of formality can lead you down a path that impacts your professionalism.

Be fooled into foregoing formalities: DON’T DO THAT
Recently, a short video was doing the social media rounds. It showed a group of young reporters receiving a briefing in the White House press gallery. During their briefing, President Obama made a guest appearance: he sauntered in, relaxed, smiling and carrying his cup of coffee.

When the group was invited to ask questions, one young women started hers with, ‘Hey’.  If you’ve seen the clip, you’ll know that President Obama, ever the diplomat, responded with a smile and a ‘Hey’ in return. HOWEVER, look closely, that smile is one tight smile.  In this situation, some (teeny tiny) leeway would have been granted because of this person’s age and inexperience, and nerves, but it still impacted how he responded.

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RSVPs: Don’t do that. Do this instead

This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*

R.S.V.Ps

Who doesn’t love a party?RSVPs: Don't do that. Do this instead
I suppose that’s a loaded question because some people don’t actually ‘love a party’. But there the invitation sits: on your mantel, in your inbox, lurking in your voicemail.

So, whether you can’t wait to arrive, and out stay your welcome (that’s a different post), or you want to make a brief appearance and leave early, you need to reply to the invitation.

Neglect to RSVP: DON’T DO THAT
These days the idea of letting your host know that you are (or are not) going to attend an event – an event to which you have been so graciously invited – seems to be something that people think is ‘optional’.

It’s not.

I repeat, not replying is not optional.

Whether it’s a wedding, an office event or a backyard BBQ, if you’ve been invited you MUST reply.

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LinkedIn: Don’t do that. Do this instead.

This article is part of our Don’t do that. Do this instead series.*

LinkedInLinkedIn: Don't do that. Do this instead.

Six degrees of separation

LinkedIn is a fabulous business tool in so many ways, not least of which its ability to create powerful connections. That’s why it drives me nuts when people initiate those connections in the most anonymous way possible.

Sending the ‘standard’ LinkedIn request: DON’T DO THAT
We’ve all received it, it reads:

Hi Hilary, I’d like to join your LinkedIn network.

And that’s it. No background, no context.

When I receive requests like this, unless I know exactly who that person is, I ignore them, and I know from conversations with others that I’m not alone in this.

Now, I will admit that it is partly to do with the way LinkedIn operates. There are times when you click the ‘Connect’ button and the next thing you know LinkedIn is telling you that the request has been sent. If you are me, you then find yourself yelling ‘Argh!’ at the computer.

So, if you want to really grow your network on LinkedIn in a meaningful way:

DO THIS INSTEAD: Personalize every request
If you want to make sure that people will pay attention to your request, then include a note, every time.

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New Series: Don’t Do That. Do This Instead.

Have you ever had your relationship with a colleague, client or boss change suddenly – and not for the better? Yet you’ve not been able to put your finger on why.

Small actions. Big Impact.
I’ve always maintained that some of the smallest things we do often have the biggest impact on how our professionalism is viewed.  In this new series, “Don’t do that. Do this instead.”, I’m going to help you avoid the tiny (and not so tiny) things that can trip you up and place barriers between you and your success.

Small bites for easy digestion.
Each entry is intended to cover one small piece of a larger topic. However, even though seemingly small, each and every action has a big impact.

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How to Become a Meeting Master

Meetings, meetings everywhere – no time to stop and think.

I once worked in an environment that was made up entirely of meetings: all day, every day. I’m still not exactly sure how I managed to fit in the actual work these meetings generated.Clock Musee d'Orsay

If you work in a company, any size company, eventually someone will ask you not just to attend, but (gasp/horror) to organize a meeting. So, in anticipation of that day, here are the steps to follow to ensure that your meetings stand out in the sea of others – for the right reasons.

1. First and foremost: do you need the meeting? I kid you not, people don’t ask this nearly often enough, and odd though it may seem, not all meetings need to happen. Make sure you know the reason for the meeting: is there a question that needs answering, a project to work on or a problem to be solved? If you have your reason, move to step 2 – if you don’t, go back to your day job (which is, chances are, not organizing meetings).

2. Alright, you have your reason (well done!), now you need to set the agenda. This is another task that seems to stump some. If you can’t come up with any agenda items then your reason for holding the meeting might not be solid – go back to step 1 and double-check. Keep in mind that agendas need to be relevant to the topic at hand, not long for long’s sake…the length of your agenda does not, I repeat, does not, reflect the importance of your meeting.

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Seeing etiquette through a different lens (it’s not always about which fork to use)

WindowThere are occasions, when telling people that I provide training on the subject of Etiquette & Protocol, that they look at me like I have an extra head.   Every now and then I can even see their internal dialogue written on their face: ‘that’s so old-fashioned’, ‘she’s clearly living in the past’, ‘oh no, she’s going to critique everything I say and do’.  This last one is the most common; at a recent event the host of my table looked up as I approached and exclaimed, more-or-less in jest, ‘great, I’ve got the etiquette expert!’ (I don’t by the way, unless asked.)

I put these responses down to the fact that many people equate etiquette with ‘rules’ – rules that govern our every move, and get us into trouble if we don’t follow them.

Yes, there are rules when it comes to etiquette and protocol but though they can seem frivolous, they are actually very helpful.  Many stem from common sense and are in place to help us navigate business and social settings; some are driven by interacting with other cultures; others, leftovers of bygone eras, fading into the past.

However, I believe, firmly, that etiquette is so much more than simply a set of rules.  You can take your pick of words and phrases: etiquette, courtesy, civility, polite behaviour, consideration for others – but when it comes down to it, all of these ensure that we carry out our daily interactions – be they business meetings, hosting an event, or passing someone on the street – in a thoughtful, kind manner, which, in turn, shows others that we value their time and attention.

I don’t view the ‘rules’ as being stiff, old-fashioned directives.  I see them, instead, as the tools we use to give us the confidence and freedom to interact with others under any, and all, circumstances.  Sometimes it is about which fork to use – and if you know which fork to use you can ignore your place setting and pay attention to your guests.

And, the great thing about knowing the rules is knowing how, when and where you can break them.

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