I have been traveling this week and am utterly amazed by how many people obviously hate their job and, more importantly, appear to hate people as well. Ordering a meal from a fast food restaurant, I didn’t know whether I should laugh, cry or start lecturing the young lady attempting to take my order. She was clearly unconcerned about how I felt about her or if I ever returned to that restaurant again.
A few months ago, I joined a teleconference call hosted by a so-called professional in my industry who makes the big bucks. After a long introduction which included all of his impressive credentials, he had my full attention and admiration. I was taking notes like crazy, so thrilled with the opportunity to gain his insight. And then, with regret in his voice, he decided to tell the listeners that the best way to get into this particular speaking market was to lie on our cover letters. Just lie. Really? Red flags starting flying and the internal dialogue began in my mind…
Was any part of that amazing introduction of yours true? Are you really speaking from experience and giving us valuable insight, or am I now involved in a big marketing scheme designed to convince me to purchase whatever audio or e-book you will surely have for sale at the end of this call. Hang up, Jaclyn.
And so, I did.
If you have a desire to influence the world around you in a positive way, then please — for heaven’s sake — pay attention to what I am about to say. The way you present yourself to the world around you matters. Your attitude, your dress, your behavior, your character, all of it matters.
If you can master the art of proper etiquette, you will set yourself apart from the crowd of rude and crude people. If you can establish a solid personal brand that rings true, you will earn respect and become a person others want to follow. And if you can back up your acts of etiquette and your attempts at creating a personal brand with the aggressive and continual development of genuine character; now that would really be something!
Here are the three layers described, beginning with the most shallow down to the nitty-gritty.
1) Proper Etiquette – Just be nice. For whatever reason, manners have become a lost art. Many people, often it seems those working in public service, are painfully bad at using good manners. I personally thank my mother and Grandma Beverly for teaching me to say “please” and “thank you” and to take turns and to smile and to do my best to make others feel comfortable. And then, I thank Sue Thompson, the author of etiquettedog.com, a blog on the subject. I met Sue years ago at a conference, and when she spoke I realized how true and how important behavior, image and presentation really are, regardless of how we feel about it.
Did you know there is a right way to present your business card, to introduce yourself and others, to write and send e-mails, to eat, to make conversation, to set a table, etc.? Etiquette is not just an art, but a science that yields results. People learn quickly to trust you and your business when you consistently practice proper etiquette. And, the ironic part, since very few people still do, you easily set yourself up as the example.
2) Personal Branding – Who do others think you are? Your personal brand is basically your reputation or what is left in the room when you leave. You can easily determine your current personal brand by asking people what words they would use to describe you. The four or five words you hear most represent your brand. Scary thought? The key to branding is getting people to say about you what you want them to say about you. Now, here is the ironic thing about branding: a few years ago, we wore different faces. At work, we put on our work face and did the work thing. At school, we put on the student face and the two could look very different. For example, someone may have been a real jerk of a student and a great employee. However, technology and this crazy thing called social media has changed all that. You can no longer be different people in one body. (I don’t recommend that anyway. How exhausting.) You are you, period.
People who are business and life savvy, are the same regardless of where they are physically or online. If you want a strong personal brand, the facebook “you” should match the work, student, mom, daughter, church worker, whatever, “you”. As a rule of thumb, especially if you are an entrepreneur, young person or an out-of-a-job person, if you wouldn’t put it on your resume or job application, then don’t put it on the world wide web. Protect your reputation, therby protecting your brand.
P.S. – For years I spoke for Monster.com, and one thing I’ll never forget learning and presenting to students is that employers work really hard and spend a ton of money developing their brand and company image. The last thing they want to do is hire an employee who will taint that image. So, if your image doesn’t really match up with theirs, forget it.
3) Character: who you are when no one is looking. Your personal brand may be who others think you are, but your character reveals the truth about who you are. My pastor recently said, “character is who God and your spouse know you are.” Without solid character, it won’t be long before the truth about how you fake etiquitte and present a fake image will surface.
Remember, you were not born with perfect character. Think about how your sweet little baby decided one day to smack you in the face, and a couple years later lie to you about who put the doll in the toilet. Did you teach them those things? Of course not. We are born messed up. Character must be developed through conscious decision making and action.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a children’s character development book entitled, “Eight Keys to a Better Me.” In the book, eight character traits are listed: Honesty, Respect, Patriotism, Kindness, Courage, Responsibility, Feelings and Self-Worth. While written for children, I realized they still applied to me. Which ones do you truly possess and which ones need some work?
The girl taking my order at Captain D’s severely lacked etiquette, represented the brand of her employer terribly, and therefore, I assumed — right or wrong — she was lacking in character. The “professional” hosting the teleconference clearly knew and applied proper etiquette and was a master at personal branding; I had cleared my calendar for this call and had a credit card ready! However, he lacked character. See, it takes a whole person who is real, authentic and full of purpose to truly make a positive impact.
As the new year approaches, I am taking time to examine myself, again, and see what else needs transformed. I’m re-studying the timeless principles of etiquette, working weekly on establishing a solid personal brand and daily on developing the weaknesses in my character. Transformation is tough.
So, to answer my own question, what is wrong with people?! We don’t want to look in the mirror and examine ourselves. We don’t really want to change because we see don’t want to have to admit we are flawed, wrong, or messed up. We don’t want to say, “I need to change this,” much less actually do it.
Listen — be ye transformed.