In Honour of National Etiquette Week – Back To The Basics

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This week, America is celebrating National Etiquette Week, which is a national recognition of etiquette and protocol in all areas of day-to-day life, including business, social, dining, travel, technology, and international protocol. There are various events being held across the country, but the focus is to raise awareness about etiquette and to encourage people to act with courtesy,
respect and dignity.

Unfortunately, Canada does not have an equivalent to National Etiquette Week, however that does not mean we can’t celebrate alongside our neighbors to the south! In honour of National Etiquette Week, this post will offer some back-to-the-basics reminders of a few very fundamental aspects of etiquette – the things we often forget or don’t deem necessary, but are in fact the building blocks of etiquette, and the foundation of our EP.

A few simple reminders:

  1. Handshakes: handshakes are often the first point of physical contact between you and a colleague or someone you’re meeting for the first time, and therefore they are of crucial importance. Remember to always offer your hand right away as a gesture of respect and acknowledgement. It is important to shake the other person’s hand firmly and to make full contact with their hand (no half handshakes, please!). Your handshake says a lot about you, so practice it with friends or colleagues.
  2. The dining table: of course there is enough here for many blog posts, however I will touch upon a few basics, things we may often forget are important. Never begin eating your meal until the host has started eating theirs; that is your cue to begin. This may go without saying, but no elbows on the table! Not only is it rude, but it also gives the impression that you have bad posture. Perhaps most importantly, don’t ever chew with your mouth open, no matter how informal the meal. It is rude, lazy, and not very appetizing! Lastly, don’t forget to place your knife and fork in the proper finishing position: knife on the right, blade facing in, and fork on the left, in a 10 and 4 position.
  3. Eye contact: one might not initially think that eye contact has much to do with etiquette at all, on the contrary, it has everything to do with it. When you hold eye contact with someone who’s talking, you are actually showing him or her that you are listening and paying attention. It shows respect, awareness, and that you’re interested in what they have to say. The same is true the other way around; if you are speaking, hold eye contact with your audience, no matter how big or small, as it shows that you care about what you’re talking about, and it will help engage your audience so that they begin to care as well.

National Etiquette Week should be celebrated everywhere; etiquette possess no boundaries. Take this week and challenge yourself to pay attention to your manners, etiquette, and overall presence. Don’t forget the little things, because it is those little things, such as basic table manners, which truly speak to your Executive Presence.



The (Often Dreaded) Conference Call: Survival Tips and Tricks

Conference calls are often an inevitable part of any major company’s management system, and they are, more often than not, a dreaded exercise for those involved. We live in an age where we expect instant gratification and in which we’ve developed short attention spans; we anticipate our questions being answered immediately, we expect those to whom we’re talking to listen effectively and react accordingly, and we hope (and often expect) that our problems will be solved promptly. This is due, in large part, to the age of technology. Technology, such as email, text messages and Internet on-the-go, has led to this sense of entitlement, this desire for instantaneity. During a conference call, the likelihood of instant gratification is slim, and your full attention is required to get the most out of the call. It is imperative that you take this into account and adjust your behaviour accordingly in order to protect your EP (executive presence).

conference call        The reason why instant gratification is unlikely during a conference call is simply due to the amount of people on the phone at the same time; there are many opinions on the line, many voices to be heard, and many questions to be asked and answered. Our egos can often get in the way and we may abandon what we know to be good, professional behaviour in order to get our thoughts heard. We may also think that our EP is protected because our colleagues can’t see our face, but that is not the case.

Of course, every conference call has a different purpose, however there are some simple tips and tricks that can help you make it through your conference call, all while protecting, and perhaps even enhancing, your EP.

Conference call tips and tricks:

  1. Keep excellent track of conference call dates and times, as missing a call due to disorganization definitely doesn’t enhance your EP. It is also often a good idea to call in a few minutes early to ensure you will be on time.
  2. Eliminate background noise! There is enough going on over the phone already without the need for those on the call to hear your Starbucks barista grinding coffee beans for ten minutes.
  3. Remember, you can’t read body language over the phone. That’s why it’s so important that you ask for clarification if you’re not sure what a colleague meant. We can often tell, by a person’s body language, if what they are saying is positive, negative, or neutral (or something else for that matter), but this gift is not available to us over the phone.
  4. It is important to always state your name before speaking. Because all attendees are not in the same room together, it is important for the effectiveness of the call that all members know who is speaking.
  5. Wait your turn to speak. Interrupting someone mid-sentence can be perceived as a huge EP blunder.
  6. If, however, you feel it necessary to interject because you have something integral to add, it is important, to protect your EP as well as your colleagues confidence and ego, to bring the conversation back to what they were saying before you broke into the conversation.

It can often be harder to protect and enhance your EP over the phone, mostly due to the lack of visual cues that are so integral to thorough and complete communication. That is why it is imperative that you take the necessary steps to adopting proper conference call etiquette – these manners and communication skills will serve you well over the course of your career, and can often translate into the physical workspace.


Complaining with Grace

complaints-buttonIt is important to be able to voice your opinion when issues or concerns arise. The main point to consider here is how you deliver your opinion or complaint. On one hand, a complaint can be constructive and help to solve a problem. But when poorly executed, a complaint can damage relationships, create tension, and reflect negatively on the person behind the opinion.


Here are some points to consider before lodging a complaint of your own.

Complaining on the Internet

  • Social Media
    If you are ready to launch into a tirade on a public forum on the web through a LinkedIn post, a tweet, or a Facebook status update, consider your motives first. Will a public complaint on social media reach its intended ears and solve the issue that bothers you? Or are you simply venting frustration, sending out your woes to anyone who will listen – whether or not they are your intended audience?

    Posting general complaints on social media always have the latter effect. This approach could lead to an array of negative impacts on the individual who posts directionless and unfiltered complaints. With such a wide audience, there are bound to be users who will see such thoughtless complaining as poor form. This will hinder the reputation of the individual who launched the criticism.

    Further, venting online means that other users in the future can see this negative attitude broadcast on social media. If this happens to be a prospective client or employer who hopes to connect with a positive, constructive individual, it could damage chances of future business or employment.

  • Private Email to Appropriate Contact
    If you hope to solve an issue using the Internet, an email to the right contact – whether that is the person at the root of the problem or an appropriate intermediary, like the HR department – is the safest way to go. Keep in mind, however, that an email also is never a completely private forum, as it can be forwarded, printed, or made public. In this case, write an email using facts – not feelings – to describe the issue, and send it with a goal in mind. Problem solving, not venting, is the objective.

Complaining in the Office

  • Loud Tirades in Public Spaces
    Just like posting woes recklessly on social media, loudly expressing frustration in an open area of the office or another public space will never have a constructive effect. This is a monologue that others will inevitably overhear – whether or not a complainer can see them in the vicinity.

    Especially if a complaint is about a person or a group of people, this usually will be perceived as gossip. This type of information is much more sensitive than technical or operational issues, as others’ feelings and reputations are at stake. If you have a complaint about an individual’s conduct or behaviour, do not express it in an open space for others to hear.

  • Private Meetings
    Instead of a monologue toward anyone who will listen, opt for a dialogue. Meet privately with the individual who is at the root of the issue. It also helps to have an unbiased third party, such as an HR professional, who can mediate the conversation and ensure that it does not escalate into petty arguing.

Even if someone or something distresses you, remember that how you express your frustration always reflects back on you. Protect your reputation and complain with grace.

Internal Communication and Respect: Just as Important As External Relations

article-new-thumbnail_ehow_images_a01_ur_gr_win-employees-respect-800x800Have you ever been to a shop or a restaurant and spoken with a friendly, helpful manager – only to watch that manager turn around and speak rudely to his or her employees? At that moment, did the store or restaurant suddenly lose its credibility? Think about this situation and apply it to your own company: does your organization respect its employees as much as its external clients and partners?

Even for companies that prioritize customer service and external relations, it is essential to foster positive internal communication and respect for employees. Without a strong internal foundation, external relations can’t follow suit – and external contacts will notice fissures in an organization that has weak internal relations. Also, an organization likely will have less focus and lower quality outputs if internal staff does not communicate well or feel appreciated.

Here are a few strategies to consider for improving your company’s internal communication:

  • Invite different forms of communication.
    While certain employees might feel that a face-to-face discussion is the most effective way to communicate, others may be more comfortable with email correspondence. As management, suggest different forms of communication through which employees can reach you or their supervisors directly. In addition, resources such as staff-wide forums (online or in-person) or informal monthly gatherings keep multiple communication channels open – and set the tone for a culture of communication.
  • Provide clear solutions for problem solving.
    It is important for employees to know where to go or whom to speak with when issues arise in the office. Otherwise, small problems occasionally can grow into job-threatening issues. The most obvious solution is having a strong and approachable Human Resources department. Ensure that HR employees are at the top of their game through professional development training and conference opportunities
  • Promote interdepartmental communication.
    In most companies, various departments rely on one another to complete their own work, whether directly or indirectly. However, many departments end up working in silos with little to no understanding of the objectives of other teams in the same company – even those working right down the hallway. Through team-building solutions and company-wide events, promote interdepartmental communication.

    It is important for staff to understand how their work fits within the work of the whole company as well as how it contributes to the efforts of others. With a better collective understanding of the overarching institutional objectives and strategies, employees will be able to pinpoint how their work contributes to the company as a whole – thereby finding more meaning in their own work.

  • As management, find ways to respond to employees directly.
    Simply because of the overwhelming number of responsibilities for executive-level staff, it is often necessary for an assistant to respond to emails and manage the bulk of the communications. Occasionally, however, it is important for employees to be able to reach company leaders directly. Employees should know that upper management is aware of the work and that it matters to the success of the company. Even a brief encouraging email to a department or an acknowledgment on a first-name basis can make a difference.



The Art of Business Cards

Business cardWe have discussed business cards previously on the blog, asking whether the traditional card is on its way out in this digital age. While there certainly are many digital counterparts to the classic card, the truth is that physical business cards are still a very prominent part of contemporary business exchanges. In this blog post, we will address the art of the business card: from the card itself to the protocol of exchanging them.

The Look and Feel of a Business Card
The appearance of your business card matters greatly. Just like your own professional image, it can make or break a great first impression.

  • If your business card reflects your role within your company, the design of your card is more or less out of your hands. It should reflect the brand guidelines of your organization. Make sure that you know who organizes business card production in your company, so that you can let them know when you are running low on your supply.
  • If you have a personally branded card – whether you are a consultant, business owner, or prospective professional – ensure that the design looks professional.
  • The text should be in a legible font and size, properly justified to the card dimensions. Treat your own brand like that of a company: have clearly outlined brand guidelines that define the colour, font, sizing, and possible logo for all of your materials, including your cards, letterhead, and PowerPoint template.
  • If you do not have the skills or supplies at home to produce your own cards, have your business cards professionally printed and cut. Your card may look amateur if you do not have the know-how to create a crisp, clean cut. Choose a paper with a heavier weight, so that the card is sturdy and does not appear flimsy when held against other cards.
  • Match the design of your business card to the personality of your industry. Are you a graphic designer? Ensure that your card reflects your creativity and design expertise. Are you a Certified General Accountant? Then perhaps you may choose a simpler colour scheme or design concept.

The Art of the Exchange
Exchanging business cards is still an important step in forming a business relationship, and it is essential that you demonstrate Executive Presence when exchanging cards with someone.

  • In our new Introduction to Executive Presence Video Series, we outline several do’s and don’ts of how to exchange business cards properly.

    You can also watch the video here. Some of the finer points include:

  • Carry your business cards in a nice cardholder. This will prevent the cards from becoming dog-eared in your pocket or wallet. Also, when someone gives you his or her card, put it into your cardholder as well. They will notice you treating their card with respect and retaining it for future reference.
  • When someone gives you a card, be sure to take a brief moment to look at it before putting it away. Make this step easier for the other person by presenting your card face-up.
  • As you present your card, don’t rush. Carefully take the card out of the holder and present it with measured movements.

Outstanding Professional Skills Training for Graduate Students & Post-Doctoral Fellows

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.46.24 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.45.12 PMPost-graduate studies can provide an in-depth knowledge and expertise in a particular field. In any field, however, there is one common set of skills necessary for success: professional skills. Yet in many academic programs, there are few opportunities to refine these skills or enhance students’ abilities outside of the program requirements.

This is where the Mitacs Step program makes a difference. Mitacs Step provides professional skills development workshops for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows across Canada. The free workshops offered by Mitacs Step give students a competitive advantage as they launch their careers and enhance skills that will be necessary for a lifetime. Here at Corporate Class Inc., we excited to be part of this exceptional and accessible programming with our Business Etiquette and Networking Skills workshops in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

How Mitacs Step Lends a Competitive Advantage
The Mitacs Step program aims to build competencies for graduate and post-graduate students in four key areas that are recognized as essential for professional success. All of the Mitacs Step workshops address at least one of the following competencies; some address all four:

  • Leadership & Management
    From “big picture” management issues (such as influencing future outcomes, risks and impacts) to day-to-day organizational processes (such as planning, budgeting and performance management), participants learn skills necessary to lead and manage people and projects.
  • Communication & Relationship Building
    Working with people – and doing it well – is essential to success. Mitacs Step helps participants assess situations and communicate solutions, while fostering collaborative environments and offering constructive feedback to a team.
  • Personal & Professional Management
    For individual success, Mitacs Step aims to help students find self-management techniques to achieve their career and personal goals.

  • Entrepreneurialism
    Participants are encouraged to identify professional surroundings as a professional marketplace – then acquire the tools to take advantage of opportunities within that marketplace.

To address these four competencies, Mitacs Step offers a range of workshops that are hands-on and interactive and help students apply these skills to both academic and non-academic settings. Further, the workshops provide access to networking opportunities and industry expertise.

Corporate Class Inc. in the Mitacs Step Program
We are excited to be part of the Mitacs Step programming. With sessions on both Business Etiquette and Networking Skills, our team connects with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in universities across Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

  • Business Etiquette: This full-day workshop aims to increase awareness of how one’s actions and behaviours matter in building personal and professional relationships and reputation. The session begins with an overview on business etiquette. It then discusses the role of business etiquette in and out of the workplace environment, using technology appropriately, running and participating in effective meetings, and personal appearance.

    Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.

  • Networking Skills: In the full-day Networking Skills session, participants gain insight on how to build and sustain professional relationships through effective networking. Participants then have the opportunity to try out the skills learned during the workshop during an in-session networking opportunity.

Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.

We look forward to meeting you at one of the upcoming Mitacs Step workshops. For extraordinary skill development for emerging Canadian professionals, find a workshop here or share this link with a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow today!