Setting the Stage in Your Company with Good Communication & Business Etiquette

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Directors, VPs, managers and other business leaders hold the keys to facilitating vital client and partner relationships, and so must present their best possible image and business etiquette skills when dealing with external contacts. Equally as important is for these company leaders to set the stage within their businesses and exhibit the same top-notch communication and conduct with their own employees. This is important not only for individual employee retention and morale, but also to keep the company as a whole running smoothly and cohesively.

Are you a business leader? Take note of these tips to project a top-notch image and facilitate good communication within your company.

  • Schedule occasional “check in” meetings with each individual on your team. Make an effort to connect with each individual in an informal setting (such as a coffee date or lunch), so that they can voice any concerns, discuss their current status, or simply catch up. Your willingness to set aside dedicated time for individuals will show your staff that you value each team member’s contributions and that you treat all levels of employees with the same respect.How often you meet and with whom depends on the size of your company: if you run a smaller organization, be sure to set aside time for everyone from colleagues on the management team to members of the support staff. If you are in a larger company, ensure you connect with everyone within your department, and advise managers of other departments to do the same.
  • Facilitate team-building or strategy exercises.
    With the fast pace of day-to-day obligations and minutiae, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and where the organization is headed. It is up to the company leaders to arrange for the group to take a step back and remind the team of the overall and cohesive objectives of the business. Organizing group sessions that invite all employees to review larger perspectives and long-term strategies are beneficial for keeping the team on the same path.Team-building activities unrelated to business objectives are also advantageous; fun and casual sessions that sharpen collaborative skills will be a refreshing exercise to most employees. Also, this will once again positively display your willingness as a manager to take extra time to focus on staff development and morale.
  • Invite anonymous feedback and criticism.
    Even providing the option for members of staff to voice their criticism shows that you are willing to grow and change as a leader to fit your employees’ needs. Staff will appreciate your readiness to listen and to incorporate feedback, whether or not they have any criticism of your management style.
  • Set an example with your best professional image.
    As a business leader, you must project the best professional image, not only to represent your own and your company’s professionalism, but also to set the tone and expectations for your own employees.A refined image will demonstrate to your staff that you are a serious, hardworking and confident leader. It will also encourage them to follow the same level of professionalism, so that your whole team represents the caliber of your company as you define it.

 

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Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business

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In a humorous and insightful essay in last weekend’s issue of the Globe and Mail, Katrina Onstad analyzes today’s growing disappearance of eye contact, which she cites as “the most potent tool of body language.” This essay struck a note with me, particularly because eye contact is so critical for effective communication and engagement in business, not just in social life. Likewise, knowledge of how to use devices respectfully, especially smart phones, is also very important – and, as Onstad notes, is a central reason for the current absence of eye contact and therefore engaged communication. Her concept, put in a business perspective, could help you keep on top of your game in business communication.

 

Engaged Speaking and Listening

As we have shared in another recent blog post on body language tips, body language can help to make or break your career. And as eye contact is a significant component of body language, it certainly carries weight in your career-related interactions.

In one-on-one situations, eye contact demonstrates to the other person in the conversation that you are interested in what they have to say. As your posture and gestures can reflect boredom or disengagement, a lack of eye contact will make this painfully obvious. As you will see in my earlier post, if what you say is not congruent with your body language, then people will believe your body language and not your words.

Eye contact is necessary during individual conversations. A less obvious context but equally as important for good eye contact is during public speaking or talking to a group. Effective public speakers scan the audience during a talk, maintaining eye contact with listeners in the crowd. When up onstage, keep in mind not to focus on one person the whole time, but move your eyes throughout the crowd. This will make the listeners feel like you are speaking directly to them as individuals, and will keep them engaged throughout the duration of your speech.

Likewise, even in a more casual context of a group or staff meeting, be sure to allow your eyes to move from person to person. Again, this will create the effect that you are speaking to them instead of at them.

 

Focus on the Conversation

Another component of Onstad’s essay that is both inseparable and foundational to her argument for sustaining eye contact is the argument that our devices – most notably, our cell phones – are making us less engaged with those around us. This concept is also important to keep in mind in a business setting, whether we are interacting on a daily basis with a colleague or trying to impress a client.

 

Cell Phones in Meetings

Often in day-to-day meetings, it is considered acceptable to have a smart phone or laptop present, as the rest of the workday continues and people need to keep on top of their tasks and emails. Nevertheless, try to check emails minimally, and don’t have a phone sitting right in front of you – or else you will be tempted to pick it up every time you receive an email. In doing so, you will be removing yourself from the discussion or blatantly disregarding what someone is saying.

It is for this reason that many companies have established a “no devices” policy during certain meetings, notably during staff meetings that occur only once per week or month. Otherwise, members present risk being distracted by other work.

During important and less frequent meetings, such as those with external clients or guests, no devices should be present. Keeping preoccupied with one would not only reflect poorly on you, but also on your company. If your ringer goes off during such a meeting, turn off the phone without checking to see who is calling and apologize after the meeting.

Cell Phones at the Dinner Table

Though phones and other devices are often acceptable in meetings, it is never appropriate to keep one on the table (or on your lap) during a meal. Again, if you are out on a business lunch with a client or a company guest, bad business etiquette becomes a poor representation of your company.

While cell phones on the dinner table are inappropriate, it is equally unacceptable to try to use a phone discreetly – due to the reality that it simply won’t be discreet. In her essay, Onstad describes a situation that happens all too frequently:

You are mid-sentence and suddenly the listener’s eyes slide southward to her own hand or the table or her lap. Whether she glances back immediately or – and this hurts – begins pecking away at whatever device proved more important than the final part of your sentence, the moment of connection that came before has snapped like a twig.

In business, moments like these are not only rude, but they can also be destructive to your credibility.

In daily life, remembering to put down our devices and make eye contact is important if we want to actively engage with our surroundings and with the people around us. In business, doing just that is crucial to effective communication, to displaying the best level of professionalism, and ultimately to advancing your career.

 

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Have Good Manners and “Respect” Disappeared in 2012?

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There’s no doubt that our society today is very different from what it was a few decades ago. But has “respect” disappeared from our society? Watch a recent CBS news report to find out what people are saying about good manners:

Respect and good manners never go out of style. No matter where in the world you might live; we all want to be treated with respect. If you think about it, etiquette is nothing but respect – Respect for others in the way you treat them in business or at the job, while travelling or at the dinner table; and it’s also respect for yourself – how you look and feel, how you dress and how you present yourself in front of the world.

Corporate Class Inc.’s etiquette classes in Toronto teach you that the first step to receiving respect is to give respect.

Find out more about our various etiquette classes in Toronto including:

To get more information about etiquette classes in Toronto and how they can deliver measurable benefit to your organization, contact Diane Craig.

 

Workplace Etiquette Tips for Managers and Employees

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If you’re part of the corporate culture and only do your job as per what your “job description” states that might be holding you back.

Whether you like it or not, common courtesy is still important in the workplace no matter what position you hold. In fact, proper workplace etiquette can be one of the deciding factors in getting ahead at work.

Why? Because the way you’re perceived by others matters. Bagging a promotion takes more than just how well you do your job. It relies on a number of different factors including how visible you are in the workplace, your executive presence, how much influence you have, the risks and responsibilities you’re willing to take on and the workplace etiquette you display.

According to a recent post in News Sentinel, learning the “corporate culture” in your office is important. Here are a few workplace etiquette tips the post offers:

•Be respectful of people at every level in the workplace. Position, money and power are not the hallmarks of a considerate person. It is the way you treat people that sets you apart. It takes a team to make an organization work. The people at the top would not be there without those working under them. There are no small jobs.

•Do your share; refill the paper in the fax machine and copier, make coffee if you have the last cup, bring the treats occasionally etc. Anticipate what may be needed and do more.

•When conflict arises, go to the source and try to work out the problem. Do not be accusatory, and be sure you listen to the other side. And if you are at fault, own your mistake. Control your temper. Angry people are less effective; walk away and cool off.

•Keep work problems at work. Discussing work problems outside of work may be a violation of confidentiality and looks and sounds bad in a public setting. You never know who may be listening. It can also undermine the integrity of the organization, and it is unprofessional.

•Be sure to keep confidences. It is admirable and it is important. If someone shares information that is sensitive or personal, keep it to yourself. Don’t become the office gossip.

•Have regular team meetings and ask everyone to participate in resolving an office problem. This can help get people on board and hopefully realize that everyone plays a part in making things going smoothly.

At Corporate Class Inc. we’ve helped many corporations instill workplace etiquette in the corporate environment. In our exclusive workplace etiquette workshop your people will learn:

  • The importance of understanding your corporate culture
  • To plan, lead and attend meetings with maximum productivity
  • To receive clients with class and courtesy
  • The rules of conduct when visiting a client
  • Tips to help you acknowledge the efforts and achievements of your colleagues
  • The unspoken rules of work

Contact Toronto etiquette expert, Diane Craig to find out more!

 

 

Protect (and Polish!) Your Online Presence

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“If I post on my personal social media site, my boss won’t see it, right?” Wrong. If your name and face is somewhere on the Internet, anyone and everyone will be able to access it. There are countless situations in which an inappropriate posting, email, comment or photo has backfired on someone and they have lost a job opportunity or gotten in serious trouble because of it. Don’t let this happen to you: protect your online reputation. And, while you’re at it, take extra steps to polish your online presence – because, inevitably, a professional connection will find you on the Internet.


Survey what’s already out there.
The first step is to find out what already exists, and how easily searchable this information is. Google your name – and check out both the web search and the image search. You may come across old information or photos that you didn’t even know still existed, and will give you a sense of what needs to be cleaned up. It will also show you what appears first in a search. Making sure your search results reveal professional behaviour is crucial: according to this Mashable infographic, 78% of recruiters check search engines to find out more about potential employees.


Adjust your Facebook privacy settings and monitor what you share.
Never, ever post any inappropriate photos or status updates on Facebook – especially those referring to illicit behaviour. This is one of the most destructive things you can do to your online reputation.

Even if you’re grown up enough now to post judiciously, there may be some unflattering photos from university days still floating around on your Facebook page. In this case, set your privacy settings so that only you or certain close friends can view your photos (even colleagues can be Facebook “friends,” so don’t be misled by clicking “friends only” viewing). This is also a good idea for future protection; after all, friends won’t ask your permission to post every photo of you that they upload on Facebook.


Tweet positively.
Whereas photos are the key representation of you on Facebook, your words are what really matter on Twitter. Again, any inappropriate language or illicit content in tweets are a definite no. Also, even if your tweets are clean, try to maintain a positive attitude in what you post. If a potential boss sees a string of complaints on your Twitter feed, they might assume you’ll bring a negative attitude into the workplace, too.


Emails aren’t private.
Any email communications you have with colleagues should be kept strictly professional.  Remember, anything that you write can be forwarded to the wrong person with the click of a button – confidentiality disclaimers aside. If the content of your email is inappropriate – for example, gossip about another co-worker or complaints about a boss – this can lead to some very awkward situations. If you encounter a situation that would merit a complaint about someone, skip the email entirely and address the problem directly with the appropriate person.


Focus on your LinkedIn profile.
Work on polishing your LinkedIn profile. This is a professional social networking site, which means it is guaranteed (and encouraged) that business contacts will be viewing it. Make sure your work history, current position, marketable skills and personal information are up to date. The more active your LinkedIn profile, the more likely it is to climb to the top of a search engine’s results list. And that’s the kind of information you want an employer to see.

 

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Dining Etiquette in China – 10 Must-Know Tips for Business Travelers

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dining etiquette in chinaAs the world grows smaller, you may find yourself travelling from one major city to another for business. If you’re a leading executive you know that major business deals are signed not only in the boardroom, but at the golf course and the dining table. With that being said, international business etiquette, including dining etiquette plays a major role when it comes to conducting business successfully in foreign nations.

Did you know that there are thousands of people who travel to China every year for business? No matter where you travel, being sensitive of other cultures and learning the codes of how locals conduct themselves can earn you valuable points. The Chinese take their food seriously. Contrary to Western dining, dining etiquette in China involves sharing food from common bowls.

If you’re travelling to China to sign a major corporate business deal, pay heed to these top 10 dining etiquette rules by Sally Huang, who hails from Guangzhou, China, before you head out to your next Chinese business dinner:

1. Attend the formal business dinner punctual in formal suits. It is better to bring some small gifts or good win per status of the relationship with the host.

2. Take appropriate seat as they are usually arranged according to seniority. If you are not sure about it, ask the host or wait and see how others take seats.

3. Don’t be surprised if your host orders more food than you can have as it is usually the way Chinese show their hospitality. Moreover, it is a way to show their “Mian zi”, namely face in English as Chinese attach great importance to mianzi.

To reiterate it further, Mianzi, or “face” in English, can loosely be translated to “status” or “self-respect”. A huge part of Chinese social etiquette, having “face” means you are viewed as someone who is respected by your peers, superiors and subordinates. Mianzi can also be understood as the avoidance of embarrassment in front of others.

4. Don’t point your chopsticks directly at others or straight upright in your rice bowl as it resembles the incense burnt at funerals.

5. Don’t slurp your soup loudly at the dinner table as it is considered as impolite.

6. Take food first from the plates in front of you rather than those in the middle or in front of others. Avoid using your chopsticks burrowing through the food and gazing your eyes to the plates as it is thought as bad table manners.

7. Use a spoon that no one has used before to take food from communal plates for yourself or others even though it is common in China that in family gathering or company gathering, people use their own chopsticks to get food.

8. When adding rice to your bowl, it is polite to take initiative to fill the bowls of the elders and others.

9. Drinking bear is a core process. If you are toasting with others, usually it is expressed with the words “Gan bei”, which is denoted as “Cheers” in English, mainly bottoms up or empty your glass. It is not necessary to empty your glass, but to leave a good impression, it would be good to do it or bring someone who can drink on your part.

10. It is usually the host who pays for the bill excluding informal gatherings among friends and other similar occasions. However, in Chinese custom, it is polite to make an effort to pay, that’s the reason why it is common to see some Chinese fighting fierce for the right to pay.

Learning about dining etiquette in China or any other country can give you a major advantage in procuring the deal, especially if you’re competing with other firms.

Talk to Diane Craig before you head out to foreign lands to procure your next business deal. Her international etiquette tips might just be the difference between returning with your head held high – or down.

 

International Business Etiquette – Top 6 Tips for Business Travelers

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Travelling abroad for a business trip? You might feel overwhelmed when it comes to practicing international business etiquetteor settling in and adjusting to local customs. But, don’t fret – just yet.

Travelling globally for business can actually be a rewarding experience if you’re open to learning about the traditions and practices of the country you’re visiting. In fact, showing enthusiasm and interest in your host country’s culture can actually be very good for business.

Here are top six tips offered by Fox Business, to help you adjust to a new country and come away with the business deal you want:

Observe
The best way to adjust to a new culture during business is simply through observation. Patrick Gray, president of the Prevoyance Group, has lived and worked across numerous continents.He suggested, “Watch how others dress, greet each other and interact with other locals.”

Local customs are often formed over many generations so you will certainly make mistakes. As long as you’re a conscious observer, people will know you’re trying and forgive the occasional (and inevitable) missteps.

Practice business etiquette
When you travel for pleasure, you don’t just represent yourself. You become an ambassador for your country and your company. Therefore, proper etiquette should be at the forefront of your mind. This means wearing the proper attire, being punctual and not being distracted by your smartphone when in the presence of an important business associate.

Learn about the country
Since the United States’ culture and politics reach many corners of the globe, chances are that the people you encounter on your business trip will know the name of our president, have an opinion on government and may even have a favorite American television show. You cannot be an expert on every country (nor should you pretend to be), but you should research the country to develop a basic understanding. This simple gesture will communicate that you are an open-minded individual who thinks globally.

Research differences in manners
You shouldn’t just learn about the country in general. You should also research how you should operate in the culture specifically. You are, after all, a visitor and should extend respect, as your host country conceives of it. Just a little research can go a long way in learning what your host country thinks is and is not appropriate.

Think beyond your way 
Doing business in a different country can be frustrating because you may perceive flaws in the way they execute their business affairs, just as they may perceive flaws in the way you execute your business affairs. Sometimes there are preferred methods for a particular task, but the optimal approach to a specific business maneuver won’t exclusively exist in one country or the other. This is where both cultures can learn from the other. However, since you are a guest in their country, adopt their business manners, at least at first. Enter the culture from a position of humility.

Deal with culture shock
For extended business trips, you may experience culture shock, which often manifests itself in different phases: honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and acclimation.

During the honeymoon phase, you might see the new culture in a romantic light. The negotiation phase (which can begin after about three months) is when you start to sense the differences between your home culture with your new location in a way that creates anxiety or loneliness. During the adjustment phase (which can last as long as a year, if not longer) you slowly start to feel as if your new culture is normal and any negative feelings may decline. If you reach the acclimation phase, you will feel comfortable and sense that you can be a full participant in the new culture.

While going through the sadder, more difficult phases of culture shock, remember not to take out your frustration on any business clients. On the other hand, when you feel enthusiastic for their culture, feel free to share this with them.

Corporate Class Inc.’s International Business Etiquette module presents essential techniques and strategies for doing business with international clients. The program consists of  four linked modules:

1. Understanding cultural differences Be able to recognize the main stumbling blocks facing North Americans abroad. Assess your ability to adapt to another culture and be aware of the dangers of stereotyping.

2. Become familiar with the different categories of culture Become acquainted with how people from different parts of the world value hierarchy, status, performance, legal agreements, scheduling, deadlines, business relationships and personal ownership.

3. Learn different communication styles Assess your own communication skills in personal meetings. Learn the main communication differences: context, styles, intonation, space, gestures and humour. We will offer guidance showing you how you can enrich your communication with international counterparts.

4. Excel in international business interactions Learn the business etiquette of your target country. These include forms of address, introductions, body language, handshaking customs, business card exchanges, appropriate conversation, gift giving and dining.

If you want to land your next business deal abroad, learning  proper international business etiquette is essential. Contact Diane and get started today!

 

The Benefits of Corporate Volunteering

Other than quick morning greetings or lunchtime conversations, how do you connect with your employees or colleagues on a personal level? A few days throughout the year dedicated to team-building activities or corporate outings provide an excellent context for developing relationships within your company. One activity in particular is gaining momentum: corporate volunteering. As companies are seeking ways to invest in charitable causes and to establish corporate social responsibility, corporate volunteering provides a way to integrate these goals with facilitating employee relationships. The benefits to these volunteer projects are multi-layered: the positive effects that start within your company reach outward to your community presence, your impression on investors and shareholders, and your corporate image.

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Dining Etiquette Matters – Eating Your Way to Success

Don’t eat another important business meal without reading this first!

Let’s take three scenarios. An international client is visiting and you have a lunch meeting. A potential commercial partner suggests you go out for dinner. You are attending your first corporate annual holiday banquet.

You are confidant, charming, sharp and dressed for success. But what about your table manners? Place your fork the wrong way and your international client is not impressed. Eat the bread of your potential partner’s plate and she starts to question your judgement. Argue with the waiter and your colleagues think you can be a real jerk. In today’s climate of rising globalism, dining etiquette can make or break your success.

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