Business development is about relationships, first and foremost. What goes around comes around. Treat people right or pay the consequences in missed opportunities, broken relationships, burned bridges, and bad word of mouth.
Reputation is complicated –it reflects people’s perceptions (sometimes inaccurate) of your expertise, integrity, influence, judgment, reliability, work ethic, breeding and character, among other things. A good one, once earned, is priceless; a bad one is very very difficult to live down.
Today’s Topic is Courtesy: A Few Simple Rules, Easily Observed, Easily Broken
Authentic courtesy is impressive. It is remembered. It shows more than the quality of your upbringing. It suggests self-confidence, integrity, humility, maturity and good sense. And it is one of the things that makes people enjoy your company.
Discourtesy, whether intentional or unintentional, will eventually be interpreted (and, only if you’re lucky, excused) by colleagues, staff, adversaries, friends and other members of your existing or hoped for network as thoughtless, lazy, cocky, scatter-brained, mediocre, immature or just plain stupid.
Once you make your mark and build a large and highly profitable client base–i.e., once you have influence and power in your firm and community– you might have the luxury of reverting to childishly rude and thoughtless behavior, if that grabs you. But now is not the time to be careless with your career. (That’s a sloth in the photo, by the way. You know who you are!)
A few specifics below. If these don’t come naturally to you now, take a moment to pull yourself together. Then start over–you probably have some work to do on your reputation.
- Return phone calls and respond to emails before the end of each day. I cannot emphasize this enough. Ignore emails–no matter the source (short of spam), at your peril.
- RSVP promptly to invitations and respond to reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) requests. Do not be the slacker. (Millennials: Don’t live up to the generational stereotypes.) Do not make people chase you down.
- Respect deadlines. If you think you’re going to miss one, provide ample warning and a revised commitment.
- If you must triage calls and emails, do so with caution. Clients (including the partners you work for) obviously come first. But everyone should be treated with courtesy–and that very much includes staff.
- If you’re participating in a social media business community, observe the rules of etiquette, and treat people with respect, even warmth–if this fits your personality. (On Twitter, for example: Pay it forward. Retweet, follow, favorite, attribute and acknowledge, thank RTs and #FollowFriday. Keep self-promotion to a minimum. On LinkedIn and, if used for relationship building, Facebook the “rules” are similar. Recognize the efforts and accomplishments of others by way of likes or comments. Share the work and opinions of others where appropriate. Always attribute and acknowledge. Treat Connection and Friend requests with courtesy.)
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