"Should I go to business school?" I hear this question all the time. There's not an easy answer as there are so many variables that are unique to each person. But, more and more, I'm giving a simple piece of advice to those who ask. I don't know whether getting an MBA is meant for you, but I can assure you that if you live by these five basic rules of management etiquette, you will succeed in your career, probably beyond your wildest dreams.
In general, I'm not much into etiquette and am a rule-breaker and rebel by nature. But, there's something to be said for common sense when it comes to human nature. So, rather than thinking of this as etiquette, just think of these suggestions as habits that can help you to become more emotionally intelligent and successful.
1. Get an "A" for Attention. The wisdom traditions have long stated that life is all about where you pay your attention. This is true in business as well. Learning to be an intentional listener such that you are truly hearing the other person (rather than just preparing your response) will serve you whether you're in a company with those you work for or with those who work for you. Better yet, be curious about what's the motivation behind what the person is saying. Inquire with a few respectful, but unique questions that help the other person feel they've been heard and that might give them some insight about themselves. Mother Teresa said, "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for." Receiving real attention is what we all starve for.
2. Be Radically Responsive. After two dozen years of being the CEO of a hospitality company with more than a half-million customers staying in our hotels and a million customers eating at our restaurants, I know a bit about fielding complaints calls. Here's my responsiveness rule: within 15-20 minutes after learning of a call, letter, or email that expresses a complaint (this is true for upset employees as well), I respond. Clearly, I may have none of the facts to engage in an extended conversation, but it makes a huge difference if I say (in a few short sentences): "I'm sorry about what happened and let me look into it further and either I or the manager of that business will respond to you within 24 or 48 hours" (depending upon the situation). That potential "terrorist" who was about to spread all kinds of ugly comments about your business on social media sites now feels respected and when you try to come to a resolution in a later conversation, the upset person is in a better frame of mind.
3. Remember the "little" things. When I'm doing emotional intelligence workshops in companies, we do an exercise in which we ask for the qualities that defined people's most and least admired bosses. The most common quality I hear is, "My boss always asked how my son and daughter were doing and he remembered their names." or "I received a nice email early in the morning on my birthday from my boss." What may seem little to you means the world to someone else. There are many methods to keep track of these little things. Just know that this is a BIG thing so you better find the method that helps you to be good at this.
4. Under-promise and Over-deliver. Disappointment = Expectations -- Reality. Whether it's Facebook's IPO nose-dive or that vacation resort that looked so good on the internet but turned out to be a pig sty, we keep a report card in our head of who's delighted us and who's disappointed us. This is particularly true in project-based business environments, especially when there's a domino effect with under-delivering. Again, not delivering on a promise is a different form of disrespect from the perspective of the person who's been disappointed. Lastly, if you know you're going to miss your promise, manage expectations as early as you can in the process because missing the promise and surprising your boss is a combustible combination.
5. Practice Gratitude. Social scientists have found that the fastest way to feel happiness is to practice gratitude. Feeling good about your life, but not expressing a heartfelt "thank you" is like wrapping a gift for someone and never giving it to them. Here are three habits that can make this an on-going, powerful practice in your work life: (a) Make a rule of giving gratitude twice a day at work and if you miss Monday, you need to do four on Tuesday; (b) If possible, express the gratitude in person or in a fashion in which the person can really hear your authentic appreciation; and (c) Be as specific as possible about why this was meaningful to you because just saying "you did a great job" doesn't create a profound moment of learning for the other person.