7 Important Personal Musts in Business and Life

01/06/2014 03:55 pm ET | Updated Mar 08, 2014

For every endeavor, there are basic truths that we need to remember. The more they're embedded in our behavior, the better the results. In business, as in life, our interpersonal actions have consequences...good and bad. Pay attention to the following, and you'll be on very firm ground no matter the circumstances.

1. Be Punctual
Meetings are scheduled with a purpose. The times are set for your mutual convenience and you should religiously respect the value of everyone's time. Tardiness, especially habitual tardiness, communicates a negative about your personality and your level of respect for others. Think I am wrong? Next time someone is late for a meeting with you be aware of what you are thinking of them every time you look at your watch. Being polite, when and if they apologize, does little to wipe away those thoughts.

2. Make Eye Contact
It's imperative that you make eye contact. There's no greater short coming then not being able to look someone in the eye. If that's difficult for you, you need to practice with someone close to you until it becomes second nature. I've never met anyone I wanted to talk to who did not make eye contact. Looking someone in the eye conveys trust worthiness, sincerity, respect. Your eyes are incapable of lying, so I and others want to see them.

3. Develop a Firm Handshake
Men and women, alike, need to have a firm handshake. No wet fish, spongy, soggy, creepy crawly grasps. If that's you, please keep your hand in your pocket. A firm handshake need not be a bone crusher or make someone flinch, but it does have to say
I'm a person of substance, and I think that maybe you are too. It's the point of contact between two human beings and has a true and valuable meaning. Behind eye contact, the handshake is the singularly most important act when meeting a person. Learn this skill.
Look the person in the eye and grasp theirs in a meaningful act. It will solidify the bond and allow for a smooth transition into a real conversation.

4. Stay Clean
This is a civilized world. We bathe, comb our hair, wear clean clothes. There's no excuse for poor hygiene of any kind. Be fastidious about your personal grooming. This applies to all people of all walks of life and occupations, not just business people.
It doesn't matter if you wear designer clothes, if you're model good looking, or have a good physique. You need to be clean.

5. Make a Good First Impression
This is a lesson that was drilled into me by my parents when I was a child. In life we meet people everyday at work, school, play, shopping or just around the yard. Those first meetings set the stage for what will follow. Be alert, engage, use your eye contact and firm handshake and you will be off on the right foot. A first meeting is not the time for being abrupt, dismissive or disrespectful. You truly never really know what the future holds and the role that person will play, so make sure you communicate all that you are.

6. Have a Clear Voice
Unless you have a speech impediment that makes for difficult conversation, you must speak clearly and confidently. No mumbling, no low taking. If you find people asking you to repeat what you're saying, pay attention and remind yourself to raise your volume, slow your cadence and enunciate your words. You cannot hold someone's attention unless you can speak clearly. If you find yourself outside your usual geography, you may have an accent that others find difficult to comprehend. In that case, it's absolutely important to slow your speech and concentrate on articulating clearly.

7. Lose the "Umms and Ahs"
Question: What's missing from the presentations of professional speakers? Answer: "Umm and Ah." Those sounds are tedious and can disrupt a train of thought. They're place holders as your brain works to fill in the pauses, and they're unnecessary. To conquer this affliction, slow down and breathe. Only you perceive that it is taking too long to get the next word out. The listener is much more patient than your brain conceives. So just slow down and watch the "Umms and Ahhs" disappear.

If you would like to read more of Greg's published articles please visit the Lorraine Gregory Communications Group website

This blogger graduated from Goldman Sachs' 10,000 Small Businesses program. Goldman Sachs is a partner of the What Is Working: Small Businesses section.