Now, I’m not a business management consultant, so I don’t know everything about business, but I have worked in the business world now for around 35 years and over that time a lot has changed (I’m starting to sound like a Senior Citizen reminiscing about ‘the good old days’) but one thing that shouldn’t have changed is Business Etiquette.
Here’s MY take on how businesses that I’ve seen goof up by simply not following good business etiquette:
1) When you have a meeting, it has to have a purpose.
So many times I’ve gone into a meeting, or worse, come out of a meeting, and been befuddled about what the purpose was. Make sure people know WHY they are there and what the expected outcome of the meeting really is.
Too often I’ve seen meeting where the purpose is “to discuss problem ‘X'” and that’s all we do is discuss. No outcome. No resolution. No actions. Basically a gripe session.
If you’re having a meeting and you’re expecting something out of the meeting (a decision, a plan of action, a better understanding, or even a celebration), make sure your participants know what the purpose is before they get there and make sure you’ve accomplished the purpose by the end of the meeting.
2) When you have a meeting, invite the right people.
There is nothing worse than sitting in on a meeting and finding out that no one invited “Bob” when “Bob” is the one who either a) knows what’s going, on or b) is the one who ultimately has to decide/approve. So many times I’ve sat in meetings when someone says, “Oh, Sally knows all about that. We’ll need to run this by her before we can go ahead.” Then why wasn’t Sally invited to the meeting?!? We now have a perfect case of a meeting where the purpose CAN’T be fulfilled without another meeting!!!
The other things about inviting the right people is to make sure you invite the people who have the most knowledge and/or experience with this kind of thing. There’s not much worse than having a meeting to pool your ignorance when you have other people who weren’t invited but could probably tell you exactly what to do, unless you invite the knowledgeable people and then don’t….
3) When you have a problem, listen to the experts.
I’m a consultant. I’m paid to give advice. I’m considered to be an expert. If I don’t know the answer, we call in other experts to help out and advise. Clients pay big bucks to hear my advice and the advice of other consultants.
But there is nothing more frustrating being in a meeting where you listen to the outside experts (not me, as I don’t want you to get the idea that I think my information is perfect) and after the expert has been brought up to speed on the issue, done his analysis of the situation, and made recommendations on the next course of action, the other meeting attendees ignore everything that’s been said and follow their own path. Why did you waste our time doing the analysis and making the recommendations, if you’d already made up your mind about what you were going to do?
Oh well, it’s your system, and your money, and we’ll be happy to advise you again when your path fails. (And hopefully I’ll be able to suck back in the “I told you so” before it leaves my lips or fingers.)
4) Emails should be short and sweet…
… but not so short we have no idea what you’re talking about.
When you’re composing an email, make sure it’s short and to the point. I read somewhere that you should put the purpose of your email in the first paragraph and then if necessary, explain the details after. It totally makes sense to me. Most people (myself included) get WAY too many emails from all sorts of sources and so most of the day seems to be spent ‘skimming’ emails, rather than reading them in detail. It’s usually a case that there are just WAY too many details in there that I probably don’t really care about. I want to know WHY you’re sending me this email, and what you want me to do with the information. The rest is fluff.
5) Make sure your emails are not just noise.
So often I see emails being blanketted to a whole group of people, either in the CC list, or directly in the TO line. There’s good reasons for mass emailing — you’re not sure who needs to handle it; there are a lot of people who need to informed about an emergency situation; etc — but there are even more situations where you’re tooting your own horn, or worse, creating a needless traffic jam involving too many people.
Sometimes the etiquette of the company demands that you keep your colleagues informed. Sometimes you need to bring someone into a conversation because you need them to do something or give some input. But, when those people AREN’T needed, then be courteous and take them out of the loop.
My average daily emails at works ranges in the 400’s/day. Of those, there are maybe 25 that I have to deal with. There may be also another 50 that it’s good to know about, but the other 300+ are noise. You can buy noise cancelling headphones. I think someone should invent noise cancelling glasses as well.
More to Come…
I know there’s a lot more to come on this one. If you can think of anything that annoys you about your business etiquette, then be sure to add them in the comments below. I’m sure we’ll end up with a “Business Etiquette 102” next semester 🙂