In Search Of (Professional) Etiquette

As Editor-in-Chief of BIZCATALYST 360°, I’ve come to realize over time that one can skillfully edit and publish or one can skillfully write, as little time exists to do both to an acceptably high standard. However, from time to time I’ve been inspired by a series of first-hand encounters, observations (or perhaps frustration) to put my candid thoughts to paper My last Article (below) inspired in this manner correlates well with the essay that follows here.

In Search Of Integrity: In Which Direction Does Your Compass Point?

Whether it be an opportune mix of luck, skill, being “in the right place at the right time” or simply abundant blessings, I’ve enjoyed more than my fair share of professional success. Success defined broadly as career trajectory, economic security, accelerated retirement (independence) and quite simply, the ability to choose how, where, when and with whom to spend my non-renewable time. Along the way, I’ve often been a flattered recipient of the following question, posed by friends, colleagues, subordinates, mentees, interviewers and beyond in search of the elusive “secret” to success; What’s your secret to success?

“There is no accomplishment so easy to acquire as politeness, and none more profitable”

–George Bernard Shaw

The Secret?

While most would expect a typical response along the lines of a college education, hard work, long hours, etc. – all of which are important of course (although no college degree for me) the answer remains as basic, fundamental, and simple as it is surprising. And it’s one that became increasingly apparent and important to my career as the years flew by. – a characteristic that more often than not, distinguished me – and consequently my teams and business units from the rest. That characteristic? Professional Etiquette. What do I mean by that?

CONVENTIONAL DEFINITION:

Professional etiquette is an unwritten code of conduct regarding the interactions among the members in a business setting. When proper professional etiquette is used, all involved are able to feel more comfortable, and things tend to flow more smoothly.

FORMAL DEFINITION:

As excerpted from The Concise Oxford English & Webster’s Unabridged Dictionaries:

Professional: –> n. possessing a high degree of knowledge or skill in a particular field, ace, adept, authority, dab hand, expert, master, proficient, wizard, crack, skilled.

Etiquette: –> n. the customary code of polite behaviour in a society. The forms of practices prescribed by social convention. decorum. good form. manner. mores. proprieties. protocols. civilities, manners, usage, politeness, courtesy, gentility, good form, good taste.

Drawing from the above and factoring in the “real world” of business, I’ve compiled my enhanced definition below.
professional-etiquette-courtesy
It is also an increasingly rare behavior and competitive distinction whereby those deemed “professionals” (as defined above) supplement and complement their qualifications by consistently displaying a high level of regard and for respect for superiors, colleagues, and subordinates as follows:
✅ Dress With Respect
✅ Be Punctual (early is on time, on time is late, late is unacceptable)
✅ Be Present (silence all devices & eliminate distractions, without exception)
✅ Show Genuine Interest (listen intentionally, maintain eye contact, engage)
✅ Be Honest/Authentic (open, honest & candid)
✅ Keep Company Secrets Secret
✅ Respect The Chain Of Command (be a team player)
✅ Be Accountable (accept responsibility, make firm commitments, follow-up, follow-through, keep your promises)
✅ Always Respond (promptly & completely)
✅ Acknowledge Achievements (spend praise/deflect credit generously)
✅ Be Courteous & Polite (please & thank you, always)
✅ Show Gratitude (give thanks wherever and whenever due)
✅ Be Humble (accept success with gratitude and failure with fortitude)
✅ Be Kind & Considerate
✅ Think Beyond Yourself
Needless to say, the above definition presumes that you have the occupational training/skills as a foundation for your performance. And yes, certain of the above traits may extend the boundaries of “courtesy” but deservedly so.

Source Credit

Fundamental to my publishing business is the giving of credit or “attribution” where due. So where did my above definition come from? Who taught me the ins and outs, the right from wrong when it comes to Professional Etiquette? Be assured that it didn’t’ come from the plethora Leadership Books, Webinars, and Seminars out there. It didn’t come from the latest Podcast or YouTube Video. To the contrary, my appreciation along with full and unreserved credit goes to “real-life” wisdom captured and cataloged by observing and working with, working for and working alongside some the very best and very worst leaders and “professionals” across many industries over many years.

Lessons Learned

I learned very early in my career that it’s not simply a matter of what you know or who you know, but equally and often more importantly – how you do what you do – irrespective of your professional expertise. Perhaps a (disappointing) function of changing times, but I’ve also learned that the behaviors listed above are not only increasingly rare but are remarkably visible when present. Finally, it’s abundantly clear that such behaviors have given me, my teams /business units an invaluable (and priceless) competitive edge both reputationally and economically (it’s not just about price).

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

–Maya Angelou

Rocket Science?

We can all agree that everything put forth above is clearly not “rocket science.” But we can also agree that much of what I’ve defined as Professional Etiquette has indeed left the business arena. And quite frankly, many of the same behaviors have left the “personal” arena (worthy of a follow-up article unto itself).

What Do You Think?

Are your observations and experience similar? What bullet points would you add to my Definition? Have you been surprisingly disappointed or surprisingly impressed by your business encounters? Join this discussion below!

Dennis J. Pitocco
Dennis J. Pitoccohttps://www.bizcatalyst360.com/
Dennis is the Founder, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of our award-winning life, culture, and biz new media digest, With an emphasis on action, our amazing writers empower people to transcend from knowing what to do to actually doing it. Today and every day, we simply deliver the very best insights, intelligence, and inspiration available anywhere, doing it our way by placing our writers and our audience at the forefront. It's magical. It's evergreen. And quite frankly, It's just good stuff. Period. Here's more About Us. He is also Founder & Chief Encouragement Officer of GoodWorks 360°, our affiliated global nonprofit social impact enterprise, dedicated to providing mission-critical pro bono services to good nonprofits worldwide. Connect with him on Linkedin to learn more about his background. Dennis is a contributing author to the Best-Selling Book Chaos to Clarity: Sacred Stories of Transformational Change.

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  1. Hi Dennis, Great share! What jumped at me is how you said: “Perhaps a (disappointing) function of changing times, but I’ve also learned that the behaviors listed above are not only increasingly rare but are remarkably visible when present”. You are an inspiring example of how I wish people would communicate online and in life. My husband is a stellar communicator as well and lately I am more careful about how I interact with my loved ones and with people i general.

  2. So much food for thought in your penetrating and heartfelt article. I’m not perfect with my practicing of the list you presented, but it’s an excellent list and well worth bookmarking as a potent reminder.

    To add my experiences to the discussion: Practicing as many of these principles as possible has made me successful as a full-time house sitter. I find that basic courtesies others neglect get me return business where homeowners invite me back. And it’s unthinkable to be late for a coaching session and keep a client waiting. (I have one client that calls me her “clock” because I call right on the dot.) Listening deeply and really “getting it” is also one I practice. And I love giving praise and positive feedback, even in seemingly minor situations. Acknowledging someone and their contribution just feels so good.

  3. This secret is not a secret to anyone who knows you!

    This morning I was telling a writer about you and your network, offering to introduce her to you as the editor of BIZCATALYST360°. I said, “I don’t know how Dennis does it! He’s always so prompt with postings and replies, and he always has the same supportive, cheerful manner and tone.”

    She looked around and was amazed at the reach your network has. It makes sense to me that you could build this empire based on the powerful trait of professional etiquette. I’m grateful to be one of the writers who benefits. Thank you, Dennis. Great article too!

    • First and foremost, Milli – we always welcome new writers to our Panel based on the strength of an existing Panel Members recommendation, so please send your colleague in our direction and we’ll be glad to her aboard. And second, thank you for your kind words, as they inspire us to dig deeper and do more for you and all of our amazing collection of Writers around the world…

  4. Dennis, I found this one rule ruled over almost all the other rules- Be Present (silence all devices & eliminate distractions, without exception) especially with the age of the internet and cell phones. And I really liked the one about how early is “on time.” But what really made me nod in agreement was the quote by –Maya Angelou. Thank you for sharing your professional wisdom with us.

  5. I certainly can agree with professionalism being rare these days. I am in agreement with everything on your list outside of the first one…..I wonder what dress with respect means?

    Is that respect for you or respect for me? I like to dress in closes that make me feel good. That are comfortable, clean, and bring me some form of joy. That often includes bright colours.

    When I read dress with respect it automatically brings up pantyhose and suits…..which feels olds school in away that isn’t necessary in my mind.

    The rest of the piece feels bang on to me – being present, connecting, really connecting, listening, all amazing traits and sadly far to few and between these days!

    • Good points on the topic of “dress with respect” as presented. Please don’t read too much into it, as the bullet point is simply meant to dress with care, and in a manner appropriate for the situation, respecting everyone, yourself included …. Thanks for engaging here, Anita.

  6. Speaking of an etiquette today is never easy. In the era of touch and easy sharing, two things have happened: it seems all due, because if it is not shared does not exist, resulting in loss of privacy; I have become our only parameter: let’s talk about ourselves, share selfie, and we do not care about other people’s opinions except to have our 5-minute celebrities, having caught their attention. Yet, if in the social sphere the etiquette follows rules that are first of all children of good education, in the professional field one must be even more careful. In business, we play everything from the first impression, just think that at neurological level it takes fifteen seconds to get an idea of a person and it takes a lot more time to change the idea we did. Working on the first approach becomes strategic especially if we want to give us an authentic and unstoppable image if we want our style to really represent our personality. Today, on the push of the web, communication tends to be very straightforward: we are in the age of you, because it seems smart but, careful, not for everyone is so, not for some cultures, not for some elites, not for some business community. The latest bastion of the modern etiquette is surely constituted by the use and abuse of the smartphone. Whoever is with the cell phone in hand communicates precise messages: it is not interested in external stimuli, has nothing else to do, is self-centered. In short, holding the smartphone and checking the notifications every ten seconds is not polite and professional.
    Etiquette and education have the right balance of logic and empathy. The foundations upon which to form their own etiquette is above all be yourself and at ease in the space around us, respecting the space of others.

  7. What do I think?

    I think you have provided and excellent foundation to what we (BizCatalyst360 writers particularly) should all be thinking about.

    I find nothing wrong and everything right with your list. If every individual in the world lived by that – we would be well on our way to solving the world’s problems.

    More to come – soon – in an article !

  8. RESPECT is all we must learn to have.This not only prepares us for life but carries an imprint of what we touch and leave with our mark behind. All this shows us up as individuals whoever we are. This counts for our worth in all we do and achieve. Always looking for gratification and praise is not an avenue to even think about. Being transparent and honest is a must to accumulate in any person to allow and foster some believe in ourselves and others.

  9. Dennis….excellent points given today’s need for instant gratification and seemingly lack of respect for those we interact with both in our personal and business life. In my own experience, two of the behaviors you listed that stand out are being authentic and gratitude. It seems a majority of people don’t know who they are and thereby have the inability to be authentic. This causes internal and external conflict resulting in avoidance, lying, shielding and poor listening as well as limited communication skills. With the lack of feeling grateful, the need and/or desire for more leads a person to judge, miss-interpret and compare themselves to others. Poor behavior is ultimately exhibited from a lack of mentality and creates conflict in relationships. The mind is a powerful tool we have that is very easily manipulated, influenced and easy to get caught up in what I call mind loops. Higher awareness of knowing who we are, what we want and feeling empowered allows for your list to transform from being a challenge to one in which positive outcomes are the norm. Hopefully your message will inspire others to take stock of what can be enhanced in their own lives for better experiences!

    • Thank you Eileen. Your added insights underscore just how absent such fundamental behavior is from our professional (and personal) lives – and what a difference it makes when present! Thanks for adding real value here!

  10. As an observer of your character, business practices, and personal experience I have been the beneficiary of your professional etiquette. You credit others for your success when you say “observing and working with, working for and working alongside … leaders and “professionals” across many industries over many years.” I still say – you are the golden role model.

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