Good Manners Count: Put Your Manners Back In!

An often overlooked aspect in a modern fast-moving professional world, is the idea of good manners. They are essential as a guide for day-to-day interactions not only in a standard office environment, but even as an aspiring or experienced board director candidate during business interactions. Remember if you are aspiring to serve on boards which is a great honour and privilege, you need to carry yourself throughout life as someone worthy of being on a board of directors operating at the highest level of the company.

As it is often said, good manners can bring opportunities that the best education might not, and there is much research to showcase this. For instance, a survey conducted by OfficeTeam showed that at least 80% of executives are influenced by the kind of clothing an employee wears, when assessing their readiness for a promotion. Further, a recent study done by Robert Half Technology discovered that at least 64% of CIO’s at an organisation, believed that the frequent use of electronic devices (e.g. tablet, mobile phones) in a workplace has led to a rise in bad manners.

According to the Emily Post Institute, a strong business etiquette leads to civil behaviour, more connected relationships and an effective service mentality. If you are keen on advancing your career and eyeing a coveted spot as a board member, keep in mind that formal manners may fast-track your dream into reality, if you play your cards right. In a boardroom, good governance can allow all members to make decisions in a balanced way, and tackle the toughest challenges.

Create and promote a solid personal brand

Having a good reputation can significantly increase your chances of joining a board. Make sure to build a reliable and new age brand, tailored to the organisation you would like to join. More and more companies are looking for innovative thought-leaders that are not afraid to speak their mind, yet value time honoured principles like loyalty, mutual respect and trust. In addition, data compiled by Kathleen Eisenhardt and L.J. Bourgeois, show that the best performing companies have boards that promote open discussions and keep no subject off the table, if it’s relevant to the work being done.

As a start, remember that engaging with different audiences is essential, and this can take place by writing and posting blog pieces on different websites, being a contributor to business publications, sharing your voice on social media and spreading awareness of the work you do on professional networks like LinkedIn. Don’t be intimidated by business and trade magazines as well as newspaper editors! Shoot them an email or give a call to see if your expertise would be valued for an upcoming write-up, offer to give them quotes or even volunteer if you have the expertise needed.

Walk and talk your personal brand and values in each and every interaction with people. It will be noticed and conversely, poor behaviour is very hard to erase from people’s memory. So think twice before an offhand remark or thoughtless communication that does not present you in the most professional way possible.

Smart networking makes all the difference

The vast majority of boards do not make public announcements via recruitment websites or agencies when they are searching for board members. Instead, their first preference is usually the decision of the nominating committee and the CEO in charge of the recruitment process. This means that you as a candidate must be proactive and get in touch with the right people, to highlight your unique skillset that sets you apart from the rest. Once you are clear on what kind of companies interest you, build that passion relentlessly and do not be afraid to demonstrate your readiness with people you know, as well as second degree connections on various online platforms.

You will want to network with professionals that have already secured a board position. Remember to be courteous and respectful when reaching out to such people for guidance or referrals – they are taking valuable time out of their schedules to respond to your request. If they are able to offer to make a referral for you, remember that they are putting their name and business reputation on the line. Always thank people for referrals and follow up with thoughtful feedback on how the meetings went. If you secure a board appointment it is really important to take the time to acknowledge and thank your referees.

Approaching executive search firms might be another option at hand, especially those that specialise in recruitment for high-level staff positions like director or chief executive but you should always be respectful at all times during your interactions with recruitment consultants and executive search professionals. Remember they are HR ambassadors for the companies they work for and any sign of poor business etiquette with a candidate will be duly noted.

No doubt this advice sounds like common sense to many of you but I am very sad to report that in my thousands of interactions with business executives each year I am seeing increasing bad manners, so please take note that maybe its time to put your manners back in!

Director Institute Next Generation Directors is a private enterprise that is focused on developing and connecting the next generation of board directors with Australian and International organisations and boards.

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