Just a quick reminder
A “faux pas” is a social blunder or improper act. Today’s busy executive can be swamped with filling squares, staying on top of the business ladder (or trying to get there), and getting things done. In the process of all that, they need to be mindful of appearing to be “too” busy. It’s a social and business blunder that many constantly commit.
You may very well be one of those Type A folks who can juggle a million balls at once; multi-tasking and so forth. However, you can get so busy that you begin to commit a few executive faux pas’ that really stand out negatively as people observe your style.
Here some things you want to avoid as you conduct your business activities:
Being “uber” connected. Blackberries, iPods, Bluetooth and the whole list of today’s portable telecommunications devices are endless. The executive that stays constantly connected to those while in the middle of a face-to-face meeting is making a huge mistake in etiquette. There is nothing more annoying than trying to have a conversation with someone whose attention is continuously called away to some device that seems to be almost physically connected to them. A good rule of thumb is that if you are not a heart surgeon on call for your next life or death operation – you can turn it all off for a few minutes while you talk to the person sitting in front of you. If you are that important a person, the people who need you can respect the fact that you may have to contact them “after” you’re done with the important meeting in which you are currently engaged.
Looking at your watch…habitually. It’s rude to continually look at your watch as you’re conducting business with people. It telegraphs the message that there is something far more important on your mind than them and/or the topic you’re discussing. If you have a tight schedule (and we’ll talk about that issue in a minute), let the person you’re meeting with know about your time constraints before you begin your meeting. Make your “pre-apologies” to them. Let them know that you’ll have to end your meeting at a specific time because you have another appointment scheduled. And that brings us to another point.
Enumerating your busy itinerary. While telling someone that you cannot meet at some particular time they are requesting because you have “an appointment at that time”; enumerating your entire schedule is not necessary. It’s really none of their concern and they have schedules too. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to a person give me the “rundown” of their entire week when I’ve simply asked them if we could have lunch at 12 on Tuesday. Asking you for a convenient time is not a request to hear about your week in preview.
Facebook. And by the way. If you have a “business page” on Facebook – that is the place for you to list what’s happening with your business. Of course you want your friends to know what’s going on. Just consider if its beginning to sound like bragging. Your business page is actually a better place for you to talk about your upcoming gigs. Make an update on your professional website instead.
Not listening . Listen more, talk less. It is an amazing compliment to listen to someone without constantly interrupting them. Giving someone your full attention is not just a nice thing to do, its the professional thing to do.
Fight the impulse to “share a similar story.” True, you may run the risk of being with a person who won’t be polite or aware enough to let you get a word in edgewise. More often, though, you will have a productive two-way conversation, an actual “exchange” when you listen well. Too often people are not listening, but rather, they’re thinking of the next thing they want to say. Fight the urge to let the other person know that you know as much as they know, or that you have a situation to share that “trumps” whatever they just said. Self-check to make sure you’re not just participating in a one-upmanship situation.
Overbooking your calendar. Be realistic about your time. Be realistic about the length of time it takes to have a meaningful and productive meeting. Then…add 10 more minutes. For instance; make the appointment to meet with Sam from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., but in your calendar clear the time from 8:45 to 10:45. Then when you and Sam meet, shake hands and assure him that you won’t keep him past 10:30. Emphasize your regard for his valuable time and throw in the fact that you have “some things” on your schedule as well. This helps your colleague to think about being considerate himself. This is really a must. Especially if you’re the consummate professional with whom folks enjoy spending time. They are likely to start “shooting the breeze” and you have things to do. If at all possible, avoid scheduling things back to back in your calendar. Keep at least 30 minutes between scheduled activities. Definitely no less than 15 minutes in between…and that’s cutting it close. You should have time to regroup, make notes on what just happened and/or to prepare for the next thing.
JUST SAY NO when people are pressing you to add things to your schedule that make you RUN. You lose your effectiveness when you are racing throughout the day. You may think that you look like a slick professional who is keeping it all together; but people who really are “professional” can see right through it. In the long run you’ll find that you are more effective. Doing five or six things well is far better than doing 20 things haphazardly. You’ll function smarter.
Another result of overbooking is making people wait who have honored their appointed times with you. It’s rude and again, says that you don’t respect their time and energy. Somehow we’ve begun to think making people wait is some sort of privilege that you get when you have gained status and clout. Putting people off who have appointments with you any more than two or three minutes is unacceptable etiquette no matter who you are. Conversely, being late for appointments without calling ahead with apologies and an offer to reschedule if they would like is equally rude and unprofessional.
Executives are expected to have a handle on proper behavior. It would be smart and helpful to do some reading to “bone up” on proper business and social etiquette. Consider it an important part of your growth.