Volume 54, September 2005: Minding Manners

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2005 ISSN # 1545-8873

“To have respect for ourselves guides our morals, and to have deference for others guides our manners.” — Lawrence Sterne (1713 - 1768)

“Rudeness is man’s imitation of strength.” — Eric Hoffer (1902 - 1983)

“Good manners will open doors that the best education cannot.” — Clarence Thomas (1948- )

“Good manners sometimes means simply putting up with other people’s bad manners.” — H. Jackson Browne, P. S. I Love You


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Grace under pressure (and at all other times).
  • Truly listening after asking, “How are you?”
  • Modeling the way for a respectful workforce.
  • Developing a knack for tact.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

People look to you to model the values, ethics, and decorum of the organization. To all eyes, internal and external, you are the organization! Admirers and critiques alike observe your appearance, language, behavior, and style to discern the principles by which the organization operates. Cultivate good manners, tact, diplomacy, etiquette. They suggest you are willing to control yourself for the benefit of others.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Our employees treat each other rudely. I would like to impose some rules. Any ideas?”
Rules have a harsh ring. If you impose them, then you will have to police them. I like to think in adult terms of Guidelines or Principles. The most effective method I have seen is to have a team describe their ideal work experience, and their worst. List those conditions that promoted the team’s effective functioning – i.e., how did they treat each other? Then list ways “we” should behave with each other in order to build that kind of culture. Eliminate any that all of us cannot support. And there you have your“Agreement.” Ask them to hold each other accountable, with feedback.
“Do leaders have any say about behavior outside the workplace?”
Put it in these terms:
  • What we do in private does impact what we do in public.
  • Every employee is an ambassador for the organization. Behavior in- and outside of the job reflects on the company. People know who you work for, and liken your character to that of your business.
  • The success of your business is your paycheck. If you sully your organization, you help the competition take your job away.
“One of the most boorish things we do is gossip. Is there any end to it?”
Most times gossip is an attempt to build certainty in the absence of good information. So, first provide ample information. One organization even had a “rumor hotline” during a major change effort, and every Friday, each rumor was addressed according to the truth. Another function of gossip is to confer power to the gossiper (being in the know). This may require some personal coaching, with feedback about the destructive nature of loose lips. Where information is not publishable, this should be clear and the reasons behind it. The first rule is holding these matters in confidence, and not tolerating exceptions. “Loose lips sink ships.” A third factor may be the ill habit of “triangulation” – not taking issues directly to the appropriate person. This could be addressed by an agreement stating, “Take the issue to the person with whom you have the problem.” And teaching principles of good feedback and gentle confrontation.
“I’m terrible at remembering names. I have flubbed several greetings on this account.”
Greetings and partings are important rituals in conversation. I find that “listening’ is the more important skill than driving the conversation. Slow down, learn their name (repeat it, use it in the conversation, associate it with a mnemonic). Ask for their proper title – “Is that Doctor, Mrs., Vice President, etc.?’ If you have forgotten their name, they will forgive you if you greet them warmly and say something like, “I’ve met you, but I am blocking on your name … oh, of course!’ Offer your handshake and say, “Good to see you again.’ Obtain a business card if appropriate, to have practice material. When you follow with,“How are you?,’ listen for the full answer and respond to the content with care. Always attend first to the person, then to the business at hand.


Emily Post’s People Skills and Corporate Etiquette: Emily Post Corporate Civility Program.

Protocol school: Could You Benefit from Business Etiquette Training?.

The basics of business etiquette: Etiquette & Communication

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Keyzines related to the topic: Ethics, Valuing Diversity, Building Community, Harassment, and Relationship Building.

Guide to international business etiquette: Executive Planet.

More on international business manners: International Business Etiquette, Manners, & Culture.



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