Are You in the Spirit of the Season blog graphic

Are You in the Spirit of the Season?

Are You in the Spirit of the Season?

As we approach the holidays, I thought an excerpt from Million Dollar Influence: How to Drive Powerful Decisions Through Language, Leverage, and Leadership, co-written with Alan Weiss, might provoke some thoughts on how we conduct ourselves in business throughout the year. Chapter 6 is titled “Delay of Game Penalties” and highlights a variety of ways in which personal interactions can inhibit or help your influence in given situations. As with much of life, our influence is an amalgamation of our behaviors. We don’t need to reserve our best behaviors for the holiday season. This subsection of Chapter 6 is titled Offsides and personal fouls.

Offsides and personal fouls

The reciprocity of The Golden Rule, treating others as you would like to be treated, remains sage counsel in any situation. It’s such an easy guideline to follow and will help you generate influence. The Golden Rule is about being thoughtful.

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As with moving in too fast before identifying and understanding the organizational landscape, rushing a personal engagement can have the same negative result. Consistently putting yourself in your counterpart’s shoes will help you develop a positive pattern of behavior and a reputation as a thoughtful and agreeable person. Therefore, you don’t need to be obsequious, just thoughtful, and sensitive.

Influence requires relationships, and relationships require consideration more so than equity. Meeting your counterpart 60-40 instead of meeting halfway or going for the “win” will garner outsized returns for the effort. Generating more, even if smaller, wins for your counterpart will yield more wins for you as well. In any event, not every engagement is a transaction, and you don’t have to squeeze the last drop out of every engagement.

Nobody wants to spend time with someone who is boorish or inconsiderate. We can often recognize someone else’s poor manners but can fail to see our transgressions through the eyes of others. Could any of these subtle acts of selfishness be bleeding over into your business relationships?

  • Running red lights or coasting through four-way stops
    • Focus on you
  • Speaking first in a group setting
    • You know the answer or know more
  • Assumptions of all types
  • Thinking you are the smartest in the room
    • It’s less likely than you think
  • Making negative comments on social media
  • Talking over people
  • Filling moments of silence where room for thought may be appropriate
  • Failing to read the room
  • Missing social cues
  • Taking what is a premium seat in a group setting
  • Failing to include a new person in a conversation or group business activity
    • How often do you see the same posse of old-timers congregating at trade shows for your industry?
  • Displays of what Alan calls “moral narcissism” where you declare, “I’m right, and you’re not only wrong but inferior.”

The common thread that runs through the list above is selfishness. Here are some expressions of thoughtfulness that cost you nothing:

  • A thank you note—for anything—will always be appreciated
    • And will distinguish you from the masses in any organization, especially if hand-written
  • Not calling or stopping by your counterpart out of the blue
    • Cold-calling someone says your time is more valuable than theirs; scheduling demonstrates respect and increases the focus of the encounter.
  • Being early for your scheduled visit
    •  If your counterpart is running early, you can keep them running early
    • To summarize, early is on time; on time is late—but don’t overdo it
  • Not overstaying your scheduled visit
    • In conclusion, giving time back on someone’s calendar helps them
  • Not introducing a surprise issue into a meeting arranged for another purpose
  • Asking about your counterpart without invading their personal space
    • Some cultures view “biographical” questions as intrusive unless they initiate the discussion
  • Birthday cards for people you know are always welcome
  • Holding doors open for others
  • Asking for input from others
  • Engaging with office staff, wait staff, and service personnel
    • Furthermore, simple courtesy and acknowledgment go a long way
  • Offering to make the arrangements when there is an agreement to meet or dine
  • Picking up the tab if you initiated the meeting; offering to share a tab where you are a guest
  • Waiting for a host to begin eating before you dive into a meal
  • Saying thank you, and making direct eye contact when doing so
  • Forwarding relevant professional materials that may be of interest to a business colleague
    • Meaningful additive comments should accompany such a gesture
  • Giving credit to all contributors
  • Summarizing a meeting with a timely and courteous follow-up thank you email
  • Don’t assume you know what roles people are there to serve
    • So, treat everyone in the room as equals

You began to learn some of these time-tested truths in kindergarten. Therefore, it’s never too late to recalibrate our good manners.

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