Lately I have found myself having a similar conversation with a number of clients. The conversation begins with my client stating they want to increase their visibility within their organization and better position themselves to work at a more senior, strategic level. They want to be noticed and earmarked for succession by supervisors; to be seen as a thought leader by peers; and, ultimately, to position themselves as someone ready to participate in the larger decisions facing the company.
What is surprising to me is that these are the same people who will either completely fail to show for one of our scheduled sessions; send an email stating they need to reschedule at a minutes notice, or; arrive late and unprepared for our time together, and, then fail to apologize for their lack of professionalism.
I often find that the way a client manages their time with me is indicative of how they manage themselves with others. Therefore, some of the behavior I experience is serious cause for concern. If my client is unable to successfully arrive at our meeting – on time, prepared, and having followed through on the commitments they made at our last meeting – it is almost guaranteed that they engage in this (poor) behavior with others. How then are they to be seen as the kind of person and professional ready for more responsibility? Perhaps they are unaware of how some of their behavior is negatively impacting their professional advancement?
It seems that professionals today have forgotten what it means to be professional. We have allowed each other to become lazy, as what was once considered to be rude behavior has slowly become acceptable. Consider the following:
I am frequently appalled by the behavior I witness from otherwise talented, educated, senior professionals. I once left a message for a very senior colleague but never received a return call. When I next ran into the colleague I inquired whether or not he had received my voice message. He had. When I asked why he never responded, he told me, “Oh, I don’t return phone calls”. What?! The irony is that this person had just purchased and was holding a copy of Daniel Goleman’s book Social Intelligence. I thought to myself, forget about reading the book, just focus on having the basic respect to return a colleague’s phone call.
From over 25 years of research there is one behavior that is seen to be more important than any other behavior for leaders to exhibit. This behavior is treats others with dignity and respect. If we fail to get this right, it almost does not matter what else we do. It is that important. One of the simplest ways to demonstrate respect is to show up on time, come prepared, and keep meetings to their allotted time. When we do this, we show others that we regard their time as valuable as our own. Another way to demonstrate respect is to listen, something that is difficult to do we when allow interruptions from our computer or iPhone. Regardless of culture, one of the easiest ways to demonstrate disrespect (whether we intend to or not) is to interrupt another.
I have worked with experienced, highly successful C-level executives and those new to management entirely. What I can tell you is that the more senior and successful the leader, the better the listener and, the more respectful, professional and gracious the person.
I am embarrassed to have to spend so much time coaching senior professionals on basic issues such as time management, the importance of treating others with dignity and respect, and reminding them that everything – EVERYTHING – they do matters. As a result, I am going to write one article on the topic and hope that by doing so we can move on to more important and necessary leadership conversations.
In his book, HOW. How what we do means everything … in business (and in life), Dov Seidman coins the term “out behaving the competition” and states that those organizations and its leaders who are able to bring professionalism back into our daily interactions will prevail in today’s marketplace. Treating others with the utmost respect is not a nice-to-do. It is business critical and, potentially, your competitive advantage.
Try This: From now on, treat every person you interact with as you would your most important client. Perhaps one day they will be just that …
Susanne Biro is a coach to C-suite and executive level leaders. She is the founder of Inner Life Leadership, an app for business professionals who want to reach an unprecedented level of personal understanding and corresponding leadership (and life) success. Susanne is an author, executive development program designer, facilitator, Forbes & CEO Magazine contributing writer, and a TEDx and keynote speaker.
For over two decades, Susanne has worked internationally with senior-level leaders in some of the world’s best companies. Whether coaching one-on-one or authoring, designing, and delivering leadership programs, her passion is the same: to help leaders reach their next level.
Susanne can be reached at 604.864.5408 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our world has changed, rapidly and in unexpected ways. As the crisis hit, I offered and held pro bono sessions with leaders from around the world. And I want to continue to do what I can to help. As a result, I now offer hourly sessions to ensure leaders everywhere can quickly get the perspective, clarity and focus they need to lead themselves, and therefore others, well during these challenging and uncertain times.