Common courtesy is so uncommon that it’s actually charismatic!
In the research for ‘Leadership Charisma’ we surveyed almost 400,000 employees worldwide to see what charismatic leaders did that engaged those who worked for them to be so much more productive. There were lots of factors – one of those was common courtesy.
6 Uncommon ‘Common Courtesies’
Here are 6 simple behaviors you, as a leader, should cultivate that will have an enormous impact upon the quality of the relationships you enjoy with your people – things that amount to little more than treating them with everyday respect.
- Sorry seems to be the hardest word. There is nothing more powerful (because sadly, it is so unusual) than someone in authority owning up when they are in the wrong. If you offend someone, speak inappropriately crossly with them, argue incorrectly against the merits of their case, indeed if you offend anyone in any way, then make a point of apologizing.
- Be bigger than the majority – don’t hide behind weak self-justifications or behind your authority. Make amends. If the offence was committed in public then the apology should be in public. If it happens in private then it can be in private. When you apologize does not couch your words. It’s better to give no apology than to offer the always insulting ‘non-apologetic apology’. You know the sort – it typically begins with a set of ‘weasel words’ like “If I offended you in any way then I’m certainly prepared to apologize...”, or “If you felt that I was in any way wrong in the way I treated you then I’d like to say sorry…”. Humility and genuine contrition on the part of a leader who has the authority to get away without apologizing conveys a respect for others and a level of honesty and truth that is so rare that it makes you stand out. Such honesty in a leader is extremely charismatic.
- Be responsive. Everyone is too busy to respond instantly to every email that they receive – especially those of us in leadership positions. If you receive a message about something that you know is important to one of your people, but so low on your priority list that you’ll not be able to respond quickly, simply send a one line ‘thank you’ explaining that you received the note and when you’ll be able to respond. This sends a clear message – your time and your concerns are just as important as mine.
- Please & Thank You. Want to make someone feel valued? Ask them “…could you help me out with something please ...”, “…would you be able to do me a favor…”, or “…please help me figure out something…”. Use ‘please’ liberally – even if what you’re asking for forms a key part of someone’s job responsibilities. Then, when they perform the service, be sure to say ‘Thank You!’. And the more people present when you express your gratitude the better for that person’s self-esteem – and if they come away from you with their self-esteem in better shape than when they first walked in then you become charismatic to them.
- Hold your tongue. In the pressure of a heated moment any of us can get so caught up in the emotion whirlwind of an argument or disagreement that we find ourselves saying something we normally wouldn’t wish to – and the moment we say it we know it. The problem is that this particularly bell, once it has been rung, cannot be unrung. You can take it back – but it’s altogether better not to say it in the first place. In a heated exchange, in writing or person, disengage when you feel the emotion carrying you away. ‘Take five’. If it’s a one on one situation then seek to create an opportunity for each party to go away and reconsider their positions – with a view to trying to reach an accommodation acceptable to both parties later on. Dale Carnegie taught that you should write out all you would like to say – and then put it away in a drawer overnight. This cooling off period can give you valuable perspective that may not be apparent in the heat of the moment.
- Hold your email! This last principle is particularly true of disagreements that escalate over email. Email is a wonderfully instantaneous communications medium – but sometimes it seems like the positives of the medium are outweighed by the negatives. Email communication tends to be open to miscommunication because of the instantaneous manner of its exchange – and too many people live to regret emails written in the grip of powerful emotions. Before you press ‘send’ and transmit a stinging response to a perceived offence force yourself to stop and think. For emails do the same as Dale Carnegie suggested in the last point – save your emotionally charged missile in your ‘drafts’ folder until you have had a chance to cool down. Overnight is ideal – things always look different next day.
Strong confident leaders understand that common courtesy comes from an inner strength – cultivate the habit of behaving courteously towards those who work for you and watch the way they engage with you so much more completely.
What’s the worst you’ve ever been treated by someone in charge?
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