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Test Your Business Etiquette IQ

Written by: Tiffany L. Adams, CELI President & Cincinnati Business Courier Columnist

Click here for published article in the Business Courier.

The Stanford’s School of Business 2013 Executive Coaching Survey revealed the worst flaw in CEOs and other leaders is their lack of self-awareness. Are you self-aware and business savvy?  Take this quiz and learn the answer.

Grading Scale: O points for wrong answers. 1 point for correct answers.

         Business Etiquette:

1.          Who is appropriate to introduce first, the CEO or the junior client who is a recent college graduate? Hint: The person of greater importance is introduced first.

2.          True or False? - When cancelling a business appointment, it does not make a difference if you or your assistant cancels on your behalf.

3.          True or False? - When inviting a new acquaintance to join your professional network on LinkedIn, it is better “netiquette” to write a personal message rather than use the LinkedIn verbiage.  

4.          True or False? - If you receive an email requesting action and are unable to respond promptly, it Is best to ignore it until you can respond with the appropriate detail.

5.          True or False? - If you send an email to a new acquaintance who is older and/or higher ranking, it is acceptable to address the recipient in the salutation by their first name to encourage an immediate personal connection.

Dining Etiquette:

6.      True or False? – There is no difference between where you should place your napkin when you excuse yourself in the middle of a meal or at the end of the meal.

7.      True or False? – When you are the guest of honor who is the recipient of a toast, you should respond by graciously raising your glass and taking a sip.

8.      True or False? - When you are extending an invitation for a business lunch, it is proper for you, the host, to decide where to dine and to avoid offering your guest the choice of the restaurant.

International Protocol:

9.      True or False? - USA and Israel have the same 5 day work weeks, Monday – Friday, so it’s acceptable to schedule a conference call with an Israeli business associate during these days. 

10.   True or False? - If uncertain about the proper greeting with a foreign counterpart, it is better to use your own country’s greeting to avoid the risk of embarrassing yourself and creating an uncomfortable situation for all.

Answers: 

1. The junior client - Clients are always considered more important than an executive regardless of their age, net worth, or status.

2. False – Even if an assistant has been the primary contact, it shows more professional courtesy for you (not your assistant) to personally call to cancel and immediately offer future meeting date options.

3. True – Raise the bar by writing a personal message.  Mention specifics like where you recently met, shared interests or common friends, or the reason for connecting.

4. False - Respond promptly with a brief reply stating for example, that you have a pressing deadline or will be traveling, but will provide the requested information within a specific timeline.

5. False - Always begin with more formality and use an honorific (Mr., Mrs., Ms.) in the salutation until you are granted explicit permission to use their first name.

6. False – Place your napkin on your seat when excusing yourself during the meal as a signal to the wait staff to not remove your meal. Place your napkin loosely folded under the left side of your plate when finished.

7. False – One never drinks a toast to oneself.

8. True – The burden of restaurant choice falls on the host. Furthermore, if you invite, you pay.

9. False – Since Israel does not have a full separation of church and state like the USA, they observe the Jewish Sabbath on Fridays and Saturdays making their work week on Sunday – Thursday. Research a country’s work days, customs, and religious holidays before scheduling any appointments.

10. False – If possible, do cross-cultural protocol research beforehand. Otherwise, pause and mirror the foreign counterpart’s greeting.

How did you do?

SCORE 7-10    Wow! You have a keen sense of self-awareness. You clearly understand how to use smooth communication skills for meaningful relationship-building. You are a leader who inspires others to excellence in this global marketplace.

Score 4-6   You’re doing alright but there is room for improvement.

Score 0-3   Ouch. Consider learning more about business etiquette and international protocol to better position yourself for success. 

'It's a Wonderful World' with Cultural Diversity & Protocol

Published in the Cincinnati Business Courier. Click here for article. Written by Tiffany L. Adams, CELI President and Columnist for Cincinnati Business Courier

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Why do the Chinese prefer less personal space between people and how should you respond? Why do India, Central and South American cultures have a more relaxed, flexible sense of time? Why is it offensive to exchange business cards with the left hand? What do you do when Muslims greet you by holding their hand over their heart instead of shaking hands? Why is it best not to use any hand gestures in cross-cultural interactions?

Years ago, a decent IQ is all that was needed to succeed. Later, EQ (Emotional Intelligence) and IQ were the formulas for success. Today, the perfect trifecta is IQ, EQ, and now CQ (Cultural Intelligence). CQ is defined as one’s level of effectiveness working across cultures. Packaging these three together and tying a big bow around them called, International Protocol, will open doors for successful global relations. Edward T. Hall, renowned anthropologist and scholar, eloquently stated:

“The single greatest barrier to business success is one erected by culture.”

Cultural differences can cause misunderstandings, negative judgments, and offensive reactions. Our world is shrinking, borders are disappearing, and we are now one global village rich with intercultural relations. There is a revolution of accessibility taking place. We can thank the advancement of technology and transportation, population migrations, and the globalization of trade for this revolution of accessibility. However, progress comes at a price and causes growing pains at times. If we don’t start exercising patience, becoming curious, and taking the time to understand cultural differences, we will undermine teamwork, productivity, and trust. Although it may be challenging to adopt the style of a different culture, making even minor adjustments can produce a powerful difference in how messages are received. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, was brilliant in displaying his understanding of this skill when he spoke in 2014 at Tsinghua University, Beijing. After four years of learning Mandarin, he used self-deprecating humor (Chinese appreciate modesty) and delivered his speech in Mandarin, which was wildly embraced by his Chinese audience since he made a concerted effort to understand their culture.  Admittedly, most of us don’t have the time to learn an entire foreign language, but what a difference it would make if we learned even a few key phrases in another language. It would melt borders, win minds, and open hearts.

Cultural gaps can be bridged with international protocol.  International protocol is the code to global respect that blends diplomacy, cultural competency, understanding, and sensitivity. It is the pressure valve that relieves the tensions building from frustrating interactions where each party feels misunderstood. International protocol isn’t about simply memorizing a list of etiquette “dos and don’ts” of different cultures. Like an onion, it’s about meticulously peeling back the layers of culture, one by one, and asking WHY. Why is a person’s ethnicity, religion, education, history, generation, gender, and geography/region influencing their behavior and decision making? What is it about these cultural layers that cause foreign counterparts to feel so strongly about the honor of their customs, values, and taboos?

Let’s practice by looking at a few of the introductory questions: Instead of feeling unsettled when a Chinese counterpart stands closer than what you’re accustomed to, ASK WHY. China is the most densely populated country in the world with 1.3 billion citizens so privacy and personal space are at a premium. The proper protocol is crucial. Be patient and avoid pulling back or stepping backwards out of respect for that culture.

Never use the left hand in exchanging business cards. ASK WHY. Research reveals that the left hand is considered unclean in several cultures. The proper protocol which is becoming universally preferred is to use both hands when presenting and receiving a card. Showing this courtesy sets you apart as a refined, world-class citizen.

Avoid using hand gestures when interacting across cultures. ASK WHY. The same gesture in one culture can have a polar meaning in other cultures. Gestures can be considered at best, rude, or at worst, vulgar or hostile in different cultures. For example, the time-honored Texas Longhorn football team gesture means in Italy that your wife is cheating on you and, in parts of Africa, it means a curse. The okay gesture means that it’s all good in some cultures but can also mean a private bodily orifice in another.

If we are patient, ASK WHY, and make the effort to respect and adapt, we will find ourselves enjoying respectful and fruitful multi-cultural relations in the global marketplace.  Louis Armstrong’s song comes to mind:

“I see trees of green, red roses too….The colors of rainbow, so pretty in the sky, are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying ‘How do you do?’  And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” 

We can all play a part. Let’s turn cultural diversity into cultural unity, because after all, it IS a wonderful world and we want to keep it that way.

 

3 Tips to Dine In Style at Winter Events

Written by Tiffany Adams, Cincinnati Business Courier guest writer & CELI President

Click Here for published article in the Cincinnati Business Courier

Reader’s Question:

My company has sponsored tables at an upcoming winter gala and I want to set myself apart since I will be dining with influential business leaders. I am confident with my dining skills but want to do something out of the ordinary at the table to make an exceptional first impression. Any suggestions?

‘Tis the season for winter galas to raise money for worthy non-profit causes. I applaud your initiative to raise the bar in the spirit of professionalism and refinement.  You will be in the company of influential leaders and high profile clients where your dining etiquette will be closely observed.  

First impressions count and the ability to handle oneself in the dining room is equally important, if not more important, than handling oneself skillfully in the boardroom.

As guests arrive, remain standing behind your chair to greet or introduce yourself with a firm handshake to other table guests. Once everyone is served, use the European/Continental dining style instead of the American dining style. The United States is the only remaining country in the world to utilize the American dining style. Often called the “zig-zag style” where once the food is cut, one shifts the fork held (tines up) with the left hand back to the right hand to eat. This back and forth motion continues throughout the meal.  Hands are placed in the lap for resting.

To show sophistication and to align with a globalized society, try the European/Continental dining style where the fork remains in the left hand and after cutting, it is conveyed to the mouth, tines down. During the resting position, wrists remain on the table edge since in the olden days, people were worried about concealed weaponry. Hands which can be seen at all times clearly sends the reassuring message, “You can trust me.”  The European style is preferred by most in the world since it’s less noisy, more efficient, and involves less hand movement. 

 We tip our hats to England and France for the European/Continental dining style, because in the mid-1840s, they declared that those who wish to eat like fashionable people should not change their fork to their right hand after they cut their meat, but raise it to their mouth with their left hand. Before long, the European/Continental style became prominent and world-class.  

As you bid goodnight to all, leave a lasting favorable impression by shaking hands with ALL table guests even if you haven’t chatted very much with someone. Remember to mention their first name when parting.  Research reveals that hearing our name spoken stimulates our brain and makes us feel important that we were remembered. Before or after the meal are the appropriate times when business cards may be exchanged…never during the meal.  Bon Appetit! 

Good Leaders Value Business Etiquette

Appeared in Cincinnati Business Courier - Click here for published article.

Written by Tiffany Adams, CELI President & Cincinnati Business Courier Guest Contributor

What in the world does business etiquette have to do with leadership? 

Everything! How does a leader inspire a team who doesn’t respect them or who doesn’t feel respected? It’s not possible. Understandably, leaders are focused on the strategic direction and bottom-line results as they must answer to shareholders, bosses, and boards. They often miss the quiet signs of how their relationships are evolving and don’t get a true reading of how their behavior, words, and body language are affecting organizational members. This is why the results from Stanford’s School of Business 2013 Executive Coaching Survey made complete sense. The survey revealed the worst flaw in CEOs and other leaders is their lack of self-awareness. Without self-awareness and for that matter, self-restraint, leaders are ill-equipped to set the right tone for their work culture and the relationships they influence.

That’s where business etiquette comes in to the picture. Business etiquette underscores the importance of self-restraint. It is a vital tool that arms leaders with the business acumen they need to respond to others pragmatically and professionally, not emotionally and counterproductively. Furthermore, etiquette intelligence suppresses the “It’s all about me” ego in favor of considering others.  Good etiquette and protocol inspires the positive outcome of making people feel respected, trusted, comfortable, and important. That’s when the magic happens and the oars start rowing in one prosperous direction. When an ‘others-centered’ mentality prevails at the top, meaningful relationships are built; people are inspired; goals are achieved; dreams are realized; and bottom-line results are achieved.

Heads up to emerging leaders:  Set yourself apart by wisely equipping your toolbox with these essential, yet often overlooked, professional development skills. There’s a reason why business etiquette has reemerged as a smart way to invest in yourself in today’s fiercely competitive world. In a world of rapid change where technology and intercultural communication have never been more prominent, corporate etiquette provides the road map that guides our behavior in adapting appropriately to all of this change. Is business etiquette old-fashioned or a lost art? Only if meaningful relationship-building and smooth communication skills are not important anymore. As you will undoubtedly come to find, these skills remain crucial towards the long term success of any business or leadership role.

How Cincinnati's millennials can prepare for business

Appeared in Cincinnati Business Courier
Reported by Andy Brownfield

How Cincinnati's generation raised in front of screens can prepare for business

Millennials are a generation more prone to communicating to a screen than face-to-face, more ready to Snapchat than small talk at a networking event. A local entrepreneur has launched a new etiquette institute to get them ready to interact in the business world.

Tiffany Adams told me opening the Cincinnati Etiquette & Leadership Institute (CELI) was something she’s always wanted to do since she was a little girl watching her etiquette consultant mother speak. It became imperative as she saw her sons – one a junior in high school, one a junior in college – getting ready to apply for jobs and colleges.

“I felt the millennial generation needs help,” Adams told me. “Tech savvy generation that they are, I felt like they needed some help to know the proper ways to communicate with each other. The Internet and social media radically changed how we communicate.”

For instance, do millennials know how to smoothly enter and leave a conversation? Whether to introduce the CEO or the client first? How to properly exchange business cards? How to be culturally aware and sensitive when dealing with partners or clients from overseas? Adams hopes CELI teaches them all of that while giving them a competitive advantage when entering the workforce.

Baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer. At the same time, more millennials graduate each year than there are jobs available.

“Graduates are expecting to find their first job immediately, but they’re remaining unemployed for between six months to a year and when they do find the job they’re having to accept positions below their education,” Adams said. “The competition is just fierce. I feel like the Cincinnati Etiquette & Leadership Institute will offer professional development and life skills that will allow them to have that competitive advantage.”

CELI offers courses in dining etiquette, business etiquette, leadership, how to act with foreign clients or partners and leadership for teenagers, which includes etiquette for the Internet.

“I think a large percentage of job success is due to these skills: the ability to build relationships, because at the end of the day it’s not about how many people you know, but who you know and who you can add value to and who you can help, because if you can build genuine relationships people will have your back throughout your career,” Adams said. “And these genuine relationships aren’t built behind a screen.”

You can read the full article on the Cincinnati Business Courier's website, here.