Employee of the Year

I was giving Professionalism training at a bank last week. When I was reading the online reviews for this bank, I came across this gem from only three months ago:

“Went to the bank and got a flat tire in the lot. Employee helped me put on my spare tire right away.”

Best. Bank. Ever. Think back to the last time you had a flat tire or any problem that hindered your car’s forward progress. It’s so frustrating. As a result of a quick-thinking employee, this bank has made a customer for life.

Reading online reviews of banks across the U.S., the number one word that comes up in positive reviews, is “friendly.”

“Very friendly staff.”
“Friendly, professional, very thorough.”
“So friendly and knowledgeable.”

No one writes reviews about a bank that say, “Love their 5-year CD rates,” or “This bank’s hours are fantastic!” It’s all about the people and how they make them feel.

It’s amazing when you think how much a single employee can affect if a customer stays… or goes. Can you think of an episode where the bad actions of an employee made you swear you would never darken the door of that business again? What would have happened to the customer with the flat tire, if instead of helping, employees at the bank piled up in the drive- through window just to watch?

As I often say, as much as we need technology and its instant advantages, we still have not evolved past the need for each other – in person. Sometimes that little bit of personal attention in the client relationship makes all the difference.

Make this the week, you go all-out for a client. And if you have a good story about someone who went over-the-top for you as a customer, let me know.

Fast Break

You aced the interview. You answered questions with ease and because of your pre-interview prep, you asked thoughtful questions. They really liked you. You had a firm handshake coming and going. It’s a perfect cultural fit and you can’t wait to get started.

Then you don’t get an offer.

You feel like a basketball where someone has let out all the air. You’ve lost your bounce.
Rapid-fire questions race through your brain.
What did I do wrong? How could I have done better?
Was I too cocky? Was I not confident enough?
Why didn’t they like me? What do I have to do?

It’s basketball season. Let’s stick with the analogy.
Maybe you did everything right and made all your free throws. But another player made a few more three-pointers.
Maybe they had an internal candidate, just waiting on the bench.
Maybe you were meant to star on another team and help them to the playoffs.

It’s healthy to reassess, but not obsess. Always be upping your game. Start by asking one of your interviewers for feedback. (Although, the larger the organization, the more generic the response, for legal reasons.)

Don’t dwell on the disappointment. Don’t trash talk the team on social media. Get back to your practice and conditioning – look for other opportunities, network, reach out and ask for interviews. Game on.

Here’s the toughest part: send a thank you note.
“A thank you note for not hiring me?” you ask incredulously. “I already sent a thank you note for the interview.”

It’s to say, “Thank you for your consideration and the opportunity to speak with you. I hope there will be a chance to work together in the future.”
Why? Because sometimes the runner-up gets a call back.

And that’s what we call a slam-dunk.

The Eyes Have It

“The handshake is going away,” the experts say.

Those who say so, underestimate the power of a handshake in business.
A handshake is how we bond.
It’s how we say, “Good bye.” It’s how we say, “Hello.”
We often know from the grasp of a hand, whether a person is friend or foe.
A handshake is the way we establish trust.
In an interview, a handshake tells us if candidates can confidently hob knob… or whether they’re not quite up to the job.
A handshake may convey warmth and regard, or coolness and detachment.
When lots of people seem plastic, a handshake keeps it real.
Sometimes our handshake even seals the deal.

Throughout history, humankind has survived various epidemics, which temporarily halted personal contact, including viruses, flus, plagues, fevers. Eventually, people were able to gather again… even go back to holding hands.

Until that happens, we’ll have to rely on our eyes.
When people are wearing face masks, their eyes are still showing.
The eyes tell us whether someone is smiling behind the mask, fearful or even indifferent.

Try this experiment: turn on any cable news program and observe the interviews. It matters not which way you lean politically. You can detect if the media personalities conducting the interviews don’t like the people they are questioning, by the way their eyes narrow. Or if they like the person, how their eyes widen and even …sparkle.

How we use our eyes matters on our video calls too. Do we look engaged? Bored? Hostile? Enthusiastic? Our eyes speak volumes and we have control over what they say.

If the handshake has gone away, it’s just on sabbatical. It will be back. Until then, practice greater eye-awareness. Let your eyes sparkle more than they narrow.

The Generation Revelation

My favorite music group when I was younger was The Police, whose lead singer was, of course, Sting.

In college, my friend Mary Pat Rourke’s mother saved me a magazine article about Sting and said, “I found an article on that singer you like – what’s his name? Slap? Bite? Smack?”

Sometimes, it seems like the different generations speak different languages. With at least three different generations in today’s workplace, it can feel like you are working with your parents. Or maybe it feels like you are the parent.

When I worked for Sony Music in Chicago, I felt like such a youngster. Later in my career at a successful tech start-up, I felt like a senior citizen. I remember telling one of my co-workers at the tech company that a friend of mine was close friends with one of the Turtles. (You know, “So happy together…” those Turtles?)

He said, “Which one was he… Michelangelo?”

Here are a few tips for working in a multi-generational workplace:

  • Err on the side of formality, when you first meet. After you get to know the person, you can decide to remain formal or be more casual.
  • Never make people feel like their age (too old to relate, too young to understand, etc.)
  • Find out how people prefer to be contacted: by phone, email, text, etc.
  • Don’t assume the worst. Don’t misjudge Millennials as inattentive. Don’t assume anyone older than a Millennial has out-of-date technical skills.
  • Eat lunch with everyone, not just the people in your generation.
  • Be a good listener. If you don’t understand something someone is saying, ask questions.

No matter where you are on the generational spectrum, there is always new knowledge to absorb. So respect your elders… and your youngers… and always be learning.

How to Banter Successfully on Zoom

You’re on the Zoom call, gaping at a gathering of people in boxes on your screen, waiting for the meeting to start. So what do you do?

You banter.

Bantering is a friendly, informal exchange. There’s no rule that we must remain silent until the meeting begins. Or that we must wait for formal introductions on the video conference to be introduced. Use that time to be productive and build relationships.

Last week, I had a virtual Networking and Dining Etiquette session with Idaho State, the night before their Career Fair. Some students arrived early, so I asked them questions about themselves. I would do the same if I were there in person – talk to earlier-arrivers before the event. Often, I learn things I can refer back to in my presentation.

When is a good time to banter? Before interviews, before presentations, before meetings… that few minutes can be prime networking time. What can you banter about?

The weather
A book you just read or program you watched
Something you are looking forward to

Keep it fun. A student had a cat run across his lap and I said, “Is that a cat? Let’s see it.” The student scooped up the cat and held it up for all to see. I asked about the cat’s name and said, “That’s a good-looking cat.” Another student piped up, “I have a cat, too.” Common ground!

I asked a man about a beautiful painting on the wall behind him. He said, “It came from my grandfather.”

Never, never, ever joke about someone’s home or appearance. Not all workspaces look the same, as families scramble during COVID to find a quiet spot. The best humor in business is self-deprecating.

Don’t just sit there before your call begins. Use that time to banter and bond.

Etiquette Tip of the Week – By Callista Gould, Author and Certified Etiquette Instructor
Culture and Manners Institute www.cultureandmanners.com