Protocol Consultants International




Protocol Consultants International
Judith Bowman, President and Founder

Professional Presence, Corporate Training and Development
Consulting and Protocol Certification



 

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Protocol Consultants International

The Presentation

by Judith Bowman on 05/10/15

Presenters are performers however, … “you are only as good as your last performance!”

Without rolling out the red carpet or engaging in theatrics here are some nuances so subtle, your audience may not be able to articulate why you were so engaging, only that you were.

Preparation: The challenge every time for presenters is to connect with each audience and share information as if it were being said for the first time. Write, practice, review and rehearse – just like great athletes, dancers, musicians, until you own it.

Attire – what you wear and how you look speaks volumes about you before you utter one word. (55% is visual (Ref. Mehrabian Rule) Dressing professionally for a business presentation is the Easy A; professional attire is “never wrong.”

Arrive early and participate in room preparation:

* check lighting, air conditioning, microphone and ensure all tech equipment works; failed mechanics suggest a failed presentation.

* have a glass of water (versus a Styrofoam cup) – Note: soda gives you gurgles, coffee gives you bad breath.

* identify the clock and be mindful of time; remove your watch (place on podium.) Remember the infamous Bush/Clinton presidential debate when George H.W. was caught checking his watch. … few remember what was said however, nearly everyone remembers President Bush looking at his watch (inference: time to go, … yet?)

Position yourself at the door to personally meet, greet and thank guests for coming.

Stand in the back of the room as your bio is read and walk enthusiastically, purposefully onto the stage; extend a prearranged handshake with your introducer.

Studies show the first 60 to 180 seconds is dominated by the visual aspect. You may have begun speaking, however, your audience is not really listening yet; they are still in high visual mode. Stand with both hands at sides, have a pleasant facial expression, pause, and let them look! You: look out at your audience start from the back of the room and endeavor to make eye contact with each person. By the end of your presentation every participant should feel “looked at,” acknowledged.

Begin “Welcome” remarks to include perfunctory “thank you’s;” look at each as you acknowledge; don’t rush this.

The Stage itself is a barrier. Dismount the stage to eliminate the barrier and better connect.

Position yourself to the left of your visual aids (as audience views you.) We read from left to right. You want the focus to be you, not your support material.

Refer to slides selectively; do not read word for word (insulting.)

*Rule: No more than three bullets per slide; less is more.

Pausing:

- commands attention

- allows time to articulate next thought.

Pacing - and selective gesturing helps alleviate nervousness; over-gesturing will kill your presentation.

Point - with two fingers – the index and third fingers. (Avoid the admonishing index finger.. never use the third finger!) Obama uses thumb over fist and open palm.

Concluding: - honor allotted time. Return to focal point of stage, make eye contact with audience, restate your purpose, capsulize your message. Extend “thank you’s,” once again. Bow, graciously accept applause.

Let your audience hear your conviction, feel your passion and purpose and connect.

Handling an Irate Client

by Judith Bowman on 03/25/15

Coming face-to-face, tête-à-tête with an irate client can be daunting, yet this potentially volatile situation presents an opportunity to distinguish yourself at your highest skill set.  

An irate client is essentially saying, “give me attention!”  Therefore, we say, “give it to them!” Kill them with kindness.

Immediately establish yourself as the consummate professional, in Control of the situation. Exude calm and confidence through voice and body language as you endeavor to establish Trust.  

Tips:

 

  • Greet from a standing position.  You do not want to be in the position of sitting while they stand essentially looking down on you.

    Ref:  peace talks in 1953 with North Koreans:  The North Koreans, who are a shorter people, strategically positioned North Americans on a lower level in a sloping amphitheater in North Korea.  North Koreans sat on a higher level and whenever North Americans would address North Koreans they would look up to them.  Whenever North Koreans would address Americans they would look down on them, so to speak.  Physical positioning is important and subliminally powerful.
  • Encourage them to sit.  Sit after they are seated and sit the way they do.  Become chameleon-like, in order to adapt and subtly let them know you are “with them”… you are relating to them.
  • Listen with your eyes (and ears.)  Be an active listener.
  • Validate them and say “I understand.”
  • Show sympathy for their frustration.  Say, “I am sorry you are experiencing this situation.”
  • Empathize.  Even though this may have never happened to you, say you have experienced the same type of thing; share a story to show you relate.
  • Thank them for bringing this to your attention.
  • Summarize what you have heard and play it back to them.

You are sincere and respectful.

Try to maintain a sense of humor (it’s the American way!) and keep things in perspective. Think:  John F. Kennedy. As President, JFK was renowned for his ability to diffuse tense situations especially with the clamming press with whom he endeared himself by his skillful use of humor.

Give a realistic estimate of when you will respond (should research be required.)  Bring them to agreement; honor promised time frame ... you building Trust.

Offer a genuine apology, “I am sorry you are experiencing this situation.” 

If you have a solution, offer this.

Don’t:

 

  • lower yourself or your standards.
  • return rudeness or vulgarity.
  • argue. Be the better person.
  • accept verbal abuse. 

 

If you are unable to satisfactorily remedy the situation, bring in a superior. 

Thank them for the opportunity to try to correct the situation.  End on a positive note.  You, your company will be remembered positively.

Examples of Civility - “Dissing”Benjamin Netanyahu

by Judith Bowman on 03/17/15

There is a world crisis looming.  Israel is a crucial US ally strategically and morally.  Why is this administration so passive? 

Israel is facing the single biggest threat to their nation since the Holocost, as the nuclear arms race against Iran escalates…  and our President who, himself, has breached the imperatives of protocol more than any other president, stands  on a point of protocol?

At stake: 

-          Iran hates Israel and seeks to annihilate them. 

-          Netanyahu has appealed to law makers in Congress to circumvent White House diplomacy and either block or broaden terms of any deal with Iran.

Netanyahu was invited by Congress - a branch of government, well within its prerogative,  especially on a matter of this scale.  The invitation had bipartisan support because members of both sides of the aisle recognize the fundamental threat to world peace a nuclear armed Iran would pose.  Netanyahu saw this as an opportunity for his country and embraced it.

In dissing him, President Obama said he was being sensitive to political implications with Israel’s upcoming election which, most respectfully, Mr. President, has nothing to do with the big picture.  Obama seems not to like Netanyahu - and clearly, Netanyahu feels this. 

We can debate the technicalities however, the bottom line:  Netanyahu was invited and he accepted.  As such, we have (host country) responsibilities.  This White House’s behavior was  rude and has shown complete disrespect toward this World Leader, our long-time ally and, disrespected the friendship.

Protocol Abandoned

Ø      The President blatantly demonstrates his contempt for the Prime Minister which in itself, is protolically inappropriate.

Ø      Protocol suggests meeting “level to level;” this White House not only did not meet with Mr. Netanyahu, President Obama did not even shake his hand while he was here. 

Ø      Prez was “too busy” to watch his congressional address (says he was “briefed”)

Ø      Joe Biden, the VP, whose job it is to preside over Congress wasn’t even there … he was “traveling.”

Ø      Nancy Pelosi said publicly she was almost “in tears!”

Ø      50 other congressmen didn’t show up.

Gifting:

House Speaker John Boehner thoughtfully gifted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a bust of Winston Churchill.  The gift was chosen because, like Winston Churchill (who addressed our Congress three times) Netanyahu is the only foreign leader to have addressed Congress. 

As the Israeli Prime Minister has said, “President Obama’s posture here does not block Iran’s path to the bomb, it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

Why does our president look the other way?   (BTW – Obama is Muslim … does he carry those anti-Semitic thoughts?) 

“Do Unto Others”
We have two more years of Obama and going forward, what do you suppose will happen when John Kerry or our next Secretary of State calls upon Israel for their support?  Mr. Obama’s conduct is not only inappropriate, unbecoming and embarrassing, but damaging to foreign relations with Israel.

Mr. President, please be reminded from the book, “Art of War” an immensely influential ancient Chinese book on military strategy, also known as Sun Tzu, “Keep friends close and your enemies closer.” And, if nothing else, Mr. President, from the Godfather, please remember, “It’s not personal, It’s business!”

Questioning the Status Quo

by Judith Bowman on 02/22/15

The recent sports illustrated cover which leaves little to the imagination, is a classic example of an ambitious business decision gone awry. 

Admittedly, we have become a society of extremes – X-treme rides in Las Vegas have been trumped by more X-treme thrills in China and Dubai… X-treme sex at the movies and online is beyond X-plicit.  X- treme fashion, music, reality shows, cars and more.    However, going too far has its own set of rules and there comes a point where the “wow” factor subsides and the thrill-effect backfires.   

The iconic sports magazine, in its ambition to be more suggestive and sell more magazines, has only been successful in being too provocative and reaching a new low to the point where women – and men - around the country are talking derisively and some groups are urging retailers not to openly display the magazine.  The National Center on Sexual Exploitation says, the magazine has migrated into the “adult magazine” classification.  If this cover was on Penthouse or Hustler whose reputation is aligned with nudity and pornography, we would not be having this conversation.  However, because SI has the reputation for being a coveted journal of respected sports coverage for the past 50 years and our children read this magazine, we expect more. 

The SI brand has always been synonymous with promoting athleticism and featuring role models both male and female. When SI first ran the Swim Suit edition, it was considered a bit avant garde and even titillating for a sports magazine however, consumers bought the magazine which encouraged the publication to continue the Special Edition.  Sales escalated and the Swim Suit edition became a much anticipated issue, not to mention a coveted, even prestigious “get” by models.  By choosing to exploit nudity and thereby denigrate women, the magazine has made a bad business decision.

Bad business decisions happen all the time.  Management makes mistakes; companies are not omniscient.  Most of us are hard-wired at work to “go along to get along.”  We are encouraged not to upset the status quo and not question the boss.  Heck, its’ even one of Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior:  “When your Superiors talk to any Body hearken not neither Speak nor Laugh.”

That said, when controversial issues arise in your own companies be a voice.  Express your opinion.  You were hired for a reason.  What your company was saying essentially when they hired you was, “I like what I see, I want to see more.”  Know that your opinion matters.   It takes courage to be that person to speak up and risk upsetting the status quo.

As always, it’s not what you say but how you say it.  Say it respectfully, with confidence and conviction.

Although none of us had a say in whether or not this cover should run, we do have a say now.  Express your opinion at the cash register and speak to their bottom line.  Also, e-mail your opinion to:  judith@protocolconsultants.com.


Integrity in Sports

by Judith Bowman on 01/31/15

The New England Patriots have been so unusually good for so long that it seems fans are bored and the competition is jealous!  What happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty?   Behavior as of late, is reminiscent of the Salem witch trials…  And it seems the vulturous press would rather sell gossip and  exploit minutia than focus on ‘just another Superbowl’  … adding the suffix “gate” – implying scandal or at least, underhandedness (no pun intended) has been a nice touch!  All this is not very golden rule type behavior, something upon which even sports etiquette is based.   Moreover, the upshot of this debacle threatens to cut at the core of fundamental qualities of integrity and trust - upon which personal, business and sports relationships should be based.  Tom Brady has denied any knowledge of impropriety and I believe him.       

…  even if air pressure was altered, this clearly did not affect Brady’s performance as Patriots scored 28 points during the second half with a fully inflated ball (which was also heavier because it was drenched)  versus 17 points with a less inflated ball.  Velocity is also reduced with an under-inflated (heavy, wet) ball  … so much for the integrity of the ball … 

Brady’s integrity: 

The New England Patriots are a true Dynasty Team.  Tom Brady could be The best quarterback of all time and Bill Belichek one of the best coaches.  Tom Brady and The New England Patriots are professional, world-class athletes who have earned titles and trophies not by individual accomplishment, but by shared achievement.  They have played and won consistently, as true Gentlemen Warriors.  Individually and collectively, they have demonstrated that treating others with respect is contagious and key to winning.

Tom Brady is a star athlete and a leader who works for his wins, studies and prepares.   His confidence and sense of authority come from exhaustive preparation.  He is known to watch every frame of every defensive play of the season at least once and memorize every twitch and tic of every cornerback and safety.  He gets briefed and briefs himself on strengths and weaknesses of his opponents including their habits, tendencies and vulnerabilities.  Teammates admire his presence and personality, his work ethic, selflessness, humility and show of respect toward everyone.   

Let not hearsay, innuendo and viscous rumors tarnish the hard-fought, well-earned reputation of one of the greatest quarterbacks in history.   

Tom Brady doesn't need to cheat to win.

Handshaking

by Judith Bowman on 01/19/15

Important information is conveyed and critical first impressions are made shaking hands. Handshaking is the most common form of greeting in the world today.

Origin: Think - kings and castles - whenever two knights would approach each other on horseback they would hold up their right arm as a gesture of peace and thus evolved the art of Handshaking as we know it today.

Some common handshakes and their conventional significance:

Fingertip Holder - prefers to keep others at a distance.

Bone-Crusher – betrays anxiety.

Political Handshake – (Hand over forearm) – not considered the most professional handshake; used with those you know well.

Sympathy Shake - “I am sorry for your loss.”

On-and-On – “Help!... where do I go from here?”

Dominant –(Ladies – do not enable this handshake!) Swing their right hand upright to the vertical position and with a gentle, yet firm squeeze, make good eye contact to be “well met.”

The “Clammy Handshake!” –the “kiss of death!” - betrays anxiety.

The Correct Handshake

Shake hands like you mean it, like you want to be positively remembered.

Connect “V” to “V” (thumb and index fingers) of our right hand with the “V” of the other person’s right hand. Pump one to two times; make eye contact.

*The Number One Rule regarding shaking hands: whenever you shake hands, always STAND as a sign of respect.

In different parts of the world there are different types of handshakes. It is appropriate and gracious to greet others in the form of cultural greeting to which they are accustomed.

Don’t:

- Shake hands with sun glasses/gloves on or even desks (barriers!) You want nothing to interfere with forging the relationship.

- ignore persons with an illness or disability. A disabled individual will usually offer you their left hand in reverse.

*Consider looking at the other person for one to two extra seconds (not 8 or 10!) as you shake hands. President Clinton is renowned for this and in so doing, makes others feel acknowledged, special.

Be at the ready for whatever type of handshake is offered. Keep a sparkle in your eye, beam your infectious smile and make those you meet feel acknowledged and you will “be a person well-met.” You will be remembered and stand apart in all positive ways.

No one is ever too old or too young to start shaking hands, and fabulous professionals should lead by example.

Sharing too much Personal Information at Work

by Judith Bowman on 12/25/14

… the “Self” You Show to Whom?”

We spend more time with co-workers than members of our own family, therefore, it seems natural to tell them things about our personal life which also makes work more interesting and enjoyable.  While sharing some personal information is crucial to forging relationships, sharing too much personal information at work may damage your reputation and could kill your career.      

Don’t:

-           share personal problems! 

-           share information which reveals your weaknesses, particularly if you are in a management position or vying for a promotion requiring solid credentials, good judgment and people skills.

-          discuss your abusive husband, difficult divorce your depression issues.

 …  bragging about your drunken binges, problems with your kids and financial woes are also taboo; turn to friends and family for support. 

… and if you are looking for a new job, tell no one at work! 

Entrusting co-workers with very personal information places an unfair burden on them – you never know who you can really trust and for some, repeating information is just part of their nature; they’re not being malicious. 

Sharing news about a i.e. wedding, engagement, new grandchild, etc., are natural topics to share but sharing your pregnancy news for example, might not be a smart career move as there are many work-related ramifications.  

The office grapevine:  feeds information we would not otherwise know and is a necessary evil.  Paradoxically, people are naturally drawn toward negative aspects of other people’s lives and seem to feed on other people’s misfortune … “better them than I” attitude!   Hence the office grapevine exists.  A few rules:

Do:

-          listen to everything and verify information before passing it along

-          pass along only true information that won’t hurt others

-          Use the grapevine to take positive action or make decisions.  You can start posturing for the position you heard will open soon or looking for another job because you understand the company is being sold.  

And we all know those people who spread negative information in the most compassionate way…. i.e. ‘isn’t is a shame about poor Kim who’s been on Match.com for ten years and never had a date… I wish I could introduce her to someone.’  This amounts to little more than office gossip with a twist of   passive/aggressive behavior.

Maintain a level of professionalism and a few layers of privacy at work… they don’t need to know everything about you!  Less information is sometimes more. 

Remember: “If you want no one to know, tell no one!”  

Gift-giving

by Judith Bowman on 12/09/14

Getting through "the most wonderful time of the year" with our values and budgets  intact can be daunting.   Here's how to be remembered and save money at the same time.

Government agencies have stipulations and companies have compliance issues.  Knowing just how much you should or even can spend can be tricky.   What to gift a new client versus a long-term client and whether or not to even gift a certain client comes into play.  Being "gift-savvy" is an art!

Purpose of Gifting:  Remember, the purpose of gifting and sending cards during the holidays, socially or in business, is to thank individuals for tangible and intangible gifts which includes:
  1. their friendship 
  2. their business
You have the relationship.  Their gift of friendship is a gift!  Now, nurture it.  

Even if no business has been conducted during the past year, regardless of the reason, holiday time is the ideal time to continue to invest in and cultivate the relationship.  Play "up," assume the sale and, at the very least, send a card. Actually, not doing so, may even compromise your future relationship.   

Holiday card tip:

Personalize the card.  Write their name and sign yours - even if the card is engraved with your name/company name.  Use blue ink, green, red or gold  (festive!) (Note:  black ink is reserved for strictly business correspondence/contracts)  Also, even if you write only a line or two – write something, i.e. "Dear Jack, wishing you and Judy (name of spouse) a wonderful Holiday season!  Enjoy your Disney Vacation (specific vacation destination) with Jack and Judy Jr. (name of kids.) Thank you for your friendship and support.  Happy Holidays!  Dan"

Top Gift Tip:

Whatever you gift, even a bottle of wine, remember, "the presentation" is everything!  Wrap it, box it, monogram it, … (private label it!) but do not simply hand over an item. In other countries, things like certain colors are symbolic and even unlucky i.e. white in china is the symbol of death and bows are considered unlucky, etc.   

Top Gift ideas:
  • Consider gifting something symbolic of your company (not necessarily logo gifts,) city, country/ culture i.e.  Boston is known for the Boston Symphony, New England Patriots.  Hence, gifting someone from another city or country a CD of the Boston symphony or a pendant of the New England Patriots would be appropriate.
  • For "the Presentation" consider personalizing a CD case … depending on your budget… invest in a quality case i.e. leather, pewter, silver, etc. which they will always have, and think of you.
  • Frame the pendant, send a hat they will wear or have something personalized by a player – so many great charity events to find these items.   
Note: Our issue with gifting logo gifts is the individual will tend to think of the company, when, unless you are the company and/or this is your intention, you want them to think of You.  

Instead, consider something they will use every day with thoughts of you i.e. a letter opener, a  personalized pen or notebook, etc.   
  • Compose a poem/limerick.  Inscribe in script (?) on parchment paper and frame it…. "The presentation!"
  • Chronicle highlights of their accomplishments in a book or journal.
  • Frame a photograph.
  • Potpourri, a dried herb wreath, bake cookies … "present" them in a festive tin with a ribbon and, as always, with the personal note acknowledging their friendship/support.
  • Give the gift of time. Offer a lunch date. 
  • Donate to a charity in their name. 
  • Give fair trade items such as tea, coffee, or chocolate.
  • Create a memory by going to a ball game, dinner, concert.  
Note: Although holiday gift cards are by far and away the most popular gift at holiday time, the issue we have with gift cards is they place a dollar amount on the thought/gesture.
  • eBooks, e-cards, … e-anything is "fine" however, there is nothing which will replace a gift one can hold,  unwrap, regard, display, use.  
Acknowledge the thought/gesture:

Take a photo of the flowers, the vase, the letter opener and send to the gift or with a note.  Then, write a real "thank you" note (so few people do these days, it is easier than ever to get noticed.  

Enjoy the process!

Making Small Talk

by Judith Bowman on 11/29/14

Small talk, especially with those you don't know or just met is challenging for most and, there’s nothing "small" about it!  Initiating conversation is a skill which needs to be practiced and honed in order to help place others at ease.  Making small talk presents us with an opportunity to practice our all important people skills and stand apart.

Rather than let conversation take its natural course and go with the flow, initiate small talk and topics.  Questions beginning with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How work! Ask "open-ended" questions (those that do not end in a "yes" or "no" answer) and make it all about THEM. Get personal. Remember: People love to talk about… themselves!

In fact, be prepared to walk away from any given conversation and even the event itself, sharing very little about yourself. Actually, this would signal a job "well-done!" Those with whom you have spoken will doubt be of the mindset, i.e., “I just had the best conversation with Judy Jones,” when in fact, there was no conversation, there was a monologue. They were taking about themselves!

Whether during a job interview, a networking event, before/after a business meeting, whenever you have a one-on-one conversational opportunity, embrace it.  Try to glean (more) personal information while sharing personal information (not too much!) about yourself.  Doing so will  help advance trust and grow the relationship.  

Questions:
  • "What do you do for a living?" may be a common question however, still implies, "How much $$ do you make?")

    Rather, consider saying:   "What business are you in?" or "What is your professional field?" This is less threatening and does not suggest your curiosity regarding their income bracket.

"How is business?" is tricky as they may not want to talk about work. They may have a sick child at home or prefer to chat about their vacation.

Rather, ask, "How are things?" (Asking how things are:
    • leaves the direction/the conversation "open-ended"

    • allows them to take the lead by delving into their personal life or business news.

    • or, they may choose to keep the topic generic and respond, i.e. "Things are fine! Thank you for asking."

      This leaves the field open for you to take the lead and share something about yourself or your business which may inspire them to offer something in kind to help you better connect.)

Initiating small talk: 
  • takes the pressure off us to speak (first).

  • lets us hear the other person speak (first) and obtain important information (we can hear nervousness, arrogance, grammar, pace, etc.  

Remember to become chameleon-like, adapt to them, their words, their pace, to relate and connect.   

Thanksgiving

by Judith Bowman on 11/25/14

Many go to considerable lengths to gather on this special Day and remember, 90% of success is showing up!  That places a huge emphasis on that 10% of what we do once we're there!   What we do and say is important, and hosts and guests have a responsibility to help ensure a memorable Day.  

Hosts: time to dust off your good china, crystal, bring out the festive table linen, candles.  Pre-select appropriate background music.  Dress up your home, your table and yourself.  Serving guests on paper plates and plastic forks is not "entertaining."  This may be easier however, given the time and effort others have invested to be with you, this is not only bad form, it is actually quite rude.  What are you saving this for if not now, with close friends and family?  The host sets the tone.  Be festive and dress UP for the Holidays!  

Teach children what is expected of them.  Teach your children now how to shake hands (eye-contact!),use names, answer questions with more than a “yes” or "no" answer, how to hold a fork and knife and review basic table manners (American and Continental.)  Children watch how you interact (or not);  lead by example.  

Host Responsibilities: 
  • greet guests at the door.  Offer to take coats or, coach children (as junior hosts) to do so (great life training!)

  • provide guests' initial refreshment.  Thereafter, tell them to help themselves.

  • have a designated area for coats and purses.

  • consider a designated play area and even a children's dining table.  Have high and low-tech toys and games available.

  • facilitate conversation.  Provide introductions, monitor alcohol consumption, music, replenishing food, etc.

  • have a scented candle burning in restrooms; light table candles and others as you deem appropriate.

  • have ice, soda, water, mixers, coasters and festive cocktail napkins out.

  • flowers are festive, as well as a great hostess gift.  
At the Table:

Sitting and Seating:  The host is seated at the head of the table.  You honour the most important person (governed by age/gender) by seating them to the right of the host. Couples should be separated unless newly married or newly engaged. 
  • Grace and an optional informal toast should be offered at the beginning of the feast.   
Rule:  "one should not even take a sip of water until after grace is said." For those who do not say grace: bow respectfully, while grace is being said.     
  • No one should begin eating until everyone is seated and served.

  • host signals when to begin by picking up their utensils and saying something like "Happy Thanksgiving!"  "Enjoy!"  Bon appetite!; be inclusive

  • make eye-contact with everyone at your table.

  • children can help (learn how to) set and clear the table;  
Guests:  
  • never arrive empty handed.  Bring not only your signature dish (or whatever you were asked) but something for your host i.e. a candle, hand towels, egg nog, wine, flowers, etc.

  • circulate and contribute.  Resist the urge to hide in the kitchen or plant yourself in front of the T.V.  although having the Macy's Day Parade/football game on is more than fine on Thanksgiving Day. Suggestion:  have photos – new and very old, your wedding album or vacation photos out for viewing, cards or a game out to play is a good fallback.

  • offer to help clean up.  Thanksgiving is probably one of the few times hosts may graciously accept. 
Thank your host for inviting you and hosts, walk guests to door (outside the door to their car if possible!) and thank them for coming.  Guests remember to write a thank you note.

The Family Dinner Hour

by Judith Bowman on 11/11/14

Our morals, values, beliefs and ethics are shaped at home and are in large part, attributed to the way we were brought up. Possessing a strong sense of Family (not necessarily referring to the traditional family, being a single parent myself) helps build confidence, provides a strong life foundation and also serves as a source of comfort during life's challenging times.

We live in a world today where multitasking and managing our time, people, home and career is commonplace; time is precious. This is a ringing call for a conscious return to an uncomplicated activity as old as "Old Man Time" himself: The Traditional Family Dinner Hour.

Note: "Family Time" vs."Dinner Time"

This call hails the notion that when we take the time to dine together, as a family, we experience a heightened level of comfort and security and, in turn, we are more confident and respectful… we interface with others more skillfully, invite conversation and welcome new people into our lives more freely. The Family Dinner Hour encourages bonding and connection as well as behaving well and being gracious… a great 'way to be!' It is here where lessons of life are learned … where parents will correct, and celebrate their children. "Family" is intrinsic in the fabric of our lives and while reinstating activity may seem simple, initiating this requires effort:

  • Announce it: "We are having "Family Dinner" at every opportunity" (Night/time)
  • Make the time. Urge family members to say, "No, I can't" to other invitations … and practice saying, "we are having a Family Dinner tonight."
  • Make Family Dinner Hour fun and festive - a dining experience.  
People feel better when they sit at an elegant table that is dressed.

"Special" suggestions:
  • Eat in an attractive place i.e. the dining room.
  • Create a calm, civilized atmosphere i.e. play soft background music.
  • Prepare a nutritious dinner.
  • Use table linen and porcelain vs. paper plates/plastic utensils.
  • Candles/tea lights.
  • Ground rules: T.V. and cell phones: off(!); no in-fighting.
  • Teach and practice good table manners … how to set a table, hold a fork and knife, etc.
  • CONTRIBUTE to family discussions.
Unplug from the world mentally, and dial into your family and partner… laugh and enjoy each other!

The Market Basket affair provides an iconic case study of how, when you show employees you care and treat employees with kindness and respect, you get respect, loyalty, allegiance.

Today, more than ever, INVEST time/energy in the special people in your lives. The dividends will be exponential!

Showing Their Emotional Side

by Judith Bowman on 10/30/14

What if it was Martha Coakley who cried?

Charlie Baker broke down in tears on the [Massachusetts] gubernatorial debate stage as he told the story of a fisherman’s family plight.

It was received by most, including me, as a genuine, justified show of human emotion. A real moment in the artificial world of politics.

But what if it was Martha?

No such luck. Professional women don't cry. Not if they want to be leaders.

She would have been seen as weak, overly-emotional because this is the stereotype women face.

This is the reality. Women who cry at work are considered ineffective, unable to handle difficult decisions or play in the big leagues or yes, serve in the Corner Office of the State House.

Crying at work also affects women disproportionately. They feel inadequate. They feel they have failed some test. When Mika Brzezinski, now co-host of MSNBC’s "Morning Joe," was fired from CBS, she cried in front of the president of the news division.  

"When you cry at work, you give away your power," Brzezinski later said. "When you are in control of your emotions, you are communicating you are in control."

The intensity of a political campaign takes a toll. Crying relieves stress.  People get that. It may have been uncomfortable and awkward to watch Baker tear up, but it was a powerful moment to his benefit. 

I liked that the former CEO showed us his heart. I trusted him. He also made us feel his compassion with fishing industry challenges.

At Tuesday's gubernatorial debate, Coakley said she last cried that same day while attending a memorial service for a union organizer who had died of leukemia — the same disease that killed her mother. She kept her emotions in check while answering the question.

Baker, on the other hand, fought to control his emotions as he told of crying over a struggling New Bedford fisherman who said he sidelined his two sons from taking college athletic scholarships to join him on the boat.

Baker showed us not only his emotional side, but successfully demonstrated his ability to connect with his audience in a way some are calling the best political move of his candidacy.

Coakley was more mechanical, some say more technical. But what choice did she have? After all she is a woman.

Sharing too much Personal Information at Work

by Judith Bowman on 10/29/14

… the "Self" You Show to Whom?

We spend more time with co-workers than members of our own family, therefore, it seems natural to tell them things about our personal life which also makes work more interesting and enjoyable. While sharing some personal information is crucial to forging relationships, sharing too much personal information at work may damage your reputation and could kill your career.
  • Don't share personal problems!
  • Don't share information which reveals your weaknesses, particularly if you are in a management position or vying for a promotion requiring solid credentials, good judgment and people skills.
  • Don't discuss your abusive husband, difficult divorce your depression issues.... bragging about your drunken binges, problems with your kids and financial woes are also taboo; turn to friends and family for support.  
… and if you are looking for a new job, tell no one at work! 

Entrusting co-workers with very personal information places an unfair burden on them – you never know who you can really trust and for some, repeating information is just part of their nature; they’re not being malicious. 

Sharing news about a i.e. wedding, engagement, new grandchild, etc., are natural topics to share but sharing your pregnancy news for example, might not be a smart career move as there are many work-related ramifications.

The office grapevine:  feeds information we would not otherwise know and is a necessary evil. Paradoxically, people are naturally drawn toward negative aspects of other people's lives and seem to feed on other people's misfortune … "better them than me" attitude!   Hence the office grapevine exists.  

A few rules:
  • Do listen to everything and verify information before passing it along
  • Do pass along only true information that won't hurt others 
  • Do use the grapevine to take positive action or make decisions. You can start posturing for the position you heard will open soon or looking for another job because you understand the company is being sold.  
And we all know those people who spread negative information in the most compassionate way…. i.e. "isn't is a shame about poor Kim who's been on Match.com for ten years and never had a date… I wish I could introduce her to someone." This amounts to little more than office gossip with a twist of   passive/aggressive behavior.

Maintain a level of professionalism and a few layers of privacy at work… they don't need to know everything about you!  Less information is sometimes more. 

Remember: “If you want no one to know, tell no one!”

Compliments in the Workforce

by Judith Bowman on 10/23/14

Compliments of appreciation. We all appreciate a compliment but ironically, don't practice giving them enough at work.  Are we getting too caught up in political correctness and forgetting that acknowledging others is basic to who we are? Saying "thank you" and showing appreciation to someone who helps make our job easier, work more interesting or enjoyable is an opportunity to make others feel special and advance relationships. Thanking another for help with a project, supporting you or believing in you is important. Extending a sincere compliment is almost universally appreciated and reflects positively on you.  

Compliments regarding a co-worker's appearance or clothing however, can be tricky, as sexual innuendo and sexual harassment issues are real.  What may be intended as harmless may be misinterpreted.

President Obama introduced California's Attorney General Kamala Harris at a Democratic fundraiser as "by far, the best looking attorney general in the country." The remark raised a few eyebrows.

Was this a sexist remark? Was the superior/subordinate card in play? Are cross gender compliments to be reconsidered at work?  Are compliments on looks or other personal affects including attire ever acceptable at the office?

Despite having extended similar compliments to those of the same gender without incident, President Obama called the Attorney General to apologize for the remark which I believe is ridiculous as there was clearly no sexual innuendo here.

Should we feel free to extend a compliment on attire/accessories or notice a new hair style?  " like your tie!" (said with a lilted voice and raised eyebrows) is not the same as looking pointedly at the tie and saying to the person, "that’s a good-looking tie!"

Remember, it's "how we say it."  Tone, context and patterns of extending compliments are everything when it comes to unwanted remarks.

Also, the nature of the relationship should be considered.  If a close friend at work is extending the compliment, this is different. We form close bonds with the people we work with and appreciate their candor.

Extending insincere compliments to make the other person feel better or because you know they like the tie is gracious and thoughtful. Any time we go out of our way to make another feel good about themselves, is a positive thing.  
Not extending compliments at work for fear of sexual innuendo or offending would be a great loss.

The bottom line, no offense will ever come from you telling me, "You look fabulous!"

Cell Phone Etiquette

by Judith Bowman on 10/20/14

Most people don't intend to be rude at the dinner table, in meetings, at social gatherings, on dates, however, rampant use of cell phones has become a habit. In fact, for many, cell/IT devices are considered an addiction.  90% of all Americans own a cell phone and 29% say they can't imagine life without them.

An errant phone alarm, a rogue text, a program attendee thumbing a phone surreptitiously is insulting to the speaker. The mere presence of a phone is suggestive and insulting and suggests that someone or something else may be more important. Should you choose to use your device in the presence of others, alert them in advance and then, if the call/text comes through 1. Apologize and 2. Excuse yourself and 3. Then take the call or address the message outside of public purview.   

It is courteous and good business practice to limit your attention to your IT devices and focus on people at hand.

Top tips to raise the cell phone bar: 
  1. As soon as you reach your destination:  cell phones and pagers:  Off!  … And out of sight.  Place in briefcase or purse.
  2. Mobile devices should not be part of the business luncheon place setting.  
  3. In meetings, if the phone must be on display, turn to silent or vibrate mode.
  4. Check email and respond to texts after the meeting. Not doing so suggests that the speaker is unimportant.  Perceptions are real; appear engaged/as a team player.
  5. Keep voice tones low and conversations short.
  6. Make sure ring tones are consistent with your professional message.
Blatant use of cell phones socially and in business in front of others with whom we have prearranged time is downright rude, personally insulting and reflects poorly on the offender… and it's not just "the kids" who are the offenders.   We have a real epidemic on our hands. Take the initiative to practice these tips and be the example. Coworkers and friends will notice and everyone will benefit.

In today's technology-driven workforce, awareness of appropriate cell phone usage is imperative.  It is not only courteous but smart business to show respect for others by limiting attention to our IT devices.  Most people don't intentionally set out to be rude, we just get into bad habits.  Because many companies do not have policies regarding cell phone usage, we all have an opportunity to lead by example!

Tel: 508-888-7800   E-mail: Judith Bowman
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