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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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.  

  • "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.   


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;  
  • 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 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!

Telling the Truth

by Judith Bowman on 10/09/14

Lying has long been known as one of our less venerable characteristics to the extent where Moses deemed the habit "tablet worthy" and it landed spot #8 on the Ten Commandments. 

Think about it:  how many of us have called in sick to work when we weren't?  (58% more common around major sporting events) … whether you are extending an insincere compliment or making an excuse to get out of going to lunch, telling lies is insidious.     

Lying is incredibly common in business across the board - - Dodd-Frank was passed because there was so much lying on financial statements by CEOs. 

Sad to say, some of the best leaders are liars. Think of Steve Jobs' (reality distortion) and Larry Ellison's proclivity to proclaim a product was available when it wasn't—("vaporware!") 

Although lying occurs at the highest levels, there are consequences…some feel they will never get caught, but they do!

Bernie Madoff, Richard Nixon (lied to himself) "I am not a crook!" Bill Clinton, Elliott  Spitzer, Mark Sanford and Arnold Schwarzenegger come to mind. 


  • a story repeated often enough becomes undistinguishable.
  • we are great at self-deception!
  • today, automated systems can track lies and cover-ups

Lying truths:

  • can compromise credibility, integrity, trust and damage relationships/reputations, kill careers.
  • about small things begs the question, what else might you lie about? 

Top reasons for lying:

  • closing a deal
  • appeasing customers
  • covering up - mistakes/failed projects
  • covering up - for another employee
  • explaining tardiness and absence
  • denying knowledge of an event/situation
  • keeping the peace
  • fearing consequences

Remember, when you lie, the lie not only needs to be believable, but proven and then remembered!

When you lie you invariably end up dancing.  Therefore, be prepared to put on the dancing shoes because that’s what invariably happens.

Telling the truth may be harder in the beginning, but in the long run it is the right thing.

  • requires less energy
  • builds character.
  • means you don’t have to worry about being caught (in a lie)
  • you won’t have to tell more (cover up) lies

nor carry the burden of deception

It’s much harder to take an ethical stand and insist on honesty. 

The bottom line:  your reputation as an ethical person is central to professional success; word travels quickly.

Business Model with a Soul - Arthur T. Demoulas, Market Basket

by Judith Bowman on 09/14/14

These days, a time when companies seem to be all about the bottom-line, Arthur T. Demoulas, CEO of Market Basket, has effectively demonstrated to the world who has watched, that when you treat people fairly and give them respect you earn respect,  loyalty and, allegiance. 

Conversations Change the Brain

by Judith Bowman on 09/07/14

Conversations are the source of energy that have the power to release transformational thoughts – (products and goods) into the world. Conversations are the golden threads that enable us to move forward and trust others. It is through conversation that we communicate and ultimately, connect. Conversation is integral to the health and productivity of a company culture.

Please read my review of Judith Glaser’s new book, Conversational Intelligence.

In this world of texting and email, is the thank-you note still needed?

by Judith Bowman on 04/30/14

Sending a thank-you note is still relevant in the working world, especially in the interview.

Get more tips on How to Stand Apart @ Work in my article in Forbes.

Forbes article

How to Stand Apart @the Interview! - Top Tips

by Judith Bowman on 04/22/14

Get the competitive edge on the 2.8 million job openings by following these tips. 

April 2014 Newsletter

by Judith Bowman on 04/22/14

We are pleased to announce our April newsletter in which we share timely tips on handshaking, as well thoughts on how to effectively use of humor to diffuse volatile situations. We also provide insights into the hot topic of Conversational Intelligence.

The Confidence Cornerstone

by Judith Bowman on 01/29/14

Confidence is the cornerstone of successful people.  We here at PCI maintain that once we are secure knowing that everything said and done is within acceptable codes of conduct and acceptable behavior, we are confident to focus on people and topics at hand.  Confidence advances achievement.    Confidence is within each of us.  For some, inner confidence is hidden, camouflaged or untapped.  We only need to believe in our ability to overcome adversity through our inner confidence.   We must want to log on....

When we act confident, we are perceived as confident and, as  René Descartes suggests, "I think therefore, I am;" perception is reality. When we consciously program this "I am" attitude into our subconscious mind, and after consistent practice and repetition, these behaviors become a natural part of who we are.

Call upon things that don’t exist as though they do. Assume the feeling of a wish fulfilled and persist in the feeling. When we believe that something good is about to happen, it does. When we feel we can do something well, we do. When we know that we will act in an upright, appropriate or particularly effective manner, we will.

"We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle.

When you practice and emulate these behaviors, you will feel more confident and exhibit a confident persona. 

Although no one is born confident however, anyone can develop a confident persona and program the positive "I am" attitude into our subconscious mind. We only need to 'log on' and believe we can. When we persist with conscious, regular, practices a confident persona will emerge.

Everything we need to succeed and excel is inside of us.

"If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got." Henry Ford

Step out of comfort zones and into different situations. This will challenge the status quo and help us cultivate interpersonal communication skills and build self confidence. 
If you don’t believe in yourself, then no one will.


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

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