We want to be accountable and trustworthy to our clients and business partners alike. You may even use phrases that are designed specifically to instill trust like ‘my word is my bond’ and ‘I put my money where my mouth is.’ However, despite your best efforts, it is possible that you are being reflected poorly.
As employees and partners represent you in the world, they may lack the self-awareness to accurately reflect you or your company’s integrity. When those behaviors impact your reputation, what does that say about your company culture and what can you do to change this? Click here to read my conversation with industry leaders Lee Eisenstaedt and Dan Gershenson and learn how to cope with those who lack self-awareness.
The Etiquette Challenge: How Do We Cope With Those Who Lack Self-Awareness?
By Trisha Daho, Lee Eisenstaedt & Dan Gershenson
What’s the importance of self-awareness in terms of how you’re being perceived by others? How are a person’s behaviors reflections of their organization’s culture? Have we seen a rapid decline of following through on commitments and if so, how do we effectively deal with that?
To help arrive at answers to these questions and several others like them, as well as do a bit of “venting,” three colleagues – Lee Eisenstaedt of Leading With Courage Academy, Trisha Daho of Empowered and Dan Gershenson of Caliber Brand Strategy + Content Marketing – who are committed to helping leaders and managers grow their organizations, people, and brands, got together for a lively, interactive and even fun round-table conversation to sort out these challenges.
As we began, we wanted to address the nature of self-awareness and why it’s become more important than ever for leaders and frankly, anyone who represents the company.
Dan: OK, so we’re going to talk about etiquette today.
Trisha: Uh-oh. You’re in trouble, Dan.
Dan: Funny. Hey, I’m a work in progress. Anyway, as I was saying, we’re talking about what Lee often refers to as self-awareness in today’s business climate, which can entail how you are perceived by others based on your actions and how your behaviors can be seen as a reflection of your organization’s culture.
Lee: I’d also add how it includes your relationship to commitments and follow-up in terms of how that can leave quite the lasting impression. I’m sure we have a story or two to share on that, right?
Dan: Let’s start there, actually. Why do you think people have gotten so bad at keeping their commitments, especially since it can reflect so poorly on them?
Lee: There’s a famous cartoon I love in the New Yorker where a businessman is on the phone scheduling a meeting and says to the person on the other line, “No, Thursday’s out. How about never? Is never good for you?”
Trisha: You know, I may not like that kind of response from someone, but honestly, I’d rather you tell me that then say, “I can’t wait to talk to you next week,” and then drop off the face of the Earth with no response. The funny thing is, there are messaging systems in which you can track when they open it and view a message. So if I know you’ve opened my message, viewed it and still didn’t respond. How am I supposed to interpret that after saying you really were looking forward to getting together? That’s not a great reflection on you at all.
Responding To Lack Of Self-Awareness
Those who are deficient in the self-awareness department can have a lasting impact that sends a message about them personally and even about their company culture in being permissive of that type of behavior.
Dan: So what do you do in that circumstance of someone never responding to you after they’ve initially said they wanted to get together – do you just walk away?
Lee: Not yet. I may send a note to the person who introduced me to that individual and say, “Just so you know, the person you introduced me to said he was eager to meet but never responded to my message. I’m sure he’s just very busy and will probably get back to me when things quiet down, but I thought you would want to know.” Now, why would I bother with that? If it were me, I’d want to know that right away because I certainly wouldn’t want to keep referring to others an individual with no follow-through.
Trisha: Agreed. If you treat my people that I refer you to badly, then I don’t want anything to do with you again. Why don’t people understand this? What they say and do lands on people and what they’re taking from them. But for me, this is where emotional intelligence comes in. Have a little self-awareness. And if you’re too busy, fine. Just respond and tell me you have to wait two months to meet!
Lee: And that’s the point. We judge others by their actions and judge ourselves by our intentions. When someone doesn’t call you back or fails to show up, you don’t know what their intention is. But you definitely can judge them by their actions – or lack thereof.
The Impact On Culture
What the leader finds or does not find acceptable can communicate more to the company culture than they realize. Hence the need for greater self-awareness.
Dan: When you’ve been wronged by someone’s lack of self-awareness, what happens to you and if you work with others, what’s the impact? Do you show your anger, keep it inside, etc.?
Trisha: People are watching to see how you handle that. I’ll give you an example: I was late this morning to my breakfast. I was supposed to be there at 7:30 am and since I got lost, I didn’t roll in until 7:40 am. So I hate being late because when that happens, it feels like I don’t have my you-know-what together. So I emailed him and said I’m 10 minutes behind, but I’ll be there as soon as I can. He didn’t care if I was late or not. But if I had just made him sit there without any messaging, that’s a totally different thing. And it lands on people way differently than “I’m going to be 10 minutes late.” It’s that you’ve taken the time to send a message. It shows you actually care about the person on the other side of the table from you.
Dan: On the positive side, it’s the little things before and after that I think make all the difference even beyond the meeting itself. One time I was partnering with one of my old mentors on a project and it was a first meeting with someone. He said, “Hey, let’s ask these guys if they want some coffee from Starbucks before we go upstairs.” “Can I get you anything” is the smallest thing to ask, but then you’ve set the tone for the kind of person you are even before you’ve sat down for the meeting. Or how about the oldest thing in the book – hand-written thank you notes? How many of those do you get in a year? It doesn’t have to be much. Just a little something can help you stand out.
Self-Awareness And Meeting Etiquette
Being self-aware does not mean that you need to be open to meeting with just anyone. We have all been introduced to people who may not be a fit. So how do you protect your most precious resource – time – while preserving a positive perception of you and your company?
Lee: What about when your Spidey Sense is tingling and you suspect it may not be a good fit? What’s the etiquette you follow there so you’re not feeling like you’re rude to the person requesting your time?
Trisha: In that event, I ask if we can arrange a short phone call. I do phone calls of 20-30 minutes and I’m doing a lot more of those all the time. If it works out well and it works for them too, then we’ll explore getting together. And I think that’s getting to be fairly well accepted now. I don’t think anyone’s like, “Oh, what a put off. She doesn’t want to meet.” I never get that at all. It’s a smart way to screen and to value each other’s time. So let’s do a phone call or Zoom video chat to kick things off and see where it leads.
Lee: “Anybody” is so vague. I have a 1-sheet that states each of the audience channels that I’m interested in. If you’re an ESOP, I want to meet the Owner, a Board Member, any Advisors. If you’re an M&A buy side prospect, there are certain people I want to meet with those. It helps people help you.
Trisha: I have something similar that features a few paragraphs on who to introduce me to. By the way, I have to tell you on the topic of self-awareness, my absolute worst networking meeting. May I never have one this bad in my lifetime again.
Dan: Good Lord. What happened?
Trisha: I handed this person several referrals and I don’t consider us competitors at all. She thanked me for the referrals and thought it would be good for us to have coffee so I could explore the possibility of speaking at hers or a client of hers’ firm.
She comes in 30 minutes late, sits down and says, “Why are we having this meeting again?” I’m stunned at first, then tell her that I thought we were networking partners and we were going to actually see how we can help each other. She says, “I will never refer you anything because you compete with me.” And then she got up and left.
Dan: That’s 100% messed up.
Trisha: It is. So you think after getting several referrals that she’s getting anything further from me? I would rather be under a burning couch than dealing with that person again.
Self-Awareness And Being The Champion Of Others
After we aired our grievances, we wanted to share an example of someone who had done right in the self-awareness area and was giving of themselves to others without expectation of anything in return.
Lee: I’m so pleasantly surprised when I show up at a meeting and someone actually cares about what I’m trying to accomplish because it’s not that common. A friend of mine is an attorney here in town but his real claim to fame comes from the fact he was chairman of the U S Tennis Association.
I was talking to him about a book on leaders in sports I was putting together and he says, “Oh, I can refer you to Todd Martin. He’s been number four in the world in tennis.” Well, not only did he refer me to Todd and get us an interview with Todd, he referred us to six other people. Unsolicited! He just kept going and going and going. And he wrote the foreword to my new book when I asked him.
I didn’t ask him for five or six referrals. I asked him for one, got six and he followed up on all of them. That’s unheard of these days. No matter whether those things pan out or not, you’re always going to remember that unsolicited approach. It shows so much about your authenticity.
Dan: I’ve seen you do that several times not only for me but for many other folks. You’ve stood up in a room and given some amazing, flattering endorsements when you didn’t have to but you did it out of your goodness of your heart. It says a lot about you not only to me, but to other people in the room.
Lee: Thanks. I think this is something that more bosses should be doing internally to set a tone for the culture. Namely, giving others credit where credit is due. Again, this is so easy to want to do but it’s a matter of how often it is done and the scale at which it is done. If you’re a leader who is feeling really good about the work you’ve recently completed as a team, who was a major person responsible for that work? Praise them publicly! Tell us what they did and why it was so valuable to the overall mission of the organization! If you’re a department head, it’s not about bragging what your department has done or the people you supervise. It’s about being genuine and on the record about the behavior you are aware of in others and how you value that.
So if I can raise your status in the group, that’s a positive response for you. It’s been shown that that motivates people more than money. The same holds true for recognition. If I recognize that you’re doing a good job and especially if I recognize it in front of others, that’s going to motivate you more than just about anything that I can do for you.
Self-Awareness Can’t Merely Be Talked About By Leaders
Actions matter beyond words. No matter how often leaders talk about self-awareness, we have to repeatedly be an example of positive virtues and hold ourselves accountable. The goal is not perfection. The goal is to recognize when we have stepped out of alignment with who we want to become and what we want our culture to become. If we don’t, expecting everyone else to live up to what we want and demanding greater self-awareness will almost certainly fall short.
Dan: What people should understand about self-awareness is that so much in the way of perception is formed by little things. I was once presenting a brand strategy to someone and the head decision-maker did one of the most annoying things that you can do to me: He interrupted me constantly.
Not one time. All the time. It was like I was on a CNN debate panel or something. I could barely finish one sentence. Every answer was, “We do that. We’ve got that. We know we need to do that.” Really. Well, if you know all of those things I’m suggesting, why aren’t you doing them? Why do your customers feel you’re not doing that?
Trisha: It’s interesting how you have to be self-aware and people talk about self-awareness to the point where they automatically think they are by talking about it. Not quite. One person in a meeting I was in stood up and he said he was working with a manufacturing company that, believe it or not, was owned by two women. Like women don’t really know anything. I was like, “What kind of meeting is this and what am I doing here?”
Lee: Speaking of meetings and events, I think far too often, people have expectations of an event that are so far out of whack. We use DISC Assessments at Leading With Courage Academy among our offerings and I’ve gone to presentations for that tool to always learn more about what’s new with it. Then I realized how enjoyable that feeling can be. You’re not trying to sell the guy next to you on your services. I’m just there to learn some things over the course of an hour. It’s a great investment of my time because I constantly want to learn what I can do to understand people better.
But if you go in with the attitude that you aren’t going to immediately grow your business in that sitting, not only are you going to be disappointed but you’re probably going to come off horribly to others. Who would want to spend another minute with such a person? That’s how many people can come off as, which damages their personal brand and doesn’t even reflect well on the company they work for by association.
Dan: In fact, your lack of self-awareness can do irreparable harm to your company culture if you never set foot in the outside world. I’m thinking of an example where I was doing work for a mid-sized company and I just had a feeling that she would never listen to anything because she was already in love with her own story. She had the old humble brag that I actually see a lot now on LinkedIn, along the lines of, “I built this place years ago when I had next to nothing and look at me now…” Maybe she could use her vast experience to really inspire other people, but she didn’t think about that. One day she said, “I can’t figure out why people are leaving. Can you make our culture seem more…attractive? Why are my people leaving for other places?”
I said, “I know why. It’s YOU.”
Trisha: Wow. You said that?
Dan: Absolutely. What am I going to do, blow a bunch of smoke just so she can feel better about herself? I said to her, “Look, I’ll use our working relationship as an example. Personally, I like you and I think you like me. But from a work standpoint, you don’t communicate with me very well. You communicate with me only by cryptic text message. You don’t answer your emails. You don’t answer your phone. Did you know you were constantly doing that? Yet, you think I should just instantly get what’s in your head – like you do with your people. Have you ever sat down and mentored any them other than standing up in front of them once a year or so? Do you have a one-on-one with many of these people? They may know what you want. But do you know what THEY want?”
She said, “Oh, I don’t have time to do that with all of them. I’m already doing this and this and this…” OK then. Don’t be surprised when they leave. You can’t have it both ways.
In the second part of this round-table discussion with Lee, Trisha and Dan, we’ll dive into the topic of how leaders can move beyond talking about making change and actually holding themselves more accountable to live the change they want to see in themselves and others. All of which may help them foster a more inclusive culture.
Trisha Daho of Empowered helps professional services firms make strategic transformations so they can decide what they want most and how they can get it. She also creates inclusion strategies for up and coming leaders at large services firms.
Lee Eisenstaedt of Leading With Courage Academy focuses on succession planning and leadership development assessments, workshops and coaching programs – primarily to organizations with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
Dan Gershenson of Caliber Brand Strategy + Content Marketing helps professional service firms that lack a traditional marketing department build, grow and ignite their brand development with a proven marketing system for success.