Professional development may include image and etiquette training

What do these three people have in common?

  • A vice president who meets weekly, via video-conferencing, with his sales reps across the country.
  • A baby boomer who wants his career to stay viable until retirement.
  • A high potential employee who is on the fast track.

 

It may surprise you to learn that each of them has worked with an image consultant. In fact, The World Future Society, the organization that tracks trends and issues, predicts that image management will be a growing field.

 

Why? Several trends are converging: Companies want everyone, from the receptionist to the president, to provide a great experience for the customer—not unlike a “guest experience” at a fine hotel. So, some companies are providing training on how to make a proper introduction, how to eat at a fine restaurant, and even the proper way to conduct business over lunch.

 

Also, in this age of increasing media--camera phones, video-conferencing—media images are becoming the norm. If you’ve ever seen yourself on video and cringed at how you came across, you can understand why learning how to master presentations, run a meeting and communicate using technology requires a new set of techniques.

 

The Baby Boomers are starting to hit middle-age and as any plastic surgeon will tell you, business is booming. The Boomers want to look up to date and upwardly mobile. In addition, many are working with Gen X and Y colleagues and customers. Middle-aged job hunters are often coached by job search agencies to look fresh, so an outdated appearance doesn’t screen them out.

 

The casual workplace has eroded etiquette and image, as well. Some companies have turned to outside consultants to spiff up the sneaker set. “Sometimes I’m called in to work with high potentials who are highly skilled but don’t know how to handle themselves in front of clients. There is a whole generation that has lost this knowledge. In some cases, they haven ‘t updated their college wardrobe and they haven’t had much exposure to proper etiquette,” Maureen Costello, Principal Consultant of Image Launch,  told me recently. Costello, who has lived in both in Asia and the United States, consults on personal image development for men and women in organizations.

 

I’m not surprised, since I sometimes bump into the image issue when I coach executives. For example, during a recent program for executive mentors, a male mentor asked for advice on how to tell a female mentee that some of her behavior was inappropriate.  In this age of hypersensitivity, he didn’t want to misstep on this tricky turf.

 

Costello agrees. “Sometimes I’m hired to give an employee personal feedback about those hard to talk about things like dress, greasy hair, or even body odor. A male executive might want me to work with a female who needs growth and development. This can include giving her feedback about seductive clothing. Or a male might have bad breath or dress sloppily.”

 

There is some evidence that the casual pendulum has begun to swing back. Amy Palec, owner of Mind Your Manners, is an etiquette consultant who has observed this trend on the East Coast. “The Wall Street companies and other financial organizations have gone back to a more formal policy. Even creative companies, such as advertising companies, have found that their employees have gone overboard. Their clients aren’t creative, so these agencies are pulling back and expecting their employees to look more professional.”

 

I asked Palec to share some of the common mistakes people make. Here’s a quiz to test your EQ (Etiquette Quotient) for a business lunch or dinner meeting. Mark each True or False:

  1. Don’t start talking business over lunch until the entrĂ©e is finished.
  2. If the guest orders an appetizer, the host should, too.
  3. Don’t remove your jacket unless your host does.
  4. Place your napkin in your lap as soon as you sit down.
  5. The host should reconfirm and supply the guest with the agenda the day before.
  6. If you go to the restroom, place your napkin next to your plate.
  7. To make a good impression, the host should get there early and leave his or her credit card with the wait staff before the guest arrives, to avoid awkward moments regarding paying for the meal. 

Answers: 1. True. (Or, at least close to finished.) 2. True. Your guest shouldn’t eat alone. 3. True. The guest should follow the lead of the host.  4. True. 5. True. No more than two items. 6.  False. Place it on your seat. 7. True.

 

Didn’t get a perfect score? For more information, visit Amy Palec’s website, www.amypalec.com, and Maureen Costello’s www.ImageLaunch.com.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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