Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having lunch with a group of my long term clients. We have all known each other for the best part of a decade and the relationships are more personal than professional nowadays. We regularly talk about our respective businesses; our challenges and our successes alike. One of my clients was talking about hiring a Finance Manager and he asked me to help source someone. I asked him what he was looking for and his number one criterion was “good manners”.

Now “Brett” (my client) is not what you would term an old “fuddy duddy”. To the contrary actually. Brett runs an IT consultancy and is in his early 40’s. He is a smart casual guy as opposed to a suit and tie guy. His workforce is predominantly young with the average age 24. 90% of them are university educated and their average tenure is less than two years. It is a fast moving, dynamic place to work; a place that seems to be a mixture of Google and Apple!

However, “Brett” feels as though he has lost control of his business. He feels as though his team is greedy and there is no give and take any more. He described his worst moment last year when the reception bell rang (the receptionist was at lunch) and nobody got off their chair to go to reception. It was left to “Brett” to meet and good mannersjpggreet. When he raised it with the team, he was greeted with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders; his team didn’t care less.

“Brett” has always been proud of his business. He taught me many years ago that you need to build a business where you would always be proud to show off to your family. However, even though the profits are at record a high, “Brett” is feeling less and less engaged with his business. The fabric of the culture is eroding before his very eyes and he feels as though it is because he has condoned poor manners and arrogance by not stamping it out. While his bank balance has never looked so strong, his pride in his business is at an all- time low.

I can’t help but reflect on “Brett’s” experiences and think of my own business. I was once told by one of my closest friends (and direct reports) that “I don’t handle rudeness well”. I think he was trying to provide some constructive criticism to me at the time (as he likes to do on a regular basis) but to me it was a complement. It is not difficult to say hello and goodbye to your peers. It takes less energy to smile than frown. Punctuality and preparation not only shows keenness on your part, it demonstrates respect for the person who is hosting the meeting. Cleaning the kitchen is not the sole responsibility of the most junior person – it is a shared facility. Taking pride of your work area shows respect for yourself and your business (no, I am not trying to do a Marius Kloppers here). These are a few of my “bug bears” in my work life that I try to embed in our culture at Optimum. I think it counts and builds that fabric that “Brett” misses so dearly.

My Brisbane office is currently in the process of hiring two new consultants, I was asked by the hiring manager what I wanted most of all from these new hires. I thought of “Brett” before I answered the question. My number one criterion for these jobs is “good manners”. Fingers crossed!

Brad McMahon – Managing Director


One Reply to “Manners: A Forgotten Art”

September 17, 2013

I couldn’t agree more. Manners show respect to others and it doesn’t take that much effort to greet people, say goodbye, hold open a door or say thank you.

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