Ian Mash of Yeoman Consulting helps us to continue the theme of ‘practical ways to help your business life” by sharing some of his experiences of working at the coalface as a senior manager in one of the UK’s largest companies – BT.
I’ve had time recently to contemplate things I’ve observed which really don’t do business people justice on a day to day basis. Having the right professional skills is such a simple concept – we only have limited interaction with most people and certainly in new situations people tend to make up their mind in the first 10 seconds. Once that has happened it takes a while to change that view.
1) Returning calls
Many of us have answering messages on the phone or mobile which say that we’ll call back. Or indeed, when it’s not convenient at that exact point to talk we say “I’ll call you back at 4.o0, is that ok?”, and then don’t. We’re all busy people and respecting other peoples time will result in them respecting yours. If you make a commitment, put it in your calendar and deliver on it.
Mark McCormack in his book ‘What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School’ said that he didn’t trust managers who couldn’t take their holiday. In his view, if they couldn’t manage to take their holiday, what else couldn’t they manage to do? I think calling back comes into the same category. If you don’t deliver on that commitment, what else won’t you deliver on?
2) Control your emotion
One of the key professional skills in a close knit office environment is controlling your emotions. When I first stated work an old and wise manager who was my boss sat opposite me. One day I had a run in with a peer and wrote a great letter saying what I really thought of him. I felt a lot better. I showed it to my boss and he said “What a great letter, he’ll really know what you think of him after that!” He also said “I tell you what, put the letter in your drawer and then when you come in tomorrow, if you still feel the same way, send it”.
Naturally when I came in the next day I looked at what I had written, put myself in the other person’s shoes for a moment, then ripped it up and threw it away. The same applies for e-mails, but it’s tragically easy to press send too quickly. Take my old manager’s advice, save it as a draft until tomorrow, it might save you a lot of humble pie eating.
3) Take pride
I see many, many e-mails these days where basic spelling and grammar have been ignored. It’s to the detriment of the writer I’m afraid, and I bet you notice it when it’s done to you. Whether its lack of knowledge or lack of effort I’m not sure, but the time pressure on us and the proximity of the send button doesn’t help. Use spell check and if you’re not too hot on grammar, then look at Lynne Truss’s book “Eats shoots and leaves” which is great. I’m not suggesting at all that I am perfect and I’m confident that there are plenty of errors in this piece, but it’s something to think about.
4) Bother to follow up
I guess this is very closely linked to my thoughts above. I’m constantly frustrated by people promising in a meeting to send me something or to complete an action and then seeing that promise unfulfilled. Is it me or are people starting to get slightly surprised when people actually do what they say they are going to? This certainly applies in the faceless call centre. I’ve had a couple of experiences recently where an email has been sent to me as promised from a call centre and there was a small part of me which was shocked.
Clearly this isn’t a great reflection on society – but don’t fall into that trap! A tip for you – bother to write down the action, however trivial in your to do list and then actually do it as soon as you are able. You will delight people.
5) Be helpful
There’s a school of thought which suggests if you constantly go out of your way to help others, then you will be set for life. In the time I’ve had to observe some of these business people traits – I don’t see this helpful behaviour happening too often.
I’m a big believer in what goes around comes around. Go and make an effort to help a colleague today – and I mean really help – spend a couple of hours doing something for them that they aren’t able to do. It will make you feel good if nothing else and over time, it will pay back.
Ian Mash will be back with more pearls of wisdom in the next couple of weeks and can be contacted on +44 7860 621976 and via email at ian dot mash1 at btinternet.com
- Doesn’t anyone check spelling at Amazon? (nevillehobson.com)
- To Do Well at Work, Avoid Fights (usnews.com)