1. Where do we start?
Preferably at board or owner level. If you can’t sit round a table and have a polite discussion with your fellow directors and executives, what hope do you have of encouraging employees to be polite? You can still have heated, passionate arguments without abusing people – in fact, they’ll respect you more for it.
2. What are our aims?
Keep these simple and in perspective. Courtesy is not going to stop you taking unpleasant actions, such as making people redundant, but if your business is going through a bad patch, it could improve motivation, generate more sales or reduce costs. Courtesy could help turn your business around – in conjunction with sound management from you.
3. How do we promote courtesy to people?
Any way you want to. You don’t need to announce it, as people should notice the change behaviour of you and your directors. If you do announce it, use newsletters, intranets and meetings to spread the message, but involve everyone.
4. Lead by example
The best way to influence people is to be courteous yourself. If you are a busy person and find that you have not been taking the time to notice those around you, see how they respond when you do take the time to greet and acknowledge them.
5. Will people believe in courtesy?
Possibly not. Remember that workplace bullying and stress is endemic these days, so few people are likely to take you at your word. Expect to encounter cynicism and resistance – only by persevering yourself will you win people over.
6. Who should run the initiative?
While personnel (or human resources) and marketing departments would be expected to run such initiatives, courtesy is the responsibility of all. If you set up a group to run it, ensure there is widespread representation from all levels and departments.
7. How do we support our initiative?
The foundation of the initiative is personal behaviour. You could focus on individual aspects, such as greetings. Do people say “hello” first thing in the morning or do they just grunt? How about a cup of tea or coffee and a hello to put those of us who are slow to wake up in a positive frame of mind?
Your initiatives can be as small or as big as you like – you’ll probably find the smaller ones most effective, because everyone can take join in and they are less likely to create divisive cliques among people.
8. How can we channel our enthusiasm?
Carefully. Excessive or false cheerfulness can make people more miserable – it’s important to find the right balance. Also, it’s impossible to maintain high levels of cheer all the time and people will soon twig that it’s not genuine. You’ll get a better response by sending someone home an hour early when you see that they are exhausted than by trying to clown them into satisfaction. Use your own judgement.
9. Should happy people always smile?
No. We all get tired, but it doesn’t mean that we’re not happy. Courtesy means recognising an individual’s current state of mind and acting accordingly – this could mean leaving them alone, if appropriate. You don’t have to talk to people constantly, just don’t forget them.
10. Are there any limits to courtesy?
No. Use your own ideas as you see fit. You should know the people in your organisation and be able to judge what will work for them better than anyone else. And if you don’t, just getting to know them will be an act of courtesy in itself.
Use the other prompts available to spark off your own ideas.
Thank you and enjoy boosting your business through courtesy.
See the other polite prompts in our please and thanks courtesy toolkit.