The Finishing Touch

Business owners, professionals and community leaders are expected to demonstrate confidence and credibility in a variety of situations. As a leader, do you always know what to say and how to say it appropriately? Are you adept at navigating a range of professional and social settings? If not, your reputation – your most valuable intangible asset – may be at risk.

While formal education and technical skills are requirements for many positions, according to three separate research projects by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute,success in getting, keeping and advancing in a job depends 85% on “people skills” and only 15% on technical skills.

With so much riding on interpersonal communication, where do you acquire people skills? In the early part of the 20th Century, finishing schools flourished. Strict boarding schools, often nestled in the Swiss Alps, is where young women from affluent families were prepared for the rigours of society.

Taking a cue from the Swiss, Civility Experts Worldwide and the Women’s Enterprise Centre of Manitoba launched Executive Finishing School, a six-session series to help entrepreneurs, executives and managers acquire the skills to enhance their social competence. These interactive sessions cover topics that range from exhibiting key executive competencies and communicating confidence, to becoming a polished professional and with a clear vision. The goal is to provide participants with the tools to professionally conduct themselves in any situation.

Why is civility important? In the 2013 Harvard Business Review Article,The Price of Incivility, authors Christine Porath and Christine Pearson noted that rudeness at work is rampant, rising and taking a toll on the bottom line. Among the many outcomes of incivility are employee turnover, diminished employee effort and inferior productivity, suffering creativity, and damage to customer relationships.

While we know that there is a business case for civility, understanding its scope is key. Many people think that civility is ‘good manners’ but according to Lew Bayer, President of Civility Experts Worldwide it is much more than that. It is:

  • A conscious awareness of the impact of one’s thoughts, actions, words and intentions on others; combined with
  • A continuous acknowledgement of one’s responsibility to ease the experience of others (for example, through restraint, kindness, non-judgement, respect and courtesy); and
  • A consistent effort to adopt and exhibit civil behaviour as a non-negotiable point of one’s character.

Civility and manners have always been important to me, but this week I realized it is an exercise in continuous learning. You must be ready, willing and able to process new information and add it to your civility tool kit. With that in mind, you may want to check out Karl Albrecht’s Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success or, join us on Tuesdays forExecutive Finishing School.

– Alison Kirkland