5 Business Etiquette Rules You Learned in Preschool
What if I told you that everything you need to know about business etiquette you learned in preschool? It sounds funny but essentially, it is the truth. So why continue reading this article? We all need reminders. Sometimes as life progresses, we forget the basics. Here are five important learning lessons from preschool that we can apply to business etiquette and our careers today.
- Introduce yourself and be friendly. Meeting someone for the first time can be awkward. When you are an introvert, it can be even more challenging. Even if you do not know how or where to start the conversation, one of the most genuine things you can do is simply introduce yourself, smile, make eye contact and extend your hand for a firm, professional handshake. Remember, the person you are meeting might feel as awkward as you do, so a warm, welcoming first meeting/impression can very much help others feel at ease. Take your friendliness one step beyond and try to get involved in activities with your colleagues and other professionals. If your team is getting together and going out for coffee or happy hour, join them. You do not even have to partake in the activity to engage with the others socially. Perhaps your office is involved in community activities or sports events, join in and get to know who you work with. You spend most of your adult life at work; inject a little bit of your personality to make your office interactions enjoyable.
- Share. One aspect of professionalism that is often overlooked, yet deeply valued, is the ability to share your ideas and be creative. Share your thoughts on a project in a productive and positive manner. Share your experiences in a way that is relevant and helpful. Sharing is really the key to teamwork. As an accountant, you have to work as a team with colleagues, clients and other professionals. If you share in all these various situations, everyone will want to work with you.
- Know how to interrupt a busy person. As the parent of a four year old, I find myself telling my child at least once a day to say “excuse me.” As an adult in the workplace, we sometimes forget that our colleagues are busy too. One of my former colleagues had an excellent way of getting time on my calendar. She would send me an email asking me if I had 15 to 20 minutes to discuss a few items on her to-do list. When we met, she would have her organized thoughts in a bulleted list for us to discuss. She took it one step further by showing initiative and demonstrating that she did try to find a solution and/or offered her thoughts on how to proceed. As someone who is trying to ascend the professional ladder, it is quite beneficial to be able to showcase your ability to think ahead and offer potential solutions, especially if you are interrupting a busy person.
- Learn how to learn. Nobody likes a know it all, yet every week we may encounter such individuals. It is crucial to your career (no matter the level) to always be willing to learn. With that openness to learning should also come objectivity and respect for your colleagues, their ideas and yourself. The profession is changing at a rapid pace; be willing to learn and adapt. Reflecting on my professional path, I appreciate the inspiration I have gotten from areas outside of the accounting profession. I constantly look at other industries and take the time to learn about other professions. For example, when looking at the healthcare industry we see how executives have transitioned from hospitality management to healthcare management in recent years. It seems like such a simple idea, but when you treat patients in the hospital more like guests at a five-star resort, amazing things happen. Revenue grows, the health and wellbeing of the patient is expedited and employee retention is not an issue.
- Make mistakes. One of my personal challenges, perhaps the biggest in my life, has been to accept that I have made mistakes. The bottom line is that no matter how much you educate yourself or how much you are willing to learn, we must also be able to make mistakes and grow from them. When I was in my 20s, I internalized my mistakes and dwelled on them. Then I would make more mistakes and constantly worry about being fired. A job is like a relationship. We are human, and we are going to make mistakes. The most prominent CEOs in business advise that we should learn from them and move quickly on to the next project or opportunity and be confident in the knowledge gained from the experience. If you can shift the paradigm in your head from negative to positive and see your mistakes as opportunities, life will be exponentially better and you will be seen as a consummate professional.
Business etiquette is often overlooked but extremely important to your career. There is a reason why these concepts are now being collectively referred to as “success skills.” As long as accounting involves communication between human beings, we will need to harness these skills, reflect on our interpersonal communication acumen and act appropriately in the workplace. If you are willing to give of yourself, learn, share and make mistakes and grow from them, your colleagues will respect your efforts and energy and you will have a very successful career in accounting.
Shirley Claude is director of market development for Surgent CPA Review.