All doors open to ‘ Little Courtesy’

This was couple of months ago. A typical field day in a corporate sales guy’s life. I reached the client premises around 10.00 AM for a meeting and was made to sit in the meeting room next to the front desk. The front desk was manned by a male receptionist and by the look and manners of him; he looked like he managed the facilities/ admin of that office (of around 30–40 people). My colleague was yet to reach the place and he was 10 minutes behind the schedule. Blame it on infamous Bangalore Traffic.

Customer whom we were to meet had not reached the office as yet. Customer had recently taken over the Marketing Department of that large International organization which had extensive dealer network across. We have had a detailed discussion about two days prior to the meeting and had set up the meeting schedule mutually.

The meeting room I was waiting in was well furnished. It had wooden table and leather chairs, polycom and VC facilities. It looked newly laid out set up as the plastics were still wrapped around the chair and the AC was brand new. Two sides of the walls had floor to ceiling glass, one facing the front desk and another towards the back office with privacy films on them. A spacious and a good meeting room/ visitors waiting lounge.

5 Minutes in and the customer checks in. Receptionist informs that so and so person is waiting (which is me). I could see that he acknowledges what receptionist had to say, logs in and walks towards his cabin. I could see him walking towards his workstation from the gap between the frosted glass stickers on the glass wall. By then my colleague had informed me that he would take another 5 minutes to reach the place.

After about 2 minutes, customer walks in to the meeting room. Gentleman was in his early 40’s. I stood up from chair to greet him, smiled and extended the hand. He kept the door opened and we shake hands and pleasantries exchanged. He was in Tees+ Jeans (Friday dressing, and I was in business attire, as always). I explain that my colleague is on his way and he will be here in 3–5 minutes and I apologize. He says that it is all right and says he is waiting for few of his colleagues to join this meeting and they are also on their way and that it should be fine. Very professional and courteous. Understands that Bangalore traffic can mess anyone’s schedule and empathizes with me.

So far so good! While he responded that he is OK with the wait. It seemed like it was almost like an autopilot and his mind is wandering. He was talking to me but was looking somewhere else inside the meeting room.

As soon as he is done with me. He turns to the receptionist who had stood up when he saw the Boss walking in and still standing observing that the boss is in close proximity, and says Idhar Aaja… (‘Come here’ in Hindi). He points towards the new chairs, which were wrapped around in plastics.

Customer reprimands the receptionist for not removing plastics wrapped around the chair, reminds that he is been following up since a week and the job has not been done. At first it sounded like a calm admonition, later a jibe and then ended with a bellowing monologue, while the receptionist stood haplessly and petrified. It must have been a harrowing experience for him, since the dressing down happened publicly. I turned the gaze away from the incident and sat down in my chair. All of it took less than 90 -120 seconds and customer went back to his cabin.

My colleague joined me in next 3 minutes; customer joined us with his other colleagues. Meeting started and it didn’t go well. Anger prevailed!

I don’t know whether the receptionist was such a bad resource that he needed constant reminders and supervision.

I don’t know whether the customer had varying standards for different people because they belonged to certain social strata.

I don’t know whether the customer was setting the context right as per him and was exercising PowerPlay on me just before the meeting (there were no negotiation discussions)

I don’t know whether customer had a bad start of the day.

But I know one thing and the lessons are refreshed. Mankind is going in a wrong direction and Facebook walls are crying out loud to convey the ‘Little Courtesy’ and TV channels like Zee Café air a banners after every sitcoms which says ‘Little Courtesy won’t hurt any one and it will go a long way’

Business etiquette is not just about treating the clients, colleagues, family and one’s peer group with courtesy; it is also how you treat people who serve you.

One can still demand courtesy without having to spend it, only through power and authority, but one cannot demand respect. Great leaders earn that respect by their humility and by their virtue of being courteous towards people.

Often we remember the politeness of giants and how that makes them shine through the clutter of snobbery and how they stand out of the crowd. They lead the way and show us that politeness can very well blend with the power and authority.

If you are the one without the authority and are still courteous and you believe that politeness wont hurt any one (including you!) march on, you are doing well. Keep learning and sharpen your tool. Those who serve, give, show humility, lend a shoulder, and extend the hand and those who lead the way are people world needs desperately at this moment.

Remember, being courteous is power. When you exercise that power you know that you are not losing any of those good traits, virtues, position you have/hold/acquired, instead you are strengthening all of them. Being courteous is not a weakness and nor a sobriquet for meek, submissive behavior as well. There is a thin line between them. When you are extra polite to those above you in power and position, it is called ‘Sucking-Up’ and if you are not same way with your peers and towards those who serve you, then you are a ‘snob’. At the same time, if you are nice to people across (irrespective of power, position, riches and social strata etc.) and you value yourself, have a great self image, still a task master, then you are charismatic and some one impossible ignore. Power and Authority can wait and it will blend in with your natural trait when it arrives.

"If you have a lot, give some of your possessions; 
if you have little; give some of your heart."
- ( Nilotic African Proverb)

If you are a leader by the position you hold. If you have enough power and authority, but have limited fan following and influence. I have a warning for you. Your popularity and influence will wane, the moment you step down from your position. If you are wondering how to develop a tribe of leaders who will continue your legacy, then lead with humility, courtesy and politeness. Your legacy will stand tall and people will tell your stories.

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Naveen Koojugodu K

Trainer, Sales soldier, bibliophile, ಕನ್ನಡ fanatic , Social SkyDiver & a story-teller-on-request.