Professional and courteous

This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT DEL” comes out in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.

The plumber’s promise.

As I was gazing out of the window on the highway heading back to the airport, I spotted a very rundown truck. The exhaust was pushing gunk into the environment that would be heartbreaking to Mother Nature. The driver was smoking a cigarette with the window rolled down and — at quick glance — didn’t look like he had just rolled out of bed after a fresh and cleansing shower. Plastered across the van, in a massive font size, it read: “Professional and Courteous Service.” I thought to myself: “maybe… but unlikely.”

Isn’t that what we all want?

At the end of the day, we want our plumbers to be professional and courteous. What winds up happening is that we consider it a “win” if they take their boots off before entering our homes (without track dog dung on our floors), if we don’t see too much butt crack, if they don’t pretend like they’re smarter than us just so that they can rip us off, and, ultimately, that they don’t use our bathrooms to take a dump.

It’s a universal truism and, by the way, we’re not just talking about plumbers. We’re talking about all of us. Nobody likes to be dumped on. We’ve set (or moved) the bar so low in today’s business world, that we’re all amazed when any service or product that we have purchased is shrouded with an abundance of professionalism and courtesy. Why is that? We should not accept clients screaming at us and we should not be irrational if a Kickstarter project gets delayed. In a world of tweets, Facebook updates, and Tumblr posts, the short fuse is all but gone and we’re constantly explosive… about everything.

We need more professional and courteous people in the business world.

It’s as simple as that. Things go sideways. Projects don’t always work out. Deadlines are sometimes missed. We often try to push new ideas on people who may not be open to them. Whatever the case is in your world, nothing is perfect. We all strive for excellence and perfection. We often fall shy of it (sometimes it’s our own doing and sometime it is completely out of anyone’s control).

But, in a world where nothing is perfect (let’s say seldom perfect?), there is never a reason not to be professional and courteous. It’s the one thing that each and every one of us can not only control, but that we should all be very cognizant of in each and every business interaction with one another. It is something we can be vigilant about.

Back to that plumbing truck.

I have no idea whether that plumbing company lives up to their promise. By my guesstimates, it’s hard to say you’re professional when your transport vehicle looks so unprofessional, but who am I to judge from that brief moment alone? Still that line: “Professional and Courteous Service,” gave me pause. It made me think about the many interactions I had in the past few days where I had been crabby due to a lack of sleep and too many early-morning flights, coupled with a burning desire to be constantly delivering great work with everything we’re doing at Twist Image. In the end, I think I delivered on the promise of being professional and courteous. Going forward, I’m not going to have to think about it again, because I’m going to do my best to live it — at each and every moment in time.

Taking a second.

My trick. Your trick. Before any interaction (phone, email, text, in person, Twitter, whatever), take a pause. Don’t hit the publish button, hold your tongue and take a second to say to yourself, “professional and courteous service.” Be there, in the moment, to serve, to engender a smile, and to get whoever you’re working with to be happy about that interaction. Do your best to get them to the point that they end your moment by saying, “Thank you.” Imagine how, in just one second, you really can change the face of your business.

What’s your secret to always being professional and courteous?

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About Mitch Joel

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He is also a blogger, podcaster, journalist, speaker, and the author of "Six Pixels of Separation" and "CTRL ALT Delete." Mitch is frequently called upon to be a subject matter expert for BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Marketing Magazine, Profit, Strategy, Money, The Globe & Mail, and many other media outlets.

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Comments

  1. Dawn R

    Mitch,

    Generally I read and find your short essays to be useful. Maybe it’s because the thermometer has risen too high too early this day, or perhaps it is the client check that has not yet come in the mail. Today I’m a little bit “peevish” aka subject to notice and be aggrieved by small things which would usually not trigger the radar.

    No matter, I find myself irked by your comments about plumbers. You perpetuate new stereotypes about this already downtrodden segment of small business owners.

    It bothers me that you characterize blue collar workers as being somehow less likely than you to engage in polite, courteous discourse. Your statement ” consider it a “win” if they take their boots off before entering our homes (without track dog dung on our floors), if we don’t see too much butt crack, if they don’t pretend like they’re smarter than us just so that they can rip us off, and, ultimately, that they don’t use our bathrooms to take a dump” is kind of revolting to think about, and in fact far from the truth in my experience.

    I won’t belabor the point, but I note in your next statement that ” you’re not going to have to think about it again” (the whole politeness thing) is notably self aggrandizing. Even the best of us trying to become more mindful and compassionate must remind ourselves on a daily basis, lest we backslide into old ways of behaving.

    The point is we all have to keep ourselves in check. It’s an ongoing process, and does not have an expiration date. I’ll continue to read your column, perhaps it is refreshing to see
    that you are decidedly human.

  2. Dawn R

    Mitch,

    Generally I read and find your short essays to be useful. Maybe it’s because the thermometer has risen too high too early this day, or perhaps it is the client check that has not yet come in the mail. Today I’m a little bit “peevish” aka subject to notice and be aggrieved by small things which would usually not trigger the radar.

    No matter, I find myself irked by your comments about plumbers. You perpetuate new stereotypes about this already downtrodden segment of small business owners.

    It bothers me that you characterize blue collar workers as fundmentally less likely than you to engage in polite, courteous discourse. Your statement ” consider it a “win” if they take their boots off before entering our homes (without tracking dog dung on our floors), if we don’t see too much butt crack, if they don’t pretend like they’re smarter than us just so that they can rip us off, and, ultimately, that they don’t use our bathrooms to take a dump” is a revolting gag reel of stereotypes.

    I won’t belabor the point, but your note in your next statement “.. not going to have to think about it again” (the whole politeness thing) is notably self aggrandizing. Even the best of us trying to become more mindful and compassionate people must remind ourselves on a daily basis, lest we backslide into old ways of thought and action.

    The point is we all have to keep ourselves in check. It’s an ongoing process, and does not have an expiration date. I’ll continue to read your column, perhaps it is refreshing to see
    that you are decidedly human.

    And “don’t forget to scrape the sh&# right off your shoes”

    Jagger/Richards
    “Sweet Virginia”

    Cheers,

    Dawn R.
    NYC, NY

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