Manners maketh

This month in Management Today Philip Delves Broughton asserts that manners matter.

While there are some occassions when time is of the essence and barking orders is essential to prevent disaster or dalliance, there is no excuse for using this method of communication for everyday working practice.  Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ is a complete anathema to some people, who regard courtesy and politeness as an indication that someone is too ‘soft’ on contractors or colleagues.

In his article, Philip examines how bad manners can permeate an entire organisation, having a detrimental effect on morale and staff retention.  Research by US academics found that after a single incident of incivility, 48% of the sample said that they decreased their effort at work, 38% intentionally reduced the quality of their work, 80% spent time worrying about the incident, 66% said their performance declined and 78% said their commitment to their firm declined.  And 12% left.

And while the figures above are shocking, those which relate to clients who witness bad manners among a suppliers employees are very salutatory indeed.  83% would tell someone about the incident, 55% would look less favourably on the company’s products and services and 50% were less willing to use them in future.

Within both events and marketing, failing to respect and acknowledge fellow professionals can have devastating affects:  when the chippies walk off the site because the site manager shouted rather than investigating the issues that were putting them behind schedule; the waiters who accidentally went the long way around a venue because the event manager treated them with little more than contempt; the junior who found themselves in hot water with their boss because they passed the buck once too often.

To some extent bad manners, and management are often caused by stress and excessive workload, but there are those who believe it is their place to treat their subordinates badly and may not even realise they are doing it.  The latter will only be effected by a complete change of culture within an organisation but the former is easily fixed.  A relationship can be repaired in an instant with an acknowledgement of the distress caused and the use of another simple word – sorry.

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Just in case you had forgotten…

“Events are supposed to be exciting, stimulating and fun.”

Richard Limb from Capita Symonds and President of the National Outdoor Events Association says this in the context of event health and safety, but really it could be applied to any aspect of the organisation of any kind of event.

“Paranoid, over zealous nit picking, paper producing processes do nothing of any value.”

Except handcuff and restrict the enthusiasm and creativity of every member of your team.  Which is not saying that the proper processes shouldn’t be put in place or adhered to, but that they should not be the tail that wags the dog.

“We need to get on with putting on a show, to entertain and thrill the crowds.”

Regardless of whether they are a handful of executives or thousands of members of the public. Forget this and you might as well pack up and go home now.

Are you who you say you are?

When was the last time you checked up on someone?  Properly checked up on them?

Are you still just taking people at their word…

Did you check that they were actually a member of an industry association; or that their qualifications were current and valid; or that they had appropriate insurance; or even credit checked their company?

Financially we have come a bit unstuck with a couple of clients who still owe us money.  Even with a credit check we would probably be in the same position so we are willing to chalk this up  to experience, though we are getting much better at seeing the signs and harder at chasing the pennies.  But having spent the weekend in the company of some of the UK’s leading event safety specialists we will no longer be shy about asking anyone who wants to work for, or with, us to show us the evidence behind their claims of competence. 

The checklist goes something like this:

  • Industry associations: what’s their membership number and when does it expire?
  • Insurance: are they covered by employer & public liability insurance, and professional indemnity insurance if applicable?
  • Qualifications: do they actually have them or did they just attend a course, when did they take them, are they valid, when were they updated?
  • CRB/Security checks: both for themselves and their staff if applicable to the audience
  • Are they registered with the ICO (or your country’s equivalent)?
  • Do they have the relevant experience and can they back it up with references?

Ignorance is no excuse, because you never know the effect on your business of someone who destroys a great client relationship because of their lack of skills or personality, or who lands you in court because they were not competent to do the job in the first place.

It’s a salutatory lesson that it would be better not to learn through personal experience.

Technology – smology

We were working at an event not very long ago and once the delegates were all sitting comfortably there was that lovely period when everything was calm and well ordered and all we had to do was watch the clock until the next break was due.

Unusually for the times, the venue didn’t have wifi (either free or paid for), so there wasn’t much point getting the laptop out and we all had internet enabled phones with us anyway.  Consequently, each of us went off into our own little huddle to commune with the internet via our nifty handheld devices.  After a short while there was a little whine from one of our project managers ‘will you all stop playing games on your phones and come and talk to me’.

So we were all working, checking emails and replying to clients, yet the most techno-phobic member of the team (who refuses to get a blackberry/equivalent and doesn’t know how to send an sms message) immediately assumed that we were messing around…  So much for technology giving us a better image then.