By Meta J. Mereday, writer/editor and diversity, media and community development expert
There is a growing need to provide corporate etiquette to aspiring executives who may well have the social media skills and the pop culture savvy to make a name for themselves, but like the corporate culture tools to make an impression that imprints well for a leadership position.
People of color and women have historically experienced discrimination and battled “old boy networks” to gain traction and positions in the board rooms of corporate America. The next wave of executives will need to battle a new entry in the battle to the board room – etiquette.
Playing the game in the business arena in today’s marketplace requires more than the high-speed typing on a Blackberry and having the “B” School credentials, but also understanding the dynamics of the work environment and the social graces that provide the “small and lasting” impressions for success. As a co-founder of national organizations and having served on numerous boards and task forces within the professional services arena, I know the importance of “the etiquette game” and I have counseled many aspiring executive and entrepreneur along the way.
I have watched how the ones who have “gotten it” in terms of understanding the nuances and subtleties of this process have progressed in their careers and/or business enterprises while others who believed that their credentials and gadgets were all that they needed to “make it” in fact, did not. My mom always taught me that kindness will take you where money cannot.
Just like watching a child taking those first tentative steps or riding their bike without training wheels after you have given them all you think they need to know, watching your fledgling students either take wing and soar, or try too hard with too little and fall flat, can be nerve-wracking. Yet, we need more accomplished diverse professionals out there breaking through that digital dependency model to help our future leaders to fully grasp what being a leader entails. They need to know that people most often need assurances, understanding and random acts of kindness that do not require a return. You will be rewarded.
From the steady and assured handshake to the eye contact and engaging conversation, these are the memorable pointers that get the attention and the call backs. The post event correspondence and follow-up and even if a deal falls through, stay in touch and highlight a lesson learned. My latest venture – The Founders Inclusion Group – is a model organization that was established to help bridge those gaps between aspiring executives and the leaders who are looking for the one with that “just noticeable difference” in their next C-suite hire. It is all about etiquette and not about equipment.