Original Post: January 10, 2014
“The future is always ideal: The fridge is stocked, the weather clear, the train runs on schedule and meetings end on time. Today, well, stuff happens.” ~ Hara Estroff Marano Psychology Today
I had almost forgotten what I pledged to do this time last year, to make this year a better year than the year before, and the year before, and the year before! Each year, I look myself in the mirror and make a promise about how I will change first, my eating habits, then improve on my professional appearance, and rev up my physical regime. I vow to feed my intellectual self with profound reading and snazzier social choices and began a new path to spiritual enlightenment while doing more of my meager part to save a suffering humanity! Every year, I put on things that will never be checked off! I feel guilty for about the first six weeks as I pass the list on my bathroom mirror, flip past it in my planner or tuck it behind the grocery list on the refrigerator. Then, just about the time the weight loss advertisements began to wane, and I have adjusted to the monthly gym deductible, or have joined a local lecture series by roll, but not attendance, and have amassed an impressive amount of neatly stacked articles and/or books written by the latest divine guru…it happens. Life returns to normal and my routine once more becomes an endless cycle of rituals deemed necessary to endure today and get to tomorrow. That list I spent hours agonizing over on New Year’s Day is lost, forgotten and/or buried in a myriad of daily priorities, where it shall remain until I randomly stumble across it while sorting through my junk mail or am in need of a quick scratch paper while on the telephone, or (gasp!!) it is once again New Year’s Eve!
So, I ask myself, “Self, why do you continuously make these promises to you and then allow everything else to become more important than taking care of you?” Rarely does self answer right back or give a straight answer because to do so would mean admitting that the entire thing was a charade that I thought was necessary and it clearly is not…at least, not right now! I am a victim of what David McRaney, author of “You Are Now Less Dumb”, terms “present bias” which is being unable to grasp the reality that what you want will change over time, and what you want now isn’t the same thing you will want later. This bias also prevents the business professional from admitting that where they are now, is not going to take them to where they want to be later. Something always has to change and change always involves a conscious decision to become more valuable to ourselves and those around us.
Which brings me the long way around, to my first 2014 point of protocol.
My friend has a quote on her white board that simply states “My future self cannot be trusted to accomplish today’s task”. This is true. We cannot wait until we are in a better place in order to get to a better place! Another quote stated that “when opportunity knocks, it is too late to get ready!” Professional Presence is like that. If you wait until you need it or don’t understand that it is assumed, you may never realize you don’t have it or even be aware when it’s expected! If you don’t know how to shake hands or make a proper introduction, you won’t know that you are lacking in this skill until you are in the situation. If you don’t know how to navigate a business dining situation, you will miss important elements of the conversation focusing attention on trivial external stimuli (which glass is mine?!), rather than seizing an opportunity to make a great impression by demonstrating impeccable manners and a honed intellect! Good manners and business savvy are soft skills that are not cited, but are assumed of every job applicant, regardless of physical abilities, social acumen or education level. Because we never know what or where life will take us, or when we will have an opportunity to make a great first impression, the professional business person who wants to actually be, and not just appear polished, ensures that professional protocol training is part of their yearly check-up. The CEO or company executive that wants to ensure their workforce always represents their highest standards in the best style, makes protocol and professional savvy awareness part of the Human Resources training process through refresher courses, new employee orientation or workshops that target specific aspects of professionalism.
Protocol is more than just knowing the right thing, it is doing it. The person who understands the power of professional presence exudes a level of confidence which elicits trust and trust always affects the bottom line.
So, at this time of year when we are all so noticeably focused inwardly and assessing our need to make self improvements or change, remember that protocol is the one thing that requires us to focus outwardly. It summarily requires us to make an conscious investment of attention to other people and be present in the moment. Whether in business or socially, professional presence requires us to always do one thing, and that well; to interact with charisma and respect, regardless of our personal resolutions.
Protocol ~ the silent language of the accomplished professional.
I am Pamela Coopwood, and I am Speaking of Protocol.