Choose Civility

Civility–the way we treat our fellow humans and our comportment–is on everyone’s mind these days. Events from Cairo to Arizona have heightened our awareness and frustration. Here are five things you can do to raise the civility standards in your organization.


Civility-LisaNirell Civility–the way we treat our fellow humans and our comportment–is on everyone’s mind these days.  Events from Cairo to Arizona have heightened our awareness and frustration. Here are five things you can do to raise the civility standards in your organization.

While enjoying breakfast with a client in California last week, the topic of civility surfaced. We were strategizing on how he could accomplish his aggressive 2011 revenue goals. He is chartered with accelerating growth in their services division, but could not do it without support from a senior executive in Sales. His situation may just sound similar to one you have faced in your company.

Here’s how the conversation ensued.

Lisa: It seems like the only way you can attain $50M in additional revenues is by engaging a senior sales executive. What about Jeff?

Client: Oh, that won’t happen.

Lisa: Tell me more.

Client: One of our company’s core values is trustworthiness. And Jeff does not always demonstrate that.

Lisa: What happens?

Client: Our global executive team includes a mixture of Germans, Canadians, Filipinos, Japanese, Chinese, Americans, and Indians. And then there’s Jeff. He is not only brusque; he talks about people behind their backs in public meetings.

Lisa: Hmmm…based on what I know about your culture, his behavior must really stand out. And it definitely sounds like we need a different approach.

Client: Yes, and I expect that Jeff will continue to lose headcount because The CEO heard about this. In fact, the CEO has re-assigned most of the sales organization to another Senior VP.

Do you know someone like Jeff in your company? A solid dose of civility just might help restore the desired behaviors and culture you want. Here are some places to start:

1. During meetings, turn off your smart phone. Unless you are an ER doctor or are just waiting for someone to arrive, show respect for others in the room. High touch trumps high tech.

2. Learn table etiquette. While flying home from Southern California, a young professional woman was munching on a sandwich. In between bites, she continued to lick mayonnaise from her fingers. Imagine the impression she makes in business meetings. These barbaric gestures reduce one’s business prospects immediately and subtly. Besides, napkins and a quick visit to the restroom are more appropriate options.

3. Free yourself from whining and gossip circles. If you continue to find yourself getting sucked into the negative conversation vortex, visit and download your favorite free poster. Reinforcement helps. Sometimes you need to address a sticky financial or client performance situation and share bad news; that is understandable. But hourly kvetching by you and your team members is counterproductive.

4. Regulate the time spent watching network or online news. You may find this surprising, since I am a member of the media. But here’s the issue: many business owners and CEOs invest their precious time and energy in react mode. Think of the number of times you turn on the news (or worse yet, check your email) immediately upon awakening. Circumstances immediately draw you in, and trigger worry, false interpretations, and opinions. Instead, create new morning habits, such as writing down your daily tasks or gratitude list, an exercise routine, or journaling. The news will still be there thirty minutes later.

5. Never tolerate passive-aggressive behavior again. This appears in many insidious forms. Here is an example. You confirm a standing meeting time with someone and they are consistently late–or never show up. Or when you brag about reaching an important sales goal, the passive aggressor says “Oh, too bad you didn’t hit your stretch goal.” Confront them immediately and tell them how offensive their comment is. I promise you are one of the few who have ever said anything to them.

I have met many company leaders whose civility speaks louder than words. And their consistent positive business performance results are no accident. Although you may never change the Jeffs of the world, you can be the change you wish to see in the corporate world. Choose your actions wisely.

Copyright 2011, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.

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