Career Success Advice: Be Nice

Did you watch the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony Friday night?  I liked it for its simple elegance.  As I was watching, I took note of a line in Slam Poet Shane Koyczan’ tribute to Canada, We Are More…

And some say what defines us
Is something as simple as “please” and “thank you”

The Canadian audience roared when they heard that line.  After all, Canadians are known for being polite.  

Creating positive personal impact is one of the competencies that comprise my Career Success GPS system.  If you want to create positive personal impact, you need to do three things.   First create your unique personal brand and then promote it consistently and constantly.  Second, be impeccable in your presentation of self – in person and on line.  Third, know and use the basic rules of etiquette. 

Being polite is the first rule of etiquette.  The words “Please” and “Thank you” are two terms that will define you as someone who is polite and grasps the importance of proper etiquette.  There’s an old saying: “Those who know, know. Those who don’t know don’t know. Those who know always know those who don’t know.” This is just a clever way of saying that it is important to learn and use proper etiquette, as it will mark you as someone who knows.

For example, when you are seated at a crowded round table at a business dinner, you might be confused by the placement of your water glass and bread and butter plate. You should know that your water glass is to your right and your bread and butter plate is to your left. Knowing this can save you some embarrassment – and possibly a job or a promotion. Besides, if you’re not worrying about your table manners, you’ll be better able to concentrate on the conversation at the table.

Another example: thank you notes are a lost art in these days of cell phones, e-mail, send out cards and text messaging. You can make a positive impact by handwriting a simple thank you note expressing your gratitude for a small favor. If you want to make a powerful positive impact, buy and use note cards imprinted with your name for these notes. Men usually use a single-sided 4.5 x 6.5 card imprinted with their name at the top and their return address on the back of the envelope. In the past, it was more common for women to use a fold-over 4.5 x 6.5 card with their name imprinted in the center of the front sheet. However, in today’s business world, many women use single-sided cards.

Being polite never goes out of style and will always help you make a positive personal impact. The National Institute of Business Management says it quite well:

Long term, there is no better success strategy than to be nice to others. People’s feelings are at the heart of business etiquette. When in doubt, determine the best way to put your colleague or client at ease and then follow that course. 

There are few rules that you should follow, however. When you request something, say “Please.”  When you receive it, say “Thank you.”  Wait for people to exit elevators before you get on. Hold the door for others, whether you are a man or a woman. Return calls and respond to e-mails promptly. Be brief when you leave a phone message. Don’t respond to e-mails when you are angry or upset.

But above all, just be nice.  The Power of Nice is a great little book that really nails this simple but powerful idea for building positive personal impact. The authors end the book with these words:

We hope we have been able to convince you that being kind and considerate is an equally valid – and we believe more effective – way to get ahead rather than being selfish and cutthroat. So given that, why not take the nice route?  Not only will it take you further in your career and in your life, but you’ll feel better about yourself… If you act with integrity, compassion and class… you will know, in your core, that you are a valuable and worthwhile person who can help change the world, one nice action at a time… If you take anything away from this book, we hope it’s the realization that there is untapped potential in even the smallest good deed, and that it can have a multiplier effect strong enough to change the world. Yes, a random act of kindness can help you become wealthier, healthier, and wiser. But, most of all, it will make you happier.

Now there is some common sense.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people create positive personal impact.  Knowing and following the basic rules of etiquette is key to creating positive personal impact.  In the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, in his tribute to Canada, slam poet Shane Koyczan said “And some say what defines us / Is something as simple as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.” Canadians are known for being polite and we can all learn a lesson from them.  Simple words like “please” and “thank you” define you as a person who not only is polite, but one who is polished and gracious – two characteristics that will help you create positive personal impact and succeed in creating the career success you want and deserve.

That’s my take on how simple words like “please” and “thank you” can help you become a career success.  What’s yours?  Please take a few minutes to leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  And, as always thanks for reading. 


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  1. A wonderful article.Indeed the best things in life are the simplest. Such gestures are very effective when it comes to building relationships with your clients and business partners.

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