Being respectful of others and kind toward our fellow human beings is what etiquette is all about. In times when gender roles are widely discussed and feminism takes many forms, it is important to remember that kindness goes beyond chivalry – and will never lose its place.

During a recent meeting with a potential customer, I drove to the customer’s site, but had to park really far from the actual office. I had been introduced to this company by a mutual contact and had never met its COO. Nevertheless, he personally welcomed me at the main gate with a smile; gave me a tour of the place, and introduced me to the people working on site, which showed his genuine pride in the organization he runs. He explained how the business works and how serious he is about results and customer satisfaction. He also told me stories about how his team members are encouraged to voice their dreams, and how their performance and behavior will enable the company to help them achieve those dreams. It became clear to me that respect for talent, personality and teamwork permeates this leader’s style. He listened attentively to my story and my firm’s mission, asking intelligent questions. Back to my having parked far from his office: at the end of our meeting, we realized it was raining – not a lot, just a drizzle, really. Well, the COO – a potential client, who did not owe me or the person who introduced us anything, who was not expecting or promising me anything, made it a point to go back inside; get an umbrella, and walk me to my car. He also advised me not to drive next time, stating that the area was not very safe; and after our meeting, before I had a chance to craft an email thanking him for meeting with me, wrote to me and to our mutual contact first. This show of respect – for my time, my job, my intellect, is the same I witnessed him display toward his team. And that is leadership.

These simple actions taught me so much: although this person is extremely busy and does not have a lot of time, he certainly values the time spent maintaining an environment, which is undoubtedly conducive to dedication and commitment. I didn’t even have to see this COO’s demeanor around his customers: his kind treatment of a potential vendor and the poise used in his interactions with his team are the evidence explaining the company’s success.

Etiquette in business, as it turns out, is nothing more than being kind to those working around you – when people feel respected, valued, they will have the incentive to give their best in all professional dealings. Leaders who employ Business Etiquette show a genuine interest in people; they actively listen and understand the context in which each employee is at that moment and its impact in performance; they are concerned with motivating and developing team members as professionals and as human beings. And that is one of the keys to obtain the utmost engagement from their teams – along with proliferation of the courteous, positive behavior that yields success.

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By Viviane Vicente