Courtesy is almost a forgotten art. If it wasn’t for some Five-Star businesses and services, it might be a feature on “Antiques Roadshow.”

If you want longevity for your organization, you’ll need to focus on the likes and dislikes of your customers or participants. People have too many options to put up with being put off or put out. Create a culture of courtesy and you will be a step ahead.

It has to start with you. And then it must be “caught” and “taught” within your team. You’re the captain of the “Leader Ship.” Call a “courtesy conference.” Let those who serve with you know where you stand on courteous service. I see at least six ways you can create a cultural of courtesy in your organization.

  • Offer purposefully. Make sure your product or service fills a blank in someone’s life. You might be able to sell ice cubes in Iceland, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be asked to attend its winter festivals. Give people what they need and want—and make sure it’s to their advantage and not yours.
  • Speak kindly. Courtesy is always proactive. It smiles first, speaks first, and is first to offer a handshake. You may be a person’s only “kindness connection” that day. They’ve been beaten up by bureaucracy. They’ve been ignored or embarrassed by the thoughtless and clueless. They’ll be drawn like flies to a cupcake with a kind greeting.
  • Listen intently. Not everyone is able to say what they think. They’ll need your help. Communicate visually. Show them by your eye contact, facial responses, and physical proximity that you are interested in what they have to say—negative or positive. Ask leading, positive questions. And wait for their answers.
  • React carefully. A rude remark may be your last word. End of conversation. Rudeness in an organization results in empty seats and full product shelves. Before you respond to negative remarks, take as many breaths as you need and count as far as you need to count. React thoughtfully.
  • Give generously. What’s your add-on? You’ve heard the infomercial announcer say, “. . . BUT, WAIT! THERE’S MORE!” That’s the add-on, the reason to stay with the commercial—the courtesy, the perceived value. Think about your courtesy add-ons.
  • Thank extravagantly. Your customer or participant doesn’t owe you their allegiance. They give it willingly in return for your tireless service. Let them know you appreciate it. Say it. Write it. Express it. Courtesy is inextricably tied to gratitude. And your gratitude could very well tie a customer or participant to you and your organization.

Stephen Covey wrote, “You cannot continuously improve interdependent systems and processes until you progressively perfect interdependent, interpersonal relationships.”

– Stan Toler