Friday, September 10, 2010

Coming Face-to-Face with Social Grace

September 10th, 2010

“Many people believe that marketing is just about advertising or sales. However, marketing is everything a company does to acquire customers and maintain a relationship with them.” ("marketing." Investopedia Inc. 06 Sep. 2009.)

What do you do to acquire and maintain relationships? One of my Midwestern big city coaching clients, whom I’ll call Meredith, recently mentioned something in passing that caught my attention. In the large corporate office in which she works, she is fairly well connected. An acquaintance of hers, (I’ll call her, Gwen,) asked for a favor: could Meredith get her a face-to-face with one of the decision makers in her office. Without hesitation, Meredith agreed.

Meredith sent emails asking her two different co-workers (also managers) to see her “friend.” The two managers agreed because Meredith is, well, Meredith. She breathes and oozes social grace: of her friends, co-workers and colleagues, she listens, asks questions, and is so mindful and genuinely engaged in their conversation, she never has trouble remembering those personal nuggets that people share with us every day.

These are personal thoughts that occupy the minds of our friends, family, co-workers, and colleagues. To the mail room clerk: “How was your brother’s wedding this past weekend?” To the receptionist in the large building in which she works: “I thought of you on my run this morning; how did you like the new running club you joined?” To her client because the waitstaff was busy: “May I clear these dishes away so they do not interfere with the presentation you have?” To her neighbor walking the dog: “How did your Father’s surgery go yesterday?”

While Gwen’s favor may seem benign on the surface, I remembered that Meredith had helped this same acquaintance, Gwen, twice before, and she has not seen nor heard from her since the last two face-to-face opportunities which Meredith had set up.

It got me to thinking about how quickly the acquaintance had surged from someone-whom-I-sort-of-know- to “my friend.” In this overwhelming day of job purging, I was surprised by Meredith’s cavalier attitude toward her acquaintance/friend, and when I asked her as gently as I could during one of our coaching sessions, what the other woman had given back to her, she became somewhat defensive.

Meredith quickly rushed to explain that she really didn’t spend “that much time,” emailing the two co-workers, following up with phone calls to all three people, meeting the acquaintance at the door, making introductions, and meeting the acquaintance for a follow up after her face-to-face with the co-workers. “Really?” I softly mused. Gwen had offered a perfunctory verbal thank you to the two managers; that was the extent of Gwen’s acknowledgment of three people’s time and effort in their singular focus on Gwen.

Meredith explained that she had already planned to thank her two managers with 2 gift cards, ($ out of her pocket,) because of one of two things: either Gwen was absent from school when the Golden Rule was modeled or she doesn’t care. Helping people is Meredith’s M.O.: she flourishes in this arena. Gwen, on the other hand, is someone who is unable to connect the dots from being a giver and modeling the Golden Rule, to the interview process she aggressively pursues today.

As someone who has been at the sales and marketing table for 19 years, I know that nurturing mindful marketing relationships doesn’t work Gwen’s way. Marketing is about relationships, and one need not be a Harvard MBA Marketing grad to understand this. It’s all about social grace, and I believe, it is a must for mindful marketing and engagement in our relationships. And, it usually starts at home when you first heard your mother tell you to “be nice,” or, “Try walking in so-and-so’s shoes.”

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally in favor of offering a leg up whenever someone is in need, yet the current day of entitlement in some, has me concerned. What Meredith did was fine. The fact that she did it three times for the same person without so much as a follow up thank you is what I find so remarkable. Unless social grace enters the work space in an authentic and other-oriented way, getting a face-to-face with a would-be employer is not going to happen any time soon. Or it least, it shouldn’t.

As for a meaningful and genuine acknowledgment when someone has gotten us a face-to-face interview, one need not have to pay it forward in monetary terms in the way that Meredith did. In the Trifecta of Social media, this translates as a retweet, a colleague’s shout out or post on facebook, or a discussion topic prompt or helpful comment to our virtual colleagues on Linked in.

In our correspondences and non-virtual gatherings, it is a personal hand-written letter (a dying art that my dear friend, Suzanne, so successfully uses), a non-related work question (not, “What can you do for me?”) Rather, “How is your son enjoying his first year at Dartmouth?”, and a phone call or voice message saying, “I thought of you today because you said you were doing some remodeling and I have the name of a great contractor.”

This is social grace in the workplace. This is mindful marketing. And this is essential. If you didn’t learn it at home from your mother, go grab it now.

Mindfully Yours,


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