Give Good Presence

To keep moving up the corporate ladder, you'll need to polish your demeanor. Here's how.

prepare. Harris prepared for his first business trip to Japan by reading a short book on Japanese history and business etiquette, signing up for a study tour, and visiting the country’s factories. “I met with expatriates who had worked in Japan, and learned the do’s and don’ts from them,” he adds.

For short-term business dealings, learning a few key phrases in the language of the country you’ll be visiting, as well as familiarizing yourself with its courtesies, will go a long way toward demonstrating respect.

Knowing how to behave in various business settings is also critical to your advancement. “It’s usually better to err on the side of overpreparedness,” says James D. Carter, president of Ophelia DeVore Associates Inc. in New York, a consultant on self-development. This is no time to be cavalier, he says. In business situations, be it a meal or an outing, “seldom if ever is our manager our friend, our customer our friend, or our direct report our friend. These are business relationships.”

Cuff and Carter share these essentials of executive etiquette:

Dining with a client. As the host, it’s your responsibility to make the client feel as comfortable as possible. When dining out, ask your client if they have any dietary restrictions or preferences; think about the purpose of the meeting; and make sure that you pick an environment conducive to conversation, if that’s important, says Carter.

Cuff adds that as the host, you, of course, should allow your guest to order first and you take care of the bill. Follow up the next day with a phone call expressing how much you enjoyed the meeting. “It gives closure to the outing,” says Cuff.

Doing business overseas. To prepare you for a stint overseas, your organization may send you to courses and activities. But if it doesn’t, be proactive and go to the library or bookstore and check out a book on the business etiquette of a particular country, advises Cuff. You want to behave as if you respect their culture, she says. You may be able to conduct business without prior preparation, but you’ll be more successful if you embrace and respect their way of doing things.

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