This is the third post on “What Not To Do And How Not To Do It” about six of the biggest leadership mistakes and how to stop making them. Today’s topic is Bad Manners.

This may seem a little Pollyannaish, but it’s amazing what an important role manners play in good leadership. Bad manners include talking too much, not listening, not saying please and thank you, never apologizing, and taking all the credit for successes. These bad habits will invariably undermine your strength as a leader.

But don’t worry! For most people, being a jerk is optional.

Fix those people skills

  1. Buy a business etiquette book If you have any doubt about how to handle certain business situations, there are many good etiquette books out there to give you guidance. Send me an e-mail if you’d like a list.
  2. Listen 80% or even 90% of the time  What you’re saying when you talk too much is, “I’m more intelligent than you are, and my opinions are more valid than yours.” Whether you mean it that way or not, this is the message you’re communicating. Talking too much and not listening is a lethal combination because we really do need the input. The team is in the trenches, and not using them as a resource is a huge waste of talent.
  3. Say please and thank you By not saying please and thank you, you’re saying, “You are a commodity to me—you’re not even a real person.” On the other hand, using basic manners tells your employees that you appreciate them and you don’t just assume they are there to serve you. Because the truth is, the leader should be serving the team.
  4. Apologize immediately and make amends I’ve never met a leader who didn’t need to apologize at least once in a while. I’ve had to apologize a lot more than I’d like to admit. But apologizing by itself is not usually enough to correct a problem. There’s a significant difference between apologizing and making amends. To recognize and acknowledge where we’re wrong is a way to establish deep trust, and not doing so makes us appear untrustworthy and out of touch with reality. Remember, if you keep having to apologize for the same thing over and over again, you are not making amends.
  5. Make it about them I got this from an old business partner. It’s rarely accurate to say that a leader is singularly responsible for a singular success, because almost everything involves a team effort. To not share the credit communicates to the team members that (again!) we don’t have a good grasp on how things are really happening and don’t understand it’s a team dynamic that makes these things happen. It tells the team that we think so little of them that they don’t deserve credit, that they are merely cogs in a wheel.

There’s no excuse to be rude to your employees, and if this is a problem for you, it’s your responsibility to fix it. If this is something you or someone on your team struggles with, send me an email at and we can set up a time to talk strategies.

photo credit: CarbonNYC [in SF!] via photopin (license)