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Distinctive Professional Courtesy

In our travels visiting schools and other learning organizations, we occasionally encounter people who exhibit distinctive professional courtesy. During recent interactions with some school personnel, I've enjoyed the privilege of experiencing people who skillfully demonstrated remarkable professional courtesy.

It wasn't just that they were unusually nicethey were obviously carefully selected, well-trained, and willing to go beyond what would normally be expected to express genuine care and deliberate effort to serve. 

Encountering extraordinary courtesy and kindness makes an indelible impression on families and visitors, providing an important advantage for enrollment, donor cultivation, and employee recruiting.

During recent interactions with some school personnel, I've enjoyed the privilege of experiencing people who skillfully demonstrated remarkable professional courtesy.

A tree is known by its fruit; 
a man by his deeds. 
A good deed is never lost; 
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, 
and he who plants kindness gathers love.
— Saint Basil

Every school has its own personality and culture, which is largely determined by the shared beliefs and habits. In our campus visits so far this year, we experienced some very impressive educators.

During on-campus in-person interactions, they expressed a palpable level of respect. They smiled because we were there, not hoping we would leave. They were prepared, paying attention to even little details that communicated love and respect.

On the phone, they weren’t the typical gatekeeper or busy person who had no interest in being interrupted. We spoke to a live person who wanted to talk. They wanted to help, and, because of their highly developed manners and methods, interacting with them was truly a delight.

Three issues stand out regarding typical school phone systems: 

  1. The Voice
    Too often, the voice of the automated attendant that initially answers the phone is less than inviting and often monotone—a little like the Joe Friday character on TV's Dragnet. That's inconsistent with an organization that offers a warm environment as a key part of its value proposition. 
  2. The Tree
    Navigating the phone tree can be a frustrating adventure, waiting through long directions and options. Personalizing the experience requires rethinking this automation because it can get in the way. 
  3. The Voicemail
    Keeping the voicemail message up-to-date is a challenge for many. We've often called a school and the message is obviously very old because it refers to being closed over a holiday that happened months ago. 

We are what we do.

The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent,
their lips promote instruction. Gracious words are a 
honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
— Proverbs 16:23-24

Consider this transformative scenario:

  • What if we chose to show ridiculous courtesy to colleagues, students, and parents? 
  • What if we extended such kindness to each person we met throughout the campus?
  • What if we committed to such an approach every day for an entire week? Or month?  Or semester? Or perhaps we get crazy enough to show ridiculous courtesy for the whole year?
  • What if, by such practice of manners and kindness, we transformed the whole place?
  • What's the downside to such a proposition? Would we have to resolve any negative consequences? Doubtful.
It's most likely we would greatly elevate the level of joy and community throughout the organization! That's a win for everyone.

Politeness is the art of choosing 
among your thoughts.
— Madame de Stael

Sincere courtesy is as essential to professional educators as keen intellectual ability. Being courteous and respectful is free and yet is rewarded in so many valuable ways.

Thinking about other people keeps us humble and reminds us to stay connected. 
Such attentiveness is productively contagious, enabling a healthier school culture and serving as a powerful model for others to follow.

When we act kindly towards each other, we increase our capacity for learning, collaboration and innovation. So, be your absolute best this week, utilizing the courtesy and respect that make you a consummate professional.

Love'em and Lead'em!


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