Manners for Leaders

Practice, Tips, and Suggestions


  1. Listen for brilliance.
  2. Listen longer. The gold might be buried farther down.
  3. Listen as if there is always something to discover that could benefit you.
  4. Put your device away; don’t look at your computer unless it is immediately relevant to the discussion.
  5. Keep putting your device away. I can’t say that enough. This means you.
  6. Don’t interrupt so often.
  7. Let the speaker make her/his point, especially if she/he is junior to you. Let it land and give it air space. (It is in your best interest.) If in a group with others, ask others to refrain from interrupting as well (“I’d like to hear everything he/she has to say.”)
  8. Let a speaker who is creating in the moment say what he/she wants. [Sometimes ugly ducklings turn into swans if you give them room to develop. If you want people to stay creative, avoid squashing early ideas.]
  9. Have participants add to the list: What else?

Get to know people

1. Take the case that you have no idea who that person is across from you or next to you or coming toward you. No. Idea. Be curious. Even if you saw them only last week. Even if you saw them five minutes ago. Even if you’re married to them. Who are they showing you they are now? How about now?

2. When meeting a person, you get to choose your context for the interaction: This could be my new best friend, or Let’s see if we can find some shared commitments, or This is going to be fun! or whatever you choose. You can choose anything.

3. You’re open, you have created a context, now all there is to do is be out here with the person. Give up anything you are thinking or anything you planned to say in advance; that was the past and what was going on with you internally. Be out here. Now. Hello.

4. Ask questions to find out about the other person:

What’s the best part about working at _______?

What’s important to you?

What’s something you want to do that you haven’t yet done?

5. Be ready to tell another person about yourself and start a conversation:

I am passionate about _____. What about you?

I am currently at work on _____. Do you have any experience in that?

I want to tell you about this great book/movie/article I loved . . . .

6. Always carry business cards where they are immediately accessible.

Always thank people

1. Express appreciation and gratitude at every opportunity.

2. Look for opportunities to thank people. This will make your day as much as that of the people you thank. 

3. Deliver thanks promptly, specifically and generously.  

4. A simple “thank you” may be sufficient for someone’s holding the elevator door for you. After someone has put in extraordinary effort for you, like staying up all night to complete a job, expand the simple “thank you” to include the difference their work made and to acknowledge you know what it cost them to do it.

Do helpful things without being asked

1. With any project or endeavor, ask yourself: “What would make this special? What would create delight?” Then do that. Or arrange for that.

2. Whenever you feel “out of sorts,” perform a random act of kindness: let someone “in” in traffic; leave a quarter by a parking meter; toss the neighbor’s newspaper up on her porch, tell your spouse one thing you love about him/her, etc.

3. Perform a “chore” that is not your job, e.g., make a fresh pot of coffee even if there is a half cup left in the pot.

4. Ask if a disabled person wants help instead of either ignoring him/her or taking control. Let the person tell you what he/she wants.