In the competitive world of business, what can one learn from the common cookie sheet? I invite you to take a survey of the cookie sheets around you. Start with those in your own kitchen, and then for kicks go ask to see your neighbors’ cookie sheets. What do you notice? All the cookie sheets are brown, and burnt like an overdone cookie, aren’t they?
Next, I invite you into my wife’s kitchen. My wife has in her kitchen the same cookie sheets she purchased when we set up house 28 years ago, and to look at them you would think they were just purchased last week. What’s her secret? Just a little bit of polish. Every so often when the cookie sheets are beginning to dull my wife will break out a piece of steel wool and polish the cookie sheet back to its original store-bought shine. There’s really nothing much to it, just a few minutes spent polishing.
Now, out of all of the cookie sheets we have considered, if you needed to borrow a cookie sheet which on would you choose? Naturally, your attention would be drawn to the shiny, like-new, cookie sheet because it stands out from the others. And assuming that it was just as capable of getting the job done as all of the other cookie sheets , you would choose the shiny cookie sheet, simply due to a little polishing.
In today’s highly competitive market the need to stand out from the crowd is critical to success. Competition to land the next available job opening, the next big promotion, or the next national account is fierce, and the difference between top tier candidates in terms of skill set, education and experience is nearly indistinguishable. The determining factor is the polish applied by one candidate that causes him or her to outshine the rest.
To achieve a winning polish one must always have in mind the question, “How can I outshine my competition?” A lot about polish has to do with the development of good interpersonal skills; in other words, becoming a good people person. If you have convinced yourself that you are not a good people person keep in mind that being a good people person and having shine doesn’t mean you have to be the outgoing, life of the party, sales type. It simply means that you stop to consider what makes others happy, what makes others feel good about themselves, and what you can do to make others want to choose you above all others. There are countless books and magazine articles filled with tips and techniques on how to get along with others. Here are a few ideas that have served me well.
- Be courteous: Regardless of their age, always refer to adults as Mr. or Ms. So-and-So at first, and then ask if you may call them by their first name. In this way you are showing deference to the person whose attention you hope to capture. Look up the definition of the word deference and you will see why this makes the other person feel good.
- Be respectful: Whenever you call someone on the phone, first ask the person if you may take a moment of their time before going right into whatever you intend to say. If they say yes, continue, and if they say no ask when would be a convenient time to call back. By doing this you show others that you respect their time and people like that.
- Pay attention to detail: When you are presenting a report, resume, or proposal to someone, be sure that your document is formatted uniformly throughout. You have to do more than just run spell check. If you bolded and underlined one heading, then make sure you bold and underline all of them. Whichever you use , asterisks or bullet points, make sure you use the same throughout. Also, don’t just staple several pages together and submit it to your prospective employer or client as the finished product, rather create a simple yet attractive cover page and place the entire document in a presentation folder. This attention to detail will make your document easier to read and to follow, and it will show that you are conscientious and take pride in your work, which your prospect will translate as a positive benefit to him.
It is surprising how few people do the three simple ideas noted above, and there are countless more helpful tips available to those who seek them. They are so simple, and yet so effective. Remember, all other factors being equal, people like to deal with people they like. If you will be open to implementing the techniques above and others you come across, rather than discount them as silly and unnecessary you will find that more and more opportunities will come your way. You will find more often that you are the one getting the nod, the winning the bid, or being chosen over others, and it won’t be by chance. It will be because you, unlike so many others, took a little time to apply the polish. It will be because you got your shine on!