As an emerging or first-time leader, it’s essential to have business etiquette. That means having proper posture, not talking when your mouth is full, and many other things. These small mistakes can define or damage your personal brand. Join Dr. Santor Nishizaki as he talks to Pamela J. Green about proper business etiquette every responsible leader should possess. Pam is the CEO of Pamela J Green Solutions. She equips leaders with the right tools and knowledge to strengthen their businesses. Learn some executive presence as a leader and find out why it is acceptable to be vulnerable to your employees. Discover Pam’s thoughts on hybrid work and listen in to help you find your happy place today!

Listen to the podcast here


Leading Yourself: Business Etiquette For Emerging Leaders With Pamela J. Green

Voted one of Washington DC’s Top 20 Coaches in 2021, Pam helps leaders identify new ways of practicing skills that allow their minds and wills to align with their emotions and make an impactful decision, a philosophy rooted in Cognitive Leadership Theory. In addition, Pam’s approachable style as a facilitator and executive coach enables her to create a psychologically safe environment for her clients to make transformative and sustainable shifts in their conduct, attitude and behavior. She is now pursuing a PhD in Organizational Management to future-proof her brand while helping other leaders and executives future-proof theirs. Let’s see what Pam has to say about the importance of business etiquette for emerging and first-time leaders.

Pam, thank you so much for being on the show. How are you doing?

I am doing great. Thank you so much for the invitation. I’m excited to be here.

You’ve done so much good work for us in my class, teaching with my undergrads. I thought about business etiquette. It would be great to have you speak to our emerging and first-time leaders about business etiquette. As we get started, Pam, tell us a little bit about your story and how you got to where you are now.

I probably started my career right where a lot of those who are Millennials and Gen Zs are in their careers. I was in my early twenties when I took my first leadership role, and it took off from there. I was supervising people. I was managing boards. I was doing a lot in my early twenties, but I didn’t have a degree. I had a wonderful executive director who said, “I can’t do anything else with you until you get your degree.”

I got my undergrad. I went on to get my Master’s. I’m working on my Doctorate in Organizational Management, but it wasn’t until I had some of that groundbreaking experience in the organization at a young age that fueled me through that. I left corporate. I had worked at the Society for Human Resource Management. I had done that for several years before launching out at the end of 2011 and 2012 to start my own consultancy, where I work with organizations and their senior leaders on obtaining, retaining, and capitalizing on their competitive advantage. It’s been a great journey.

It’s an amazing experience in your twenties, being in a leadership role.

Around people who did think I should be there in so many regards. It had nothing to do with race as much as it was I was young, and they were kicking my butt. They were like, “You’re going to earn this one, honey bun.” I had to earn some stripes at an early age. I know what it’s like to be young and trying to take command of your career when it feels like everything else around you is not always working in your favor. You have some great moments, but not everything works in your favor.

That’s why we created this show. It’s like a mentor. We wish we had that we could read something that’s free. A lot of companies don’t invest in their first-time or emerging leaders. They do for the C-Suite. They get their executive coaches, but a lot of companies don’t. Thank you so much for being here. I appreciate it. My first question to you is, what is business etiquette? You come to speak to my class, and it’s an interesting term.

I define it as the rules of engagement in an organization. It’s around social graces. Some of the behaviors are what they’re expected of you and you would already know. It’s everything from handshaking to eye contact, posture, and even some of the charismatic ways of how you interact and connect with people all the way to how you present yourselves when you’re eating, walking into a room, and exiting a room.

It has everything to do with your conduct, composure, and communication, which are top of the list that leads to the credibility of your brand. It also reflects your confidence or lack thereof. I call them some of the big Cs, composure, confidence, credibility, character, and communication. All of those things are what make up that idea of business etiquette as well as executive presence.

How are we supposed to know this? We somehow magically were born. We’re like, “I should put my napkin in this spot.” If our parents didn’t teach us, how do people know that? Would you advise observing people?

I tell them, “Lean back and observe.” When you first go into any organizational environment, lean back, and observe who are the most influential people, what are they doing, and how are they doing it, and mimic some of that behavior. Even now, I go out with business leaders. Sometimes they dive right in. I still want to maintain that level of composure and business etiquette. I’ll put my napkin on my plate. I’ll take my time chewing my food, even though I grew up with boys. I want to dive right in and inhale it because it might disappear if I don’t. You have to pay attention to what’s happening around you. Be self-aware as well as other-aware.

Why is this important for emerging leaders? Do you think that they’re judged upon this? Is it their quality of work?

It has nothing to do with your quality of work, but it can enhance how people view your quality of work. Sometimes they’ll give you some bonus points because you have great business etiquette or great composure. If you have terrible business etiquette and there’s a little bit of something in your work, you might not be given the bonus credit. It might be judged even more harshly as a result of carrying yourself in public. If you don’t know how to shake hands, make eye contact, or handle yourself, they’re going to assign additional or give you some demerits for some of that.

Maybe showing up to a happy hour and getting drunk.

I got stories on that one for some of my staff. I’m like, “This is how you’re going to do this?”

Being in your twenties, it’s one of those times. Maybe you’re turning 21 and you’re going out more, but that’s part of your personal life.

Not everyone needs to know everything that is happening to you in life all at once. There are some things that need to be concealed. Share on X

Some of that is a test. Every organization, they’re going to take new people regardless of age, but everyone goes through a testing process and a period of, “Who are you? What are you made of? What’s your background? Tell us a little bit about you.” They want to do it in your conduct, gratitude, and your behavior. If we take you out for drinks, are you going to be the first one sloping down, all the alcohol and getting sloppy drunk, or are you going to lean back and not drink? You don’t have to drink when you go out, but how are you showing up? In other words, are you going to be a good representative of our organization and brand? It first starts with how you represent your own.

For lunch, dinner, or networking events, what are the things you’ve noticed that people have made the biggest mistakes our readers can steer clear of?

Chewing your food with your mouth smacking or talking with your mouth open. Even though a senior leader is doing it and you think you can do it too. They earn the right. Reaching and saying, “I’m sorry,” as opposed to asking for it to be passed to you. Using the wrong set of utensils, not paying attention to those little dominating conversations and food flying out of your mouth. It’s grossing. It’s disrespectful to you, but it’s also disrespectful to the people around you.

I remember you told me this interesting thing when you spoke to my class. What do you do to the napkin when you have to go to the bathroom? I’ve loved this one. This is a good review for everyone who was reading.

Ideally, you want to take it and drape it over to the back of your chair. The other one is to remember, some people bread and drink. Pull up your fingers, and put that thumb to your forefinger. You’ll know which one is your bread plate and which one is your drink plate. You can get clear. To be honest, a lot of people who are in senior positions have forgotten or didn’t know. You can be in a position to teach them the right way to do things.

My next question to you is, if you don’t drink, how should you approach that at a networking event? Is that considered to be okay? What are your thoughts there?

You can respectfully decline if someone’s coming around with wine, champagne, or something like that. If you don’t drink, you can always ask for a soda or water. Typically, respectfully decline and say, “No, can you get me a soda to drink or some water? I need to hydrate a little bit,” and move on. If you make a big deal of it, other people will make a big deal of it.

Not everyone drinks, especially being in Los Angeles. It’s a lot of driving to do. It’s harder to get an Uber. It’s a lot of distance. That’s good advice. I heard you say executive presence. What are your thoughts there? You’ve given some good advice to my students as well.

Your conduct adds to your behavior, personality, or character. It’s what distinguishes you from someone else. It has nothing to do with what you know. This is how you show up, and how much confidence you have. Are you confident or cocky? That’s all in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes we push the needle a little too far. Sometimes you’re overstepping your bounds. You’re not listening well. You’re not paying attention to what’s happening in the room and whether or not people are listening to you.

It is everything to do with your composure and how people are experiencing your brand. What is the emotional experience you want people to have as a result of working with you? That’s how I define your brand. If I want people to have a good, great, and wonderful emotional experience that’s unique to each individual, I’m going to pay close attention to how I am being perceived and received when I am interacting with people as in one-on-one small groups and in large groups.

What about impostor syndrome? You talked about in your twenties leading all these teams. What are your thoughts on impostor syndrome? What can we do to overcome that?

Think about even the word impostor. It’s doubting your credibility, ability, the reason for being there, and that you fit in. It’s everything that you think that other people may be thinking about you. You internalize it. Sometimes, you feel like a fraud, like, “They think I have it going on, and they don’t realize I am falling apart on the inside.”

What we have to remember is everyone is falling apart on the inside at some point. Everybody’s got some stuff. Some people are good at concealing it and choosing how they show up because not everyone needs to know everything that is happening in their life all at once. There are some things that we need to conceal, and it’s okay as long as you are getting the support that you need behind the scenes. It’s you doubting yourself based on people treating you perhaps. Sometimes, people treat you poorly, and you doubt your ability to perform at a high level.

You work with a lot of C-Suite executives. For your clients and throughout your career, what are a lot of mistakes for first-time emerging leaders? You are writing a book about it. I would love to hear your experience of what you’re seeing now. What are those mistakes that these first-time leaders are making? How could they avoid them or fix them?

I see this all the way at the top, but it starts here. One of the biggest mistakes is when you are a first-time leader, and you get a chance to lead a project, a team, or something important. It’s being attached to your own performance that you like beat up everybody else. It’s all about you. The further you move up, the more that you make it about yourself.

If you start now and you’re a first-time leader, stop making everything about you and make it about the work. What’s the competitive advantage of the organization? What is the goal? What are we trying to do? You are helping individuals on your team or on the project make those decisions. Typically, if you are the leader, there’s a decision called that needs to be made, not being afraid to make tough decisions, making the decision, and not making it the team’s decision. You don’t own anything.

Take ownership of the things that you are responsible for and the good stuff. If it falls apart, own it, and say, “I was responsible for that. I learned from it.” Move on, but you can’t fix everything. It starts with listening. What do people need? What do they want? How can you facilitate getting them what they need to be successful? If they’re successful, it makes you look good as well.

Pam, one of the first things that I’ve noticed is going from me to we. A lot of time, we get promoted based on our technical capability. All of a sudden, it’s like, “The people that I got promoted over have to perform. I’m graded on their performance.” The lack of control is pretty difficult.

Millennials don't want to just work a job ad nauseam. They want to do their own thing and carve their own way. Share on X

We want to control everything. You influence. The more that you get to practice being able to influence people, the better you’re going to be as a leader. Listen to what they need. Influence those decisions. Help people hold themselves accountable and facilitate getting them all the tools and resources they need to be successful and celebrate that.

Do you think that being vulnerable is difficult for a first-time leader? You’re already dealing with impostor syndrome, and now you’re telling people to open that wound. Would you suggest being vulnerable if you’re a first-time leader?

You can be, and here’s one way. it’s letting people know, “This is what I’ve done over the years, but I had to learn how to do it. I didn’t have your book to help me.” One of the things I had to learn to do was to let people know, “I know that I have to make a decision about this, and I need your information to help me make that decision. I reserved the right to make to change my mind.”

Here’s the caveat to that. You can’t be wishy-wash and change my mind every five minutes. Once you put out there that, “It is my responsibility. It is my decision call. I need you to give me information to help me make the best decision. I reserve the right to change my mind if I get additional information that makes helps us to make a better decision.” That’s one way.

It’s like, “I’m going to own this.” If it’s wrong, it’s wrong. If it’s not the best decision, learn from it, and not allow people to hold it to your charge forever. It allows you to be vulnerable and able to move on but own it. Reserve the right to change your mind when you get new pieces of information. If you make a mistake, own it, and again, move on.

When people on your team make a mistake, let them make mistakes and not crucify them. You’re like, “What did you do? You made a mistake last week. Isn’t this a learning environment?” We’ve seen leaders do that, too. They’re like, “I’m going to be vulnerable. I make mistakes.” You can’t make mistakes. What’s Gen Z’s greatest strength? They were born approximately 1995 or later. What advice would you give to leaders who are managing or leading them for the first time?

They’re in their early twenties. They’ve been through these last few years. Hitting the workforce now, one of their strengths is their ability to adapt to a lot of change quickly. They do tend to be a lot more technologically savvy. They come out of the womb, and we’re throwing laptops and iPads at them. We’re like, “Do this.” I am living with one of those now. I give him something, and he’s like, “Mom, I can’t believe you can’t blah, blah, blah.”

After they put you down, you recover. They tend to be entrepreneurial, at least from my experience and some of the stuff I’ve read. They want to start something. We’ve heard this with every single previous generation, but especially with this generation. They don’t want to go and work a job ad nauseam. They want to start businesses. They want to do their own thing and carve their own way. If you get one, tap into it. They have that entrepreneurial spirit. They want to drive something different and change. Step back and let them. Tap into some of the expertise that they bring to the table. Those are some of their greatest strengths.

We saw that in our research for our Gen Z book. A lot of them want side gigs outside of work or even within work, job rotation programs we found are successful. Pam, we need to be entrepreneurial. We need all generations in our organization to think outside the box because, with the pandemic, things are constantly changing.

If you want something to change or look at something differently, bring someone that’s in the Gen Z into the room. The Millennials as well, but you want to have a Gen Z-er in the room.

Listen to what they have to say.

They’ll turn it upside down and on its ear. Make sure that you are realistic with them. They’re not as pie in the sky. How could they think they were going to start a business? They can do it and be successful. They tend to be a lot more realistic and also a little more cynical because of the things that they’ve experienced over the last few years. They tend to like, “Hit me with reality. Give me the stuff, and I can run with it.”

What are your thoughts on the cause of this Great Resignation?

We told people they couldn’t work from home and it wasn’t going to be successful. The pandemic proved us wrong. We realized that even receptionists could work from home. We lied to them. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. A lot of leaders didn’t think that certain jobs could be done at home. They can’t if you’re at manufacturing and have manufacturing clients.

You can’t do certain things from home. For those opportunities where you can work from home but part of what happened is we sent people home, but we didn’t have as good measures of productivity as we needed or should have. We couldn’t measure productivity. As a result, those who didn’t do that well didn’t think people were performing.

Now it’s the Great Return, and people are like, “I don’t think so. I changed my life on a dime to accommodate you and still work here. Can’t you do the same thing for me?” Organizations have said, “No.” For those who have, people have resigned, and they’re going to where the jobs are. They’re finding new gigs. Their lives have taken over. They’re finding things that honestly make them happy. The research shows that success doesn’t make you happy. It is being happy that leads to success. That’s what people are going after.

What advice would you give to employers?

You better find out what makes people happy and give it to them. You and I have talked about this. Is it all back to work? Is it all remote? It’s a hybrid. You’re going to have people who do well working remotely. You’re going to have people who do well and do their best work when they’re in person. The leaders and organizations need to be a lot more open to some hybrid work structure. It’s finding a way to get everybody together 1 or 2 days a week.

Success doesn't make you happy. It is being happy that leads to success. Share on X

Don’t think that because someone’s not in your face, they’re not being productive. They may decide that they want to do the work in the middle of the night and go to the movies in the middle of the day. I don’t care. Do what you need to do, but get the work done. The onus becomes, how do you measure performance success? What are those measures? Figure that out, and let them choose how they want to get the work done.

Pam, I thought being productive is clocking in at a certain time and clocking out.

For the out-of-touch manager, it is but for those who are more in touch, they realize it’s not. I had a remote team and a staff team when I worked at SHRM. I used to tell them, “I could care less what you do in the middle of the day as long as you show up for our meeting. You are productive. You’re contributing member of the team. You don’t blow us off. You’re getting your work done. I could care less when you get the work done otherwise, but make sure you’re performing.” I got the best work out of the folks that reported to me during that season. I don’t care. I’m not going to do all that crazy, “I called, and you weren’t home.” You might have been at the grocery store or the movies. I don’t care. You could have been on a call. I want to focus on, am I getting what I need and whether you are available for that.

During the pandemic, I notice grocery stores are full in the middle of the day. I’ve been working from home, but it’s cool to be able to do things. My wife works from home as well. We both do. It’s nice to go see Spider-Man in the middle of the day while our kids are at school.

You can have a day date, and that’s a real thing. Enjoy it and balance your life. Let people have control over their lives is what they’re saying. You have to let people try it. Now, if they’re not successful, they’re not productive. You’re not getting what you need. That’s another thing. Don’t assume that because somebody’s not in front of you, they’re not performing because they’ve learned. Remember seeing those apps where people could click? It’s an app called My Boss is Coming. You could click and it throws up a spreadsheet. Those things were around in the early 2000s. I remember my staff showing me. I’m like, “That’s a thing?”

I haven’t seen that. That’s so funny, though.

You don’t know if your staff isn’t working on this or not. It worked. They’re going to go back to using them. They’re as productive as you think.

What advice would you give to employees who are quitting or looking for a new job?

The first thing is don’t honestly find your happy place. It sounds trite, but you got to find what makes you happy because if you don’t, you’re not going to find any satisfaction, regardless of whether that employer allows you to work remotely 100% or 2% of the time. What is the thing that you have found that you love doing and want to get paid to do? You go do that work in the output that’s going to work for you, whether that’s hybrid, all remote, or all in person. Find you’re happy. You have to find the thing that you love doing and an employer is willing to pay you for. That’s where I tell people to start.

We have a couple of episodes in this season on finding your why and purpose. I specifically brought in a couple of great folks for that. I want to go back to etiquette for a second. As we look at the future work, it’s hybrid. What are the things you’ve seen that are not good etiquette? What advice would you give to managers who are managing remote teams or hybrid teams on this type of etiquette?

There wasn’t good etiquette to make people put on their cameras. We can blur our background. People don’t have to see what’s in our environment. There was a socio-economic concern. We can blur and change backgrounds. That’s a non-issue. One, being on camera, is being engaged. Make sure that the camera is at eye level and you’re leaning into the camera to show engagement. When you’re listening, you can lean back.

Don’t dominate the conversation when you’re on camera. Make sure that you have a good setup. People can see your face because it does lead to greater engagement. There is so much research around that eye-to-eye contact and our ability to connect with people, would have people research if they need that Pygmalion Effect where I don’t have to say a word to know that you’re engaged.

It’s having that, going around and giving people a voice, using the tools that are available to us, the chat for people who don’t want to talk, or using the whiteboard. It’s engaging people, using all the tools that are available. You got to go overboard a little bit. It feels overboard for those who don’t like it. The other big one is to stop having hour-long meetings. There’s a thing as a fifteen-minute meeting. Can we have 15 or 30-minute meetings? We’ve got to stop having these hour-long meetings because it’s hard to hold your attention to a meeting for over 1, 2, or 3 hours. If you do, give them a break.

If it’s a work session, at least at the end of each hour, get a ten-minute break, a bio break, get another cup of coffee, and a chance to walk around.

Some of my clients do scavenger hunts. Pop your kids and pets on Zoom. Show us where you are if you want to. Do creative things to bring real life into the environment because I can’t divorce what’s going on behind the screen for long.

It’s tough, especially with little ones running around.

You see hands come across the screen, and heads pop up over your shoulder. It’s cute, but I’ve talked to a lot of people who do not think it’s cute. “Get the dogs and the pets. This is work.” I’m like, “Work is at home now, and I need to balance that out.” Have little a lot more grace for people who are balancing parents, children, significant others, pets, fur animals, and all of that stuff.

It’s difficult during the first year in 2020. Kids were on Zoom. My son came down and was like, “I’m doing a scavenger hunt.” He grabbed a book while I was in a Zoom meeting. I’m like, “What are you doing?” He said, “My teacher told me to go grab a book.” He took one from my office and opened the door. Normally, he knows better, but he’s like, “My teacher told me to do it.” I’m like, “Okay.” It was a few months into the pandemic. Everyone understood, but I was laughing. It’s like, “It’s all good.” I like to applaud all the teachers right during that time. It’s an incredible job. It’s hard.

Find your happy place. Because if you don't, you're not going to find any satisfaction, whether you're working remotely or not. Share on X

For that reason, I’ve become a mentor here in the local area where I live because I realize it has not been easy. I’m trying to find a way to give back and provide some support for some of those students who struggle and still struggle and maybe create a better human being for our communities as a result.

Last question. On that note, a little bit, if you could give one piece of advice to someone who’s an emerging leader for the first time, what would it be?

This has probably been said a gazillion times. I would say, “Listen.” Learn how to listen and be aware of yourself. Self-awareness is the beginning of change. The information that you’re getting when you’re listening can help you be more self-aware as a leader so you can adjust and adapt to different environments. We need to be flexible short term, and adaptable, but you can’t do that if you’re not listening and you’re not willing to take stock of who you are and how you’re showing up.

Thank you so much, Pam, for your time. I appreciate it. Good luck with the rest of the Doctorate. If anyone wants to check out your website, what’s your website?

Thank you so much, Pam. Have a great day.

Thank you. You too.


Important Links