18/05/2015 08:35 BST | Updated 17/05/2016 06:59 BST

The Value of Being Nice


"I always judge someone by how well they treat waiters."

Valuable advice I was given years ago and advice that I still bear in mind today. You can tell so much about someone by how they interact with people who they do not believe are important in their lives.

At networking events you often see people make the classic faux pas of writing off someone because of what their name badge or business card says they do for a living, or what they say in their introductory 'elevator pitch'. People will chase after employees of major banks who have no influence on procurement decisions while ignoring the lone consultant whose family members, friends or clients are the key decision makers they seek.

In teaching 'Six Degrees of Separation', I stress how the people around you may not be the economic buyer for your product or service, but they may be able to introduce you to them. I talk about selling 'through' your network rather than 'to' your network.

But your network has an impact on the people you reach far beyond potentially introducing you to them. The people you interact with day to day can have a huge yet invisible influence on those who hold your future in their hands.

Lucy Kellaway wrote a very interesting article in the Financial Times at the end of March. In Your Rudeness in Reception May Be Used Against You she shared the story of how the CEO of one property firm bases a lot of his decisions on how his visitors greet his receptionist.

"The chief executive has developed a system where the woman at the front desk (who has worked with him for years) greets guests, offers refreshments and then, the minute the visitor has stepped into the lift to meet the boss, fires off an email reporting that Mr X did not say thank you when offered coffee, Mr Y did not meet her eye, or - rudest of all - that Mr Z arrived talking loudly into his phone and barely broke off to give his name."

Kellaway describes how she sat herself in reception and watched visitors to the FT (hopefully not on the day I had a meeting there around the same time!) and recorded their behaviour. She then shares exactly what those interactions with the receptionists and security staff said about the individuals concerned.

Of course, everything changes when the person they are meeting comes to greet them. One man, had sauntered in coldly yet, "when the person he is seeing greets him, he leaps up, all warmth and charm".

People will see through you if you behave one way with people you want to influence and another with those you don't feel matter. I believe that to succeed, particularly in the social media age, you need to be authentic in how you interact with everyone around you. And that authenticity should demonstrate your kindness, your interest in others, your generosity and your warmth.

After all, you don't know who they know....and who they might be influencing.


*Receptionists image by Evan Bench from paris, france (Reception) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

** Coffee shop image from