What’s Your Sign?

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There’s a group of people that I follow on Twitter who are fascinating and annoying. In high school, we’d have thought of them as the Cool Kids. You remember them, don’t you?

They had their own little posse and allowed the rest of us to watch them. They wouldn’t have been caught dead talking to us, of course.

The grown-up Twitter version of this isn’t much different. The Cool Kids are mostly male with one female who has been allowed into the club. Most of their posts are conversations between themselves or promotions for their own events and products. The female also likes to share glowing testimonials she receives, but the males are more modest.

According to her profile page, the female follows more than 6,000 people.You’d never know it from her Tweets, however. She never shares resources or interesting articles from anyone outside her “awesome peeps” (her term of endearment) clique. She loves slang and acronyms that are a kind of secret code known only to insiders.

Now, of course, there are no rules for how to function on Twitter or on a blog or on any social media site. What we need to understand, however, is that Twitter and Facebook are actually powerful magnifying glasses that seem to enlarge and enliven who we are.

I’m not saying that to scare you. In fact, I think if you aren’t using these free resources to connect with others, you’re doing yourself and your business a disservice.

I’ve always thought that having your own business is where you go to earn your Ph.D in human relations. It’s a long curriculum with plenty of room for error.

Here’s lesson number one: When it comes to your clients, customers and potential clients and customers what’s your sign? Are you putting out the Welcome Mat—or hanging a Do Not Disturb warning?

I  learned about the Do Not Disturb sign from years of flying with Northwest Airlines. Apathy and indifference seemed to pervade the corporate culture. The planes themselves got grubbier and dirtier. Questions were often treated as an irritation and passengers were the enemy.

There wasn’t much smiling going on during the million miles I logged with them.

Once I was not limited to NWA (now Delta) as a carrier, I avoided them at all costs. In fact, I’ve not touched my frequent flyer miles with them despite the fact that I could have a free trip to Europe if I was feeling the need for  more abuse.

On the other hand, my trips these days are mostly on Southwest Airlines and I find myself anticipating these trips because I never  know what friendliness may be in store.

Is the flight attendant heading to Las Vegas auditioning as a standup comedian? Will the passengers be invited to sing  Happy Birthday to a fellow traveler? Will I manage to read all the interesting articles in their in-flight magazine before we land?

Even if you consider yourself to be an introvert, you can assume the position of welcoming host to your business. Start with the Golden Rule and make it your policy to treat everyone as graciously as you possibly can.

In every part of your business where you’re connecting with other people, keep the Welcome Mat  out. (And, certainly, there are times when the Do Not Disturb sign comes in handy—especially if you live with other people who don’t understand that you have a business to build.) Here are a few other reminders:

° Answer all telephone calls with friendly expectation. Yes, it might be a telemarketer on the other end, but unless you’re a really gifted psychic, don’t risk it by sounding grumpy. You voice message also needs to be upbeat as well.

° Get into the conversation on social media sites. If you’ve got gas or you’re bored, keep it to yourself. Praise, share, ask questions, interact. That’s not difficult stuff, but a lot of people  seem to have forgotten.

° Respond quickly whenever possible. Set aside time, if necessary, to catch up on e-mails and phone calls. Dazzle people with your fabulous and thoughtful good manners.

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