If Mama taught you good manners, you have a decided advantage in all your relationships.

Let me share what we have in the Ben's Big Book, our operations manual, under grooming:


First impressions count! Make your job easier by making a great first impression. You are expected to be clean, well-groomed, smelling good and in full standard uniform every workday.

• Shower or bathe … with soap and shampoo.

• Handle the hair

1. It must be of a color found in hair in nature.

2. Extreme haircuts, Mohawks, ponytails ... are not permitted.

3. Men

A. Shave, trim beard, mustache and sideburns to ear-length maximum.

B. Hair trimmed to above the collar.

4. Women

A. Hair pulled off face in a braid, bun or ponytail.

• Handle the hands

1. Scrub nails with nail brush.

2. Trim nails to 1/4-inch maximum length.

• Smell good … apply under-arm deodorant.

Now, that may seem extreme. But have you ever had the conversation with the stinky guy? OK. It could be that Mama didn't teach him basic hygiene. So, it's not a bad idea to clearly communicate specific grooming standards. You may be doing that person a huge service.

It comes down to manners. If Mama taught you good manners while you were growing up, you are at a decided advantage in relationships - personally, in the workplace, and in your community.

Grooming is really a good manners concept. Good grooming is being polite to the people who have to look at you. Good manners for the people who look at you.

Good manners are the little things that we do for each other to grease the skids of communication. Good manners help us respect the increasingly smaller distance between people on our planet.

Mama's Manners

Ready for a basic manners lesson? Here's the lowdown on what mama teaches:

• Say, “please” and “thank-you.” Even to family members.

• Hold the door. Keep the door from slamming shut on the person walking in right behind you. Gentlemen, hold the door for ladies. Youngsters, hold the door for older folks.

• Offer your seat to someone who needs it more than you do.

• Don't yell at people. It's rude and disrespectful. Once voices are raised, communication is reduced. The exception to this rule is at sporting events, where yelling is appropriate. However, at sporting events, it's especially important to abide by the next thing Mama teaches …

• No hitting.

• Monitor your personal noises, including but not limited to: coughing, throat-clearing, sniffling, knuckle-cracking, gum-popping, ear-drum-equalizing, farting and burping. Keep these noises to yourself whenever possible. Be particularly aware of the aforementioned list when seated on a crowded bus, plane or train.

• You might not be offended by swearing, but in a crowd of two or more, someone else may be. I like to swear, and it does not offend me to hear others swear. However, I have learned the hard way that those who don't like it are offended. Why risk it? If you must swear, do so only in the presence of those who have signed an affidavit listing their approved swear words.

• Criticize in private. Nobody wants to hear it. Even those who claim to take criticism well don't really like hearing it.

• That said, praise in public, praise in private. Catch people doing things right all day. And brag on them. It's good manners.

• At the dinner table:

1. Napkin in lap.

2. If someone is saying grace, join in or be quietly respectful.

3. Chew with your mouth closed, which leads into …

4. Don't talk with food in your mouth.

Growing up, my Mama had her hands full with five outgoing kids. I've learned to apply the above dinner table manners - at least most of the time. I'm still working on the next one …

• Don't interrupt. Oh, I have a lot of work to do here. Smart folks like me know what the end of your sentence is going to be. And, I know you will be just DAZZLED to hear what I have to say. Sheesh. Interrupting is rude. I'm working on this. The best advice I can give to my fellow interrupters is to replace interrupting with the next basic.

• Listen. The best listener I know is a deaf man.

• Introduce people. Even if you have to begin with, “I am old and a mother and somewhere along the line I lost my memory. What is your name again? I want to introduce you to my best friend …”

• Offer whatever it is you are offering to your guests first.

• Use names in e-mails. Are we really too busy for a greeting in e-mails?

• Send thank you notes and/or gifts. Handwritten makes it a collectible.

• Give genuine compliments. Comment on nice manners.

• Ask permission to place someone on hold on the telephone.

Set A Price For Bad Behavior

Ready to get serious about improving your manners? Put a price on bad behavior. Once a year, our franchisees - Revolutionaries - meet for Congress. In an effort to improve the standards of the group, we put the following simple honor system into place.

Here's a page from our Procedures:

,i>In our Junto session on 12.7.2002, we were inspired by Benjamin Franklin to assign Pecuniary Fines (Money!) for failure to uphold our Call Standards. The intention behind this procedure is to…

• Hold ourselves accountable to those things that should be done without fail on each and every call.

• Hold each other accountable (other Franchisees.)

These Call Standards help us ensure that our customers get our VERY BEST service on each and every call. We bring our best and we never fail to serve.

Call Standards - for Customer Service Representatives (CSRs)

• Use the approved phone greetings.

• Ask for the sale. Attempt to schedule a service call.

• Ask permission to place the caller on hold. And say, “Thank-you” before you do.

So, if any member of the Benjamin Franklin Plumbing team discovers a Call Standards violation, send $1 to our Fine Steward. The Fine Steward is responsible for distributing the fines to a good cause.

Until further notice, our Fine Steward is:

Dave Kempker
Benjamin Franklin Plumbing - Jefferson City, MO
2912 Southwood Hills
Jefferson City, MO 65101
(573) 761-0551 phone

Anytime a new standard is introduced, there will be a 30-day “Rubber Bullets” period. The fine will kick in 30 days after the standard is introduced. In the meantime, acknowledge violations and help each other GET BETTER!

If you like this idea, feel free to adopt it. The idea is to raise the bar at your company. It works best for a new standard or new procedure, to help you get into the habit. Dovetail this approach into your formal progressive discipline structure for noncompliance. Let folks know when the bar will be raised again, and the consequence for poor performance will become more serious, i.e., first written warning.

Take the program seriously enough to have an impact on performance. If you create a “Swears Jar” to collect fines for bad language, it is NOT OK to put $20 in the jar in anticipation of a tirade. The idea is: How good do you want to be? And what are you willing to do to get better?

Elect your own Fine Steward. Or, feel free to send your fines to Dave. He has energized a lot of good works with our fines. Our current beneficiary is a program that increases awareness about autism.

Bottom line: Use your best manners. Ask for forgiveness when you slip up. Forgive others who just don't know better.

Maybe your Mama taught you good manners. Maybe it was Papa, or another loving, mentoring adult in your childhood. Give him or her a big hug and a kiss. Not everyone is so fortunate. Help the people in your circle of influence by your good example. Imagine worldwide good manners.

It's called peace.