Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Perfectly Polished kicks off a new year!

Perfectly Polished kicked off another school year on Sept. 8! Here’s a behind-the scenes look at what it takes to get a new year going.

We have 70 staff members who help Debra, Cindy, and April teach. A few of our staff are in college, but most are high school students. We tried something new this year and we asked them to complete an application, write a resume, and interview for the job - great practice for their future careers!

Our interview team...

...spent some quality time with many young people, including these folks:

The best part was when they received notification that they got the job: a staff T-shirt sent in the mail, the package filled with confetti and glitter.

We like to have fun, but they take their jobs seriously. We have an attendance policy for staff meetings (if they miss three or more, they leave the staff), and if they must miss work, it is their responsibility to find a replacement. When they’re on the job, they interact with the younger students, not other staff members. You might wonder whether high school students can be held to these standards, and the answer is: of course! With flying colors. And they get leadership and communication skills, too.

So, what do members of our staff actually do? They assist the teachers, mentor the younger children, and have fun with and encourage all of the students. Our younger students adore and truly look up to the high school and college staff for guidance. And our staff gains valuable experience as they learn to take the microphone, stand in front of a group and not only teach but command attention and respect from the audience.

Once we have our staff, we are ready to roll! We regularly visit schools in 12 area counties, teaching etiquette and dance to a total of around 4,000 children and teenagers. So far, we’ve already learned some very valuable how to eat a cupcake... to receive a diploma or certificate...

...and how to speak clearly into a microphone.

We’re looking forward to a great year!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Madonna, hydrangeas, and "Thank you"

Madonna has made a career of being controversial or provocative, but she’s in the news right now for something a little less dazzling: bad manners.

Have you seen the video? At a recent press conference for her new film, W.E., a fan handed a bouquet of hydrangeas to Madonna, who accepted them graciously enough. She even said “Thank you” twice.

But then she grimaced and said — despite the fact that a microphone was right in front of her — “I absolutely loathe hydrangeas. He obviously doesn’t know that.”

Let’s use this unfortunate incidence as a reminder for all of us. All of us have received a less-than-desirable gift, which probably means that at some point you have given a less-than-desirable gift! Think about the effort and love behind the present. If you open a gift and it’s not what you want, all you need to say is two words.

“Thank you.”

Not “Thank you, but...” or anything else. Just “Thank you.” No need to elaborate. Leave it at that.

Madonna’s reaction makes us think of this little gem from Elsie de Wolfe: “Be pretty as you can, be witty if you must, but be gracious if it kills you!”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Etiquette is...subtle

Today's blog post comes from Cindy:

I arrived completely obsessive, compulsive, organized, and fully American! Those are almost always great attributes.

“I’m Cindy Haygood, here to pick up my car,” I said, presenting my paperwork. “This is the rental agreement and the receipt.”

It sounded organized and professional, and I’ve gotten to the gist of the transaction right away. All OK - except for a few subtle details. I was not in America, and I was talking to the top of a head! The person behind the desk was still sitting down.

I’m a quick study. I took a step backward, breathed in the island breeze, looked around at the beautiful water and gorgeous flowers and said, “Good morning to you. I hope you are well today.”

The head came up, but no smile. “Good day to you,” he said. “Now, how is it I can help you?”

It took me a full five minutes, but I did manage to get a smile from the man — something usually accomplished within moments, but I was out of my civil clime. As the customer, I presented myself completely with my own viewpoint in mind. My ego was so overcharged that I could not pick up all the signals around me. I based my communication solely on my own thoughts and instincts.

A few short months later, I repeated the scene, but this time I started with, “Good morning, a beautiful day today. I see the bougainvillea is in full bloom...”

Before you travel, be aware of the cultural nuances that influence any interaction, including introductions. With a little research, you can make a better first impression. We will talk about different introductions in other countries in upcoming blog posts!