My first-ever proper job in London was working for a formidable Scottish woman by the name of Sandra Procter, for those that met her, she left a lasting impression, she was Marmite.
She could be scary and put the fear of god into people, however, she was also loving, supporting, immense fun and made people feel special. I owe a huge amount to her, not only the skills and experience I gained working for her, but even now 20 years later, whenever I’m faced with a difficult decision, I ask myself “what would Sandra do?”.
This has helped me overcome my insecurities and fears when presenting, negotiating deals, picking up the phone to make the call I don’t want to do, or having that awkward conversation that pushes me way out of my comfort zone.
So what has this got to do with going back to the old school!?
Well, never ever would she allow mobile phones into meetings, and before any meeting would start, she’d ask people to switch them off. They’d sit, listen and engage in the conversation.
God help anyone that was late for a meeting, and trust me, you would only be late once. In her mind, time is money, people have other meetings, so being late without a reasonable excuse just shows a lack of respect.
Turn up for work unshaven or not dressed appropriately, she’d let you know it wasn’t acceptable to meet clients that way, and she was as subtle as brick when she let you know.
Even yawning, she’d apologise and say “I’m sorry, am I keeping you awake”
Sandra’s old school mentality and the respect she earned was the core and culture of her business, which drove success and professionalism every single day, clients loved it, employees loved it (apart form the odd one or two).
I’m not by any means proposing we create fear, but I do think we need to take things back a step or two, and rebuild the kind of respect people used to have for each other. We need to think about our actions and realise the effect is has on others, whether that be building respect and trust with your colleagues, or with your clients, prospects and piers.
Make people feel special, ask them lots of questions and show a genuine interest, give them your undivided attention, you’d be surprised how they react, and trust me, they’ll remember you for the right reasons.
Something Sandra once said which has stuck in my mind more than anything “always be nice and have the utmost respect for people on the way up, as you never know who you’re going to meet on the way down”
Sandra, I’m sorry we lost touch, but there is never a day your influence on me doesn’t come into play, and for that, I’ll forever be grateful to you.