Marketing guru, business humorist, professional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones, is on a mission—to restore professional courtesy to today’s somewhat thank-you-challenged workplace.
A project of Jones’s Naples, Florida-based agency MindZoo, RediscoverCourtesy.org hopes to shed a positive light on the benefits of professional courtesy relating to business relationships, written and verbal communication, profitability, proactive thinking, ethics, loyalty and business operations.
The basic principles of RediscoverCourtesy.org are represented in “Business Class,“ an ongoing column written by RediscoverCourtesy.org founder Randall Kenneth Jones and published by Smart Business Magazine, the Naples Daily News and other national media.
“There are so many positives that aptly describe Randy Jones! He is energetic, creative, humorous, and multi-talented. He is a true professional who goes the extra mile to ensure a quality product, whether it is a written piece, a stage performance or a daily interaction with others. He is passionate about the importance of good relationships. Of course, I am delighted that he cares so much about the true meaning of courtesy: Respect and consideration for others are paramount.”
Author and Spokesperson
The Emily Post Institute
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Every manager eventually understands they will have to “manage” the activities of a wide variety of personalities in a diverse set of situations. Truth be told, many of these executives (myself included) secretly loathe this concept. After all, it’s much easier if our subordinates simply have the courtesy to think like we do, right? My cross to bear has been the management of various “creative” personalities. From artists to writers—from models to photographers—my career has found me continually encircled by a group of extraordinary talents who wear their emotionally-charged hearts on their business-casual sleeves. And, in the process, sometimes simply wear me out in the process. Though a similar situation may exist for one who manages the IT Department, I seriously doubt a programmer has ever been reduced to tears by constructive criticism over the choice of a color palette or the ineffective use of passive voice in written correspondence. I am essentially trained to “direct:” the art for a print ad, a copywriter’s development of text, a photo shoot, a viral video for the web, and yes, actors and actresses on stage. In my case, there’s one management story that stands above the rest—the pièce de résistance of all employee faux pas—henceforth to be known as The Legend of Flea Girl. To completely understand the magnitude of Flea Girl’s mistakes, one has to first visualize a 2000 Dinner Theatre production of American’s favorite 50s musical, Grease. If the mere combination of grease and dinner theatre isn't ironic enough, then simply add in a talented, diminutive actress (in the role of Pink Lady Marty) on a collision course with “Greased Lightning” itself. Not only was this particular actress cast to appear onstage in my production, she also volunteered to serve as assistant choreographer. Consistent with my previous [...]
Many years ago, when both of my children entered 5th grade in Northern Virginia, they suddenly began dropping the F-bomb. Fart. It seems Mother Nature had predetermined that 5th grade was the perfect year to usher “potty humor” into daily childhood vernacular. Any and all mentions of bodily functions suddenly became both widespread and hysterical. Though challenging for us parents trying to teach our children appropriate manners and social behavior, for this year at least, we hedged our bets on maintaining suitable conduct but mostly failed. Because to a 5th grader, a fart joke will always beat the house. Flash forward many years later, and though I am now much closer to my fiftieth year in life than my fifth year in elementary school, and despite my efforts to resist the urge to succumb to juvenile behavior, I recently lost that battle due to the purchase of a new electronic gizmo that possessed the skill to talk back to me. Being somewhat technologically challenged (or better yet, electronically exhausted), the day my new iPhone arrived it sat quietly in the middle of my kitchen table. My partner Derek, who had also received his new iPhone that same day, sat his device beside mine. I suppose we hoped if we stared at them long enough they would do a little dance, sing a little song or, in the best-case scenario, launch a miniaturized version of Gone with the Wind to entertain us. Our iPhones stared blankly back at us. However, knowing that these clever gadgets were enabled with a much heralded voice-command feature, introduced to consumers by Apple as “Siri,” by day two we began voicing basic commands. We delighted in the fact that our calls [...]
While the world, me included, can sometimes appear obsessed with criticizing the workplace conduct of Millennials, I recently sat down with my very first real-world boss, Karen Richards and my very first real-world secretary, Julia Ann Poore to chat about my personal effectiveness as a 22-year-old new college graduate and novice sales person in 1985. What’s really changed insofar as integrating younger, less-experienced employees into the workplace? What’s more: who among my generation has the courage to look into the mirror of their past and face the reality of themselves as a professional neophyte? My only request of Karen and Julie: don’t hold back. As you will see, they certainly did not. Randall Kenneth Jones: Ladies, so good to see you again. It’s been almost 25 years since our days together working in recruitment advertising in Washington, DC. Julia Ann Poore: Let’s get this straight from the get-go. I was never your secretary. Karen Richards: Oh yes, you’d tell everyone Julie was your secretary. You were in sales but she was our account manager. As a recent female college graduate herself, Julie obviously didn’t take kindly to that. JAP: Nope. KR: Randy, you have to admit, you had this need to appear more important than you really were. I must have heard Julie say “I’m not your damn secretary” a thousand times. Once, when she heard you tell someone, “If I’m not here, just leave a message with my secretary, Julie,” I had to protect you from bodily harm. JAP: Has Mad Men taught you nothing? RKJ: Clearly, Gen Y doesn't seem to have the market cornered on self-absorbed office behavior: Generation Jones was known to misstep occasionally too. JAP: And now you’re naming our generation after yourself? KR: (whispers) Julie, we really are referred to as “Generation Jones.” Pause JAP: Never [...]
Professional courtesy in politics? Yeah, right. But then again—why not? When I was growing up in Missouri in the 70s, I was raised to respect the Office of the President regardless of who the voting public had selected to occupy the Oval Office. And though my parents always had a preference of one candidate over another, I don’t recall ever being “taught” that Candidate “A” was extraordinary and Candidate “B” was evil as seems to often be the case these days. “Evil” was an adjective typically reserved for the likes of J.R. Ewing or the person who shot J.R. Absurdly late spoiler alert: the person who pulled the trigger was Kristen Shepard played by Mary Crosby. Furthermore, as my own political conscience was being shaped, I was allowed to think for myself as opposed to following some sort of family-ordained political agenda. As an adult, I lived in the Washington, DC area for 25 years and never met anyone even remotely famous—in politics or otherwise. I did get to peek inside the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile at a Lansdowne, Virginia gas station once, but that was the high point of my exposure to fame. And though my relatively short time as a resident of Naples, Florida has afforded me face time with some of my favorite public figures including authors Nicholas Sparks and Augusten Burroughs, jewelry-designer David Yurman, and comedienne Loni Love, I certainly never expected to find myself on a “double bill” with a Presidential candidate. But that’s essentially what happened on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at The Sugden Theatre in Naples: 12:30 Mitt Romney, Candidate, Office of the President of the United States 2:00 Randall Kenneth Jones, Actor, Moonlight & Magnolias Truth be told, Governor Romney may have attracted the larger crowd, but I would still like to think I kicked ass in the roles of Gone with the Wind Producer David O. Selznick and “Scarlett O’Hara” at the matinee later that [...]
We all have our mentors—those who inspire us in business and, in some extraordinary cases, to simply be better people in and out of the board room. For me, even as a business professional pushing the mid-century mark, that inspiration most recently came in the form of a remarkable Harvard-educated business woman named Janey Lack. Until 2011, alongside her equally well-mannered husband Melvin, Janey presided over the Texas-based retail chain, Lacks Home Furnishings. A recent retiree, Janey’s considerable business skills were developed during another time—dare I say, a simpler time. A time when a handshake was the equivalent of a contract. A time when someone’s “word” meant more than a contract. A time when people talked to each other. Janey did much more for me than send my company a check. I assure you Janey Lack never sent an email, participated in a conference call, took part in business negotiations, or attended a meeting without a keen understanding that those around her a) had the potential to help her build her business and b) represented current or prospective consumers of the Lack’s brand. I even speculate that Janey never once visited the grocery store without a heightened awareness that her every word and deed was a possible reflection on her company’s reputation. Though she has certainly earned her time off, what the business world now seriously lacks is Janey Lack…and others like her. I have often said, for all she has done for me, if Janey Lack needed a kidney, she could have one of mine. And I mean it. The last I checked, both of Janey’s kidneys were in excellent working order so I appear to be in the clear for now. Hopefully, each of you have been blessed with our own “Janie [...]
I unearthed one of my unpublished articles recently. A piece that chronicled a moment in time that profoundly impacted my views on parenting, philanthropy, social responsibility, compassion and mortality to name just a few. At the time I wrote it, it seemed almost too personal to publish. I was wrong—it is a story that needs to be told. I owe it to Erica. "Subpoena" by Randall Kenneth Jones In 2002, I was a cash-strapped, start-up business owner and the parent of a 13-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl. In 2009, I answered an unexpected phone call relating to another phone call I received in 2002 that turned out to be of great importance. I was now on the verge of being served a subpoena to appear in court to testify in a criminal fraud case. My only exposure to the inside of a courtroom, other than television shows, was a speeding violation in 1998. But this was real. My staff and I enjoyed tossing around the requisite jokes about my upcoming testimony: “Are you going to break down and cry on the stand?” “Will you stand up and scream: ‘That’s him—he did it—I’ll never forget that face.’” “Don’t say anything stupid or you’ll end up in the BIG HOUSE.” However, I had never even heard of the man on trial. To make matters worse, I didn’t recall my alleged actions, back in 2002, which were now leading me toward the witness stand. Making jokes was simply covering my real emotions—I was embarrassed that I didn’t remember the specific events that linked me to this case. On July 29, 2002, a 14-year-old Ashburn, Virginia girl, Erica Heather Smith, went missing. Her body was ultimately discovered in a [...]
Everyone wants to feel important—to friends, family and yes, business colleagues. Feeling important is—well—important. Like so many leaders in today’s business community, I was raised in a different business culture—a time before email and texting began to control our daily communications. When a handshake meant more than the Legal Department’s blessing. When walking down the hall or answering a phone call served as the basis for the majority of professional communication. Essentially, a time when chatting with someone face-to-face was the single best source for inspiration. For my part, I was professionally raised to respect the importance of importance. Though I embrace the obvious benefits of the technology age, I often wonder about the cost associated with these technological advances. Not the actual dollars many of us have handed over for the latest iPhone, but the price each of us has paid in the loss of that feeling of “importance” due to substitution of technology for personality. Consider this: the feeling of importance comes from positive interactions. Positive interactions stem from professional courtesy. Professional courtesy is learned through role models and mentors. Mentoring happens when leaders are inspired—when they feel their protégées have the potential to make important contributions to our collective business future. For those of you trying to get a mental picture of the aforementioned connections, it’s a simple circle of actions and reactions—each vital to the growth and success of each of our businesses. Because if there’s one thing I know to my core, inspiration and creative thinking happen only when all of the above are in play—when the “thinker” feels important and trusts that his or her ideas will be heard and respected. As someone who makes his living being “creative” [...]
Originally published in Smart Business Magazine September, 2013 If you are like the majority of business executives, you prefer communications by email. But is it at any price? What about some ground rules for civility? A recent Google search of “email etiquette” resulted in a substantial number of entries — the majority with a spotlight on protocol for the sender. Call me naive, but shouldn’t the recipient behave responsibly too? Let’s face it; responding to most emails has become optional due to the absence of accountability and/or real human emotion. One could even say that email correspondence is the professional world’s high-tech version of hide and seek. However, many employees still spend an excessive amount of time waiting for mission-critical information to be returned via email — and time equals money. To all senders, nothing is more important than communicating clearly and succinctly. An email beginning with “let me be brief” followed by five full paragraphs is most likely going to fall victim to the Big D — Delete. The battle rages Of course, the war rages on between “buyers” and “sellers” — with email being a primary weapon. However, aren’t we all “selling” something? As all recipients are senders too, practically everyone has a story of woe regarding an unanswered email. Maybe I’m not as popular as I thought. As a test, I recently sent 25 individual emails requesting time to discuss this specific topic. In my mind, I had a relationship with each person; therefore, I “deserved” their time and attention. Right? Number of responses received — two. Now, inbox fear has become so great it’s also safe to assume that some simply didn’t want to risk comment as that could become the [...]
Like many others of my generation, I learned to read with the affable assistance of Dick, Jane, Sally, and their forward-thinking pooch, Spot. Simple watercolor pictures mentally transformed themselves into written words every time I saw Spot run. I witnessed Sally’s excitement at how Dick’s toy airplane would “go up, up, up.” I applauded when Jane took charge and encouraged her brother to “Run, Dick, run. Run and See.” Of course, if I turned my back for one second, the incorrigible Spot would be scampering off somewhere else again. Spot did a lot of running as I recall—and when it comes to keeping track of all of my written business correspondence, like Spot, I sometimes feel like I’m chasing my tail. As an outspoken professional-courtesy advocate, I recently asked members of the RediscoverCourtesy.org LinkedIN Group to provide examples as to the Top 10 Rules for Professional Courtesy. This very passionate and optimistic group provided many more than a simple ten items. Included on their various lists were compromise, listening, respect, honesty, etc. However, it wasn’t until I mentioned “reading” that the group took notice of this specific issue. Group member Julia Lathrop, a Biotechnology Research and Development Consultant from Washington, DC, commented, “[People who don’t read] appear to be sending the message that they are too busy and their time is more important—which feels very dismissive. “ Candidly, the most common problem I encounter in business can be described in one sentence: people don’t seem to take the time to read anymore. Knowing that Dick and Jane did a pretty darn good job at teaching this skill, as did those who came after them, have we forgotten how to read or do we, once again, serve up today’s most popular standby [...]
In the early 17th century, Spanish author, poet, and playwright Miguel de Cervantes introduced the world to knight-errant Don Quixote. Critics came to view Cervantes’s work as a tragedy because Don Quixote’s intrinsic idealism was viewed as insane and he was ultimately defeated and rendered useless by common reality. However, it’s also safe to say that the character of Don Quixote survives to this day due to his innate ability to see the positive side of every situation and fight for his (albeit befuddled) belief system. Even if the delusional Don Quixote ultimately fought windmills he imagined were giants, you can’t say the guy didn’t have the guts to try. In more modern times, a person known for “tilting at windmills” is considered a fool for trying to defeat an enemy which is not taken seriously by others. You know, call me crazy—but I can relate as I've been battling a windmill or two of my own lately. In launching my professional courtesy initiative, RediscoverCourtesy.org, my first national press release resulted in a shocking controversy—and I went into this project thinking nothing could be less controversial than promoting manners in the workplace. Alas, my friends at Gawker.com decided that my professional courtesy mission was worthy of lampooning and 20,000 page views later, I actually found myself extremely grateful for the hullabaloo that resulted. And yes, a handful of Gawker readers thought I was nuts. Though a few were less than kind, it’s hard to get too worked up over comments made by people who disappear behind screen names like “BooBoo123” and “StallionManTX.” Say what you want about Gawker, but some of the comments proved to be extraordinarily insightful as well. Besides, let’s face it, controversy “sells.” I have tested every reasonable maneuver [...]
I have often heard it said that art imitates life. In my case, art and life are quite often indistinguishable from each other. And I prefer it stay that way.As someone who makes his living being “creative,” throughout the years I have continued to stretch and challenge my creative muscles (and sometimes my physiological ones) by pursuing my childhood love of performing on stage. I suppose this urge is no different than the former high school class president who now reigns supreme over the PTA or the college quarterback who still plays weekend football with his buddies.As adults, all we want to do is stay in the game. For the past few weeks I have had the pleasure of performing the role of 35-year-old David O. Selznick, producer of arguably the most famous movie of all time: Gone with the Wind. The play, Moonlight & Magnolias by Ron Hutchinson, follows Selznick, director Victor Fleming and script doctor Ben Hecht through a madcap period in 1938 as the haphazard trio attempts to rewrite the entire movie screenplay in just five days. Talk about multi-tasking! According to biographer, David Thomson, “Selznick was the most charming, best-read, most insanely workaholic (and most easily diverted), most talented, arrogant, hopeful, amorous, insecure, and self-destructive of all the geniuses of American movie-making.” Yikes! They chose me to play this role? Were they aware that huge chunks of this description could easily have applied to me at age 35? Am I to be an “actor” in this production or do they simply want me to portray a variation of myself? So, at age 49, as I focus part of each day sharing my honest (and often embarrassing) stories of “confessional development” on AttackBunnies.com and promoting professional courtesy on RediscoverCourtesy.org, I spend my nights portraying David O. Selznick: the boss [...]
As a teen in the 70s, I desperately wanted to work. Of course, I was driven by a desire to earn my own income—Bee Gees albums ain't gonna buy themselves—but I also ached for the sense of accomplishment that came with winning a real job. Flash forward many years later—after witnessing my millennial children’s job experiences, it dawned on me that my teen jobs—and my mentors from that time—profoundly shaped my views on professionalism. These jobs were not just about earning spending money; they were a vital part of my workplace education. First, my hometown of Columbia, Missouri was the quintessential college town. As a result, we local kids had to learn how to compete with college students for the available jobs. Of course, today’s youth basically win a trophy for losing the soccer game. My two children—who I essentially forced to get part-time jobs in high school—both worked at Target. They loathed it. Though it’s more commonplace to call Disneyland “the happiest place on earth,” in my view, Target wins this title, hands down. I find things I need as well as many other items I certainly don’t need; however, I always hop back into Anderson Mini Cooper at least $200 poorer but with a big smile on my face. When my kids—my pedigreed little Target Team Members—complained (and complained and complained), I simply chalked it up to a working-teen adjustment period. After all, they weren't really there by choice. However, as their grumbles and groans continued, I realized there must be some truth in their shared objections. Somehow, as a workforce introduction, my beloved Target was missing the mark. Alas, Target was not the problem. First, the demand for qualified retail staff today [...]
During their middle school years, my daughter Maribeth announced she wanted to be a music producer while my son Kevin proclaimed his career ambition was to design video games. Ah—glamour jobs! My astute parental response was to attempt to sell them on the importance of product marketing. After all, that’s what dear old dad does for a living. Surely they are aching to follow in my footsteps. “Kids, I absolutely believe you can be anything you want to be. But keep in mind it’s all about business. Yes, being a music producer sounds great and designing video games would be exciting but if no one buys the CDs or the video games, then you’re out of a job. So when it comes time for college, you really can’t go wrong with a business degree.” Take that, offspring! In my naïve mind, my higher education sales pitch was going great until Maribeth blurted out, “Dad, didn't you major in Speech and Drama?” Darn, yet another important parental lesson destroyed by the calculating mind of a 12-year-old. News Flash: We all sell. Whether our job title contains the word “sales,” we are all doing it. All companies and organizations sell products, services, concepts, and/or emotions. Even the computer guy had to sell someone that he was right for the job. As a kid in 1970’s Missouri, I sold newspapers, sodas at football games, doughnuts, Whoppers, cookies, jeans and, thanks to my college singing telegram days, myself. Since then, practically my entire adult career has been spent selling marketing products and services to other businesses. Of course, these same products and services are meant to help other people sell something else. My introduction to legitimate sales was in [...]