The Sun News

What places you on the frontline?

“Nobody ever told me this,” the young man who sat opposite me wailed. He was being interviewed for the post of a driver. He showed up with both his black jeans trousers and shirt sleeves carelessly rolled up, arms akimbo

“Yea, I was told you needed a driver” he casually declared. Having profiled him, I was sufficiently informed to dismiss him but on second thoughts I felt sudden pity for the young man. He was a 23-year-old school dropout, who had acquired driving skills over the past four years. His worry was that he was tired of being a “danfo” bus driver and thus wanted to transit to a “corporate job as a personal driver to a corporate boss.”

Unfortunately, the dream job had consistently eluded him despite several attempts. He was good at the job, he claimed. He regularly attended job interviews but he was never hired. To him nothing could account for this repeated rejection other than some evil negative force emanating from the village.

Having convinced him that the problem was not from the village and that he did not need his pastor for deliverance, we began to discuss the importance of making a good impression, selling one’s self successfully at any given opportunity. The little thing that matters…. the etiquette advantage.

Etiquette kicks in whenever two people begin to interact, that interface no matter the brevity births a relationship. The Bible clearly states that whereas the Almighty God looks at the heart, the mere mortal bases his assessment on the visible. People underrate the importance of human interaction. In life it’s so crucial that it will determine if there will be other meetings.

Etiquette teaches us to be consciously aware of how our actions affect others. Although it is believed in some quarters that first impression is often wrong, it is generally accepted that a first impression carries a long lasting impact. The danger is that there is hardly a second chance to create a first impression. People form opinion of others in less than 30 seconds of initial contact, with profiling based on appearance, body language and speech. Unfortunately, our inner qualities are appraised after the hurdle of the first line. This is why social graces described as essential soft skills seem to overshadow technical skills. Before you get a chance to present your capacity, you must first pass what I call a human acceptance or likeability test. If people don’t like you, they don’t want to know what you have to offer. It may seem shallow or unfair but that is the reality of life. Remember that man is swayed by the outward, visual. The young danfo driver has never had the chance to showcase his skills in a more organized setting because he never made it beyond the primary assessment stage.

Now, you understand why organizations are particular about the people they unleash on the market, that is why certain employees are called frontline staff. They are also referred to as marketers. They are the faces of any outfit, their ability to connect with the buying public determines the bottom-line or survival of the firm. They may not necessarily be the brightest, but they are often the most cherished because people won’t buy if they don’t succeed. They are the most mobile group in the industry, they often rise faster in the corporate ladder, they often earn more mouthwatering bonuses, jumbo packs, outside stipulated remuneration. They call the shots, they tell management what to do. In view of the fact that the customer is king, the frontline man is the queen, revered and pampered by management.

My late grandfather used to say that were it not the entire community is traditionally farmers, some folks would come home and regale others with fictitious tales and cap the fable with an anthropomorphism: “Cassava said I should greet you.” Well management would agree if the frontline staff brings greetings from cassava after a visit to any farm! The frontline staff has no sectorial or industry barriers in career movement. As a successful salesman in a bank, the same person would replicate similar feat in an ICT or manufacturing company; career movement is borderless. His core competence is to connect with people using his superb soft skill to increase market share.

Everyone in life is a marketer, you are unknowingly selling-products, personality, ideology, skills, values, competences, qualities, etc. To convince a lady to marry you, your children to obey you, your landlord to lease his property, your boss to promote you, the list is endless, suffice it to say that as long as you are in this sphere of existence inhabited by man, you are selling! Only the socially smart are acutely aware. Etiquette teaches you how to put yourself on the frontline and sell your way through life. Social skills move you from the back office to the front line. You can increase your market share today by getting on the frontline.

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