I recently turned 40 and sat down to try and write one of those “What I have learned at age X” pieces that others have done a great job of. I had hopes of it being something I could show someday to my kids when they grow up. However, the challenge of trying to boil down four decades into a magnum opus post left me totally stumped.
I decided to try something else : write down every little piece of advice I would want to give people. Some of these are profound and deep. Some of these are trivial and silly. Some are both.
The first is: always push your chair back under the table when you’re done with a meeting. Whether you are in someone’s office or in a conference room or in someone’s home, always push your chair back and clean up after yourself when you’re done with a place. This was something an early mentor of mine taught me and I have tried to follow it ever since. It also unexpectedly helped me in a business meeting.
Several years ago, I had to meet an old school business titan, a real “master of the universe” type far removed from the tech world. This CEO almost surely had no idea who I was and was meeting me as a favor for a friend who I had finagled into asking for an introduction.
I walk into a very plush office that looked right out of Mad Men, shake hands and do a meeting with this CEO and his staff. I don’t remember what I said but what I do remember is he didn’t say much during the whole encounter. I was sure I had botched the whole thing.
Soon, time ran out and I stood up to leave and walked to the door. Just then, I noticed I had forgotten to set the chairs back - so I dashed back over, apologized to the CEO and pushed the chair under the table before leaving.
I then get a surprising call from the friend who set up the encounter. Said CEO had been impressed by me and in particular mentioned me pushing the chair back as something that made him want to work with me - apparently this was a bit of a pet peeve of his.
Did it really help? Was this just someone who liked a clean office? I have no idea but there you go kids: push your chair under the table when you leave. It may unexpectedly help you in a meeting but more importantly, it’s just good manners.
- I’ve elided/switched up some tiny details so people can’t try and pinpoint the people or the exact company involved. The core of the anecdote stays the same.