Exclusive: Business Etiquette Tips From The Modern Gentleman

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Jason Tesauro, author and CEO, Modern Gentleman

Jason Tesauro, author and CEO, Modern Gentleman

What are the top manners that every executive should abide by in the workplace? Who better to ask than The Modern Gentleman himself, Jason Tesauro. Since the publication of his book of the same name back in 2001, Tesauro’s opus to all things style and good taste has seen 12 printings. Recently, WashingtonExec caught up with Tesauro to get his inside take on evolving manners in the workplace, why it’s so important to look the part of success, plus where busy executives can escape to when it’s time to wind down.

WashingtonExec: What sparked your idea to write, The Modern Gentleman?

Jason Tesauro: I wrote it because I needed to read it. But a book like that didn’t exist. In 2001, as a young man on the eve of thirty, I was looking for a new road map. Ye olde analog rules of entertaining, dating and relating were giving way to a more casual, digital social landscape that seemed to shift by the week. I wanted to better understand the world I was rising into and how best to make my mark in it. I looked for resources, but prevailing wisdom of the time was drawn from a tired playbook with outmoded gender roles and social customs. They say that if you want to learn something, write a book about it. I dove full in. Between the research and the writing, it was nearly four years. Instead of a PhD, I earned my MG.

WashingtonExec: The book is now in its 12th printing – what accounts for its popularity?

Jason Tesauro: We are social creatures. People are hungry for connection, but they don’t always know how to get there. Once MG hit the streets in 2002, word quickly spread from dad to grad, girlfriend to boyfriend, fraternity brother to fraternity brother. “At last,” the fan mail exclaimed, “there’s a resource that addresses our life, our vices and our sense of humor!” Random House blitzed through printing after printing of the First Edition and then I wrote a Second Edition in 2011. I love seeing dog-earred copies on people’s coffee tables, nightstands and bathroom shelves. Books aren’t just being sold…they’re being read.

WashingtonExec: What is a mistake you see seasoned, successful executives make time and again?

Jason Tesauro: Too often, I’ve upbraided CEOs for rented tuxedos, pre-fab bowties and even less attention paid to shoes. You don’t have to be a fashion plate, but as an executive, your suit is your uniform. Be a beacon of professional class on the outside so that no one dismisses you before they discover what’s inside. It works vice versa, too: Shouldn’t your clothes reflect a purposeful and meticulous character?

WashingtonExec: What are the top manners men – and women – should abide by in the workplace?

Jason Tesauro: Kindness, respect, mindfulness and integrity are neither trendy nor gender-specific. These attributes are never out of place and they’ll never fall out of fashion.

WashingtonExec: What are your top rules of email etiquette you see missed all too often?

Jason Tesauro: I don’t mind short, but I do not like lazy. As a writer, I see any opportunity for words as an opportunity for good writing. Most people probably haven’t stroked a formal missive or handwritten letter in ages. That’s fine, but don’t let your skills deteriorate. Even a short and sweet note offers room for a pleasing turn of phrase. Vocabulary and grammar are like teeth. Ignore them and they’ll go away.

WashingtonExec: What not-so-obvious boardroom etiquette tips could you share with our executive audience?

Jason Tesauro: The boardroom is wherever you’re doing business. That means the lunchroom, the dinner table and the golf course are all potential “boardrooms.” Business acumen is vital, but so is cultural literacy. How can you expect to close that million-dollar deal with Europeans, for instance, when you can’t even order a fifty-dollar bottle of Sancerre to pair splendidly with those scallops they ordered? Regardless of the venue, core values and cultivated interests are always on the menu.

WashingtonExec: What tips can you impart for a man to look the part of a gentleman? Where do you shop to fit the bill of a gentleman?

Jason Tesauro: I can’t tell you how many times my suit, shoes, hat or cravat has been THE thing that started a conversation. People notice. Many C-level execs keep their attorney and financial advisor on speed-dial, but turn to search engines or strip malls when it comes to a tailor, stylist or cobbler. You claim to offer customized consulting services but your cookie-cutter suit is from a discount chain? That doesn’t compute. Being well-groomed, well-coiffed and well-heeled are silent testaments to your self-worth and attention to craftsmanship and detail. And it’s well-worth the investment. Too busy, you say? Spend a fraction more and you can find pros who will bring these services right to your corner office. Reach me and I’ll put you in touch with some of my favorites.

WashingtonExec: At a time when gender identity is “fluid,” are there codes of conduct related to being a “gentleman” that remain fixed and unchanging?

Jason Tesauro: A true gentleman can be trusted with HIS word and YOUR wife. That shouldn’t change; neither should your moves on the dance floor – a gent knows how to lead. And I believe that when the holiday roast is served, a gent should know how to sharpen and blade and properly carve the beast. But I’m always on the look-out for traditional rules whereby “gentlemanly code” is just a pleasant cover-up for condescending or sexist conduct. Holding the door for the person behind you is a nice gesture for whomever is behind you. Offering a hand to a lady in heels emerging from a cab or alighting upstairs is also an act of decency. On the other hand, calling women “love, darlin’ or dear” is sexist, not chivalrous, and addressing an invitation to Dr. & Mrs. Buford C. Bigshot III is insulting to all of those mates who deserve equal billing. Lastly, we’re finally acknowledging as a society that gender is not binary coded as strictly Male or Female. Be considerate of your language and behavior lest you exclude, embarrass or insult. Some of my contemporaries use Mx. in lieu of Mr. and Mrs., for instance. I’m in full support.

WashingtonExec: In our readers’ time off, they’d love to check out vineyards – which would you recommend, both near and far?

Jason Tesauro: Within an hour of DC, there’s a cluster of wineries around the Middleburg region that any discerning oenophile should know – Linden Vineyards (don’t miss the Hardscrabble series), Boxwood Winery (very French reds and the best rosé in Virginia), RdV Vineyards (their Lost Mountain rivals collectable Napa blends). And around Charlottesville, you can spend a week pulling corks and still not see all of the gems. Hit these for sure: King Family Vineyards (lovely Meritage) and Michael Shaps Wineworks (terrific Tannat). If I had to beeline to one, though, Barboursville Vineyards is the most complete wine estate on the East Coast (Vermentino and Octagon are musts).

Jason Tesauro is an author and sommelier with five children, three books and two national magazine awards. His company, Modern Gentleman, shares a passion for craft, flavor and refined cool by designing  extraordinary events, leading personal and corporate trainings, and producing lifestyle content to guide your journey through manners, savvy and civil vice.

Learn more at themoderngentleman.com or via social media @themoderngent.

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