I have worked with hundreds of CEOs and executives over the years in my career as a coach. We’ve accomplished great things together like building game-changing business models, upending entire markets, and taking companies public.
Yet, in all that time, and among all the suggestions and feedback I have ever handed out, there is one piece of advice that my clients tell me is the best I have ever given. It involves a simple tip to remember which bread plate and water glass is yours when you go out to dinner.
I know: not what you were expecting, right? Well I can’t tell you how surprised I have been by the number of times my clients have come back and told me how useful this piece of advice is.
Now I’ll share it with you.
As an executive, you probably eat out often–maybe entertaining clients or even attending charity functions. So picture this: as you sit down in your seat, you’re presented with an array of plates, silverware, and glasses. The same goes for each of your neighbors on either side of you. In fact, the plate you’re supposed to use to put your bread on, not to mention your water glass, both seem to be in neutral territory. This is particularly bad in round tables and long banquet tables. Unless your parents sent you to a Miss Manners class as a kid, how the heck are you supposed to know which one is yours?
Here’s what you do. Hold both of your hands out in front of you so that both palms face each other and are about six inches apart.
Now, take your index or pointer finger and touch it to your thumb on each hand so that you make two circles. Make sure to stretch out the fingers on both hands as well, kind of like you’re making the “OK” sign with each hand.
But what else do you see when you look down at your hands? How about the letter “b” in your left hand and the letter “d” in your right?
Good. Now connect the dots. The “b” stands for bread, which means your bread plate is on your left. The “d” stands for drink, which means your water glass is on right.
Easy, right? Mystery solved.
It’s been very gratifying over the years when I’ve actually been out to eat with clients and I see them looking at their hands under the table looking at their own “b” and “d” to remember which plate and glass is theirs.
Once you have it down for yourself, don’t miss the opportunity to share it with everyone at the table with you. Not only is a great conversational icebreaker, it’s also a chance to share a tip with someone they will remember for the rest of their lives.
Note: This Article was originally shared on my column at Inc.com