Master's Degree / Sociology + Development Training in Field
Diane Gottsman is a nationally recognized etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in corporate etiquette training. She also is the author of "Pearls of Polish," an etiquette guide for today's busy woman.
Her smart, cosmopolitan approach is peppered with humor and leaves her audience wanting more. From properly setting a table to mixing and mingling with aplomb, Diane is considered the "go to" etiquette expert for corporate etiquette topics. "The key," says Diane, "is to put others at ease while presenting oneself in a perfectly polished manner."
Diane is a sought after industry expert who is regularly featured on several morning television shows and has been quoted in national publications such as The New York Times, Forbes, CNN, Bloomberg Business Week, Glamour, NPR and the Chicago Tribune, to name only a few. Diane's website was named by Forbes in 2010 as one of the Top 100 Websites for Women.
There is no failure that doesn't come with an invaluable lesson.
How did you discover your current job?
I was working as a fundraiser and found that I was the "go to" source for questions, some that I knew and many that I only thought I knew. I felt that this was an interesting niche and a perfect fit for my education. I pursued etiquette training and the rest is history.
What is your typical day like? What types of things do you do in your job?
Oh my gosh, there is no such thing as a typical day and that's what makes my work so exciting. You can find me conducting corporate training sessions for universities (my passion) and major corporations, delivering a key note speech, or working on various television segments for San Antonio Living, a lifestyle program on WOAI (San Antonio's NBC affiliate), where I have the pleasure of working with the best people in the industry. You might also find me sitting at my desk eating a fiber bar and drinking a cup of tea while writing articles for several online publications. All of this while sharing parenting duties with my husband, playing bus driver to two school-age children, attending their various sports matches, dragging myself out of bed at an ungodly hour to work out with my trainer who is absolutely compassion-less, or spending time with our oldest daughter who already has left the "nest" and that I miss terribly. It's not anything different from a typical working mother's day and my multitasking skills are honed to a science.
What is the most rewarding part of your job? The most challenging?
I absolutely love seeing my participant’s faces change when the "light turns on" and they realize that "they didn't know." I am always inspired to see that most people truly want to present themselves in the best possible light, acting and interacting in the best interest of others.
The most challenging part of my job is convincing others that I am not "watching" them or "judging" their behavior. I really don't spend time picking apart other people's behavior unless I am in a session where my job is to impart knowledge and the participants are eager to learn and grow in their skills.
What is the biggest personal sacrifice you have to make because of your job?
My biggest sacrifice is also my biggest blessing in that I have the opportunity to travel all over the country, speaking and conducting sessions on a topic I truly love and believe in. While I am energized to plan, arrive and execute a session at a new and exciting destination, meeting fascinating new people, I don't like kissing my kids goodbye and driving away. But…life is full of sacrifices and as long as my family is not paying the price, it's worth the effort.
What is one lesson you've learned in your job that sticks with you?
Everyone has something wonderful to offer and training only enhances your value. I have found over and over that the more someone resists etiquette training, the more they usually can benefit from it.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?
To answer this in terms of etiquette issues, I do see confusion regarding "correct behavior" because it can vary depending on gender, age, social/business setting and country. For example, the way you treat your friend when you take her to lunch is different from the way you'd treat a client or superior. I expect my teenage son to hold open the door for a woman (or man) because that's the courteous thing to do. However, in a business setting, I wouldn't hesitate to open the door for myself and even hold it for a male client or colleague who is holding an arm full of boxes.
Who are your role models?
Oh gosh, I have so many. I am inspired in different ways by many people in my life. I have wonderful friends who inspire and motivate me, a family that supports and encourages me, and an assortment of clients that all have made favorable impressions on my life. I admire professionals who go the extra mile, like my son's 6th grade teacher who spent the entire year offering extra tutoring when she probably would have preferred to do other things with her own family. That was three years ago and I still remember her smile, her selfless attitude and how she made such a positive impact on my son. It is the reason he is doing so well in that particular subject today.
I also admire women who recognize that it's a gift to mentor other women, to watch them grow and revel in their success. I've benefited from mentors who have helped me navigate my way through the professional world and I do my best to do the same whenever possible. I firmly believe that everything you do will come back to you three fold.
What are some of the rules you live by?
I have several "guiding principles" that I live by:
-I try to surround myself with people who are hopeful and positive.
-I don't believe in good luck -- I believe in hard work that allows "good luck" to come your way.
-I always keep in mind the advice of my first boss after college who taught me that “no” is just the answer you get before “yes.” Another mentor told me to "close my eyes and jump" and I've been doing it ever since.
What advice do you have for young girls and women who want to be in your industry?
Find a niche. There are a lot of wonderfully talented people doing what I do. There has to be something that makes you stand out from the rest. Don't stop growing. Every day you can learn something that is going to add to your value.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
It's great to have goals, but I've learned that what I think I want today is something completely different when I get there. Everything is always changing and evolving — always. My plan is to stay open to new opportunities so wherever I am five years from now is exactly where I need to be. There may be an opportunity five years from now that doesn't exist yet. I do see myself staying in this industry, which is also continuing to grow, change and evolve, and continuing to balance my professional interests with the changing needs of my family and my personal interests.
What are three things you love aside from your job?
I love and believe in God, my ultimate higher power. I love my family beyond words and I couldn't live without the support of my friends. Without any of these, my job would be meaningless.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
There is no failure that doesn't come with an invaluable lesson. I think everyone should have been fired from a job once, should have flunked out on a test once, should have had their heart broken at least once. All of these experiences make us stronger. They teach us how to cope and handle adversity with grace. No one is immune from getting knocked down by heartache and trouble from time to time, but the secret is to get back up. I've had my share of scuffed knees. It's all right to fall down; it's just not okay to stay down. Thank you so much for the opportunity to share this time with you.