Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2019, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Application #17

By Richard L. Ratliff 

Today’s Issue: A Worthy Foundation (I)

The Butler’s Standards for Professional Performance provide extensive guidance for the practice of modern butling—from attitudes, to professional responsibilities and behavior, to the performance of specific tasks, and the maintenance of professional relationships. Now may be a good time to discuss some basic foundational principles underlying these performance standards.

A master butler is a master of relationships, requiring four basic qualities:

  1. Most important is a genuine concern for the welfare, comfort, and pleasure of others. A butler’s professional life is devoted to this one objective. This simple, basic idea feeds the success and joy of a butling life.
  2. Competence enables a butler to perform the duties of office. These include technical skills (for example, meal service, managing the household, tending family archives, valuables, wardrobes; overseeing the care of motor pools and gardens; and the production of ceremonies and celebrations); communication skills (no skill is more finely honed and tuned than a butler’s ability to turn the right phrase at the right time in the right way); and people skills (etiquette, diplomacy, and simple good manners grease the wheels of human society and enable the butler to help create a treasured moment or turn a potential disaster into a pleasant memory).
  3. Personal and professional integrity earn trust, a butler’s stock in trade. Closer to a household and its members than any outsider and even many family members, the butler is entrusted with both treasures and secrets which cannot and must not be violated. He is unfailingly honest and true to his word, and also understands the value of discretion and the importance of keeping confidences without compromising his own or his employer’s integrity.
  4. Responsibility to the relationship is a special dimension of integrity, but important enough to consider separately. Responsibility means to do whatever is necessary to preserve the welfare of the relationship and that the butler will always act in the best interest of those within his charge.

A successful butler will score high marks on all four of these foundational qualities, as will a desirable employer. A struggling butler or employer likely will find a need for improvement herein. Also, virtually every specific standard is rooted within these foundational qualities.

Next month, I shall discuss a second set of principles supporting our professional standards: what constitutes excellent quality of life.

A complimentary booklet on the standards of service, upon which this column is based, and also written by Professor Ratliff, is available for download in electronic format.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles. He can be reached via the Institute.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.