Modupeola Adeniji

Solomon Elusoji

One of the UK’s most established etiquette, protocol and household management consultancy, the English Manner, has opened shop in Lagos.

Founded in 2001 by Alexandra Messervy, a former member of the Queen of England’s Royal Household and a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the English Manner has a presence across continents – the United States, India, China, Dubai, Australia and, now, Lagos.

At an Open House ceremony held last weekend, THISDAY spoke to  the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the English Manner Nigeria, Modupeola Adeniji, an astute business woman with over 10  years of operational and management experience as a lawyer, and in the oil and gas sector.

“I realised there was a gap in the acquisition of soft skills among Nigerians professionals,” Adeniji said. “But without social intelligence, there’s only so far you can get. I once met someone who lost his dream job because he did not give one of the company’s top executives a firm handshake, which suggests he did not have enough confidence to make tough decisions.”

Eleven years ago, she started speaking to the English Manner company in London to grant her a franchise to launch its etiquette in Lagos, but they kept saying no. Until last year, when she brought the firm’s Managing Director, Jimmy Beale, to Nigeria and succeeded in transmuting to him her enthusiasm for an English Manner in Nigeria. “I was always calling them,” she said, “I think that persistence was a trait I got from my mother.”

Now open to business, Adeniji’s English Manner Nigeria is offering a diverse range of etiquette and protocol courses developed with a global touch, from Essential Corporate Etiquette to Public Speaking, Elocution, Interview and Presentation Skills. More interestingly, however, she has introduced a Nigerian and African etiquette course to cater to the idea of culture preservation. “We want to ensure that our young people stay in touch with their roots,” she said.

The range of the school’s training services is vast. But, ultimately, the aim of attending an English Manner course is to give people a competitive edge, a Senior Tutor at the English Manner, Diane Mather, told THISDAY. Mather, who will be involved in training of staff at English Mather Nigeria is formerly a BBC newsreader, who brings years of first-rate communication and presentation skills. In the mid-eighties, Diana left her successful career in broadcasting to start training in etiquette and media coaching. In 2005 she was asked to devise a ‘finishing’ programme to improve manners for young ladies and a year later she introduced the first finishing school for gentleman, in Scotland. She works all over the world with a wide-range of clients that include MPs, senators, lawyers and TV presenters as well as organisations such as BT, Royal Sun Alliance, BBC TV, health authorities and privatised utilities. She is the author of seven books, including two for children and her latest ‘Secrets of Confident Communicators’.

“Principally, we teach two things: good manners and etiquette,” Mather said. The former deals with kindness, respect and consideration, while the latter encompasses social rules like how and when to request handshakes, dress code, eye contact. “We also teach people how to leave a room so that the last thing you see is their face not their bottom,” Mather quipped.