“What A Professional!”
“Professional” has multiple meanings in our culture.
When you use the term, you might be referring to:
1) A doctor or a lawyer ~ including both medical and non-medical doctors.
2) A member of the college-educated workforce in general. All those MBAs, MFAs, MAs, MSs, MATs, BSs, BAs, and BSEs. Did I leave anyone out?
3) A “lady of the night” or “courtesan” for those of gentler sensibilities.
4) Someone who is really skilled at a particular trade or service, especially if a license or certificate is required to do that trade or service.
We tend to use the term in a positive manner, except maybe with regard to number 3 above. Let me add one more to the list:
5) Anyone who serves in a leadership or management role, regardless of career field, education, or anything else.
We tend to forget that our managers and our leaders are professionals, even when they do not have a college degree and their office is a plant floor, the tailgate of a truck, or the cockpit of an armored troop carrier.
Professionalism is not conveyed by a title, a degree, or a position. It comes from behavior.
So what behaviors should characterize a professional? Here’s my list. A professional …
Leaves Their Ego At The Door
Work should not be a competition between competing personalities, but a collaboration of people who realize that “We” is stronger than “I”.
This means actually listening to others, getting their input, objectively evaluating and responding to what they offer, and sharing the work, the credit, and sometimes the blame honestly and appropriately … you know, all those things you want other people to do with you.
If your workplace resembles “Game of Thrones“, you have a special challenge ahead. Staying above the fray is sometimes difficult and may result in personal loss on your part . . . See next entry.
Always Does the Right Thing . . . Always
Nothing excuses unethical behavior … nothing. The trick here is to have developed a well-tuned system which helps you make ethical decisions, both small and large. Professional organizations often provide codes of conduct and ethical decision-making processes, which can be quite helpful
Too many people try to wing this one or rely on the average standards for their industry …Don’t. Being ethical is NOT about meeting standards, but about going way beyond them.
Ethics is also not about “bottom line” or outcomes. Doing the right thing is the goal, not the means to some other end.
Knows Their Job
Often the first thing we think about when identifying the professionals among us. The problem is that we too often identify the wrong job skills. We find the absolute best caller in the call center, the top salesperson, and the most eager customer service representative … then promote them into a leadership role for which they may not be ready.
Treats Others With Respect Regardless of Position
Two quick definitions here:
“Respect” – treatment of another which conveys an acknowledge of them as a person with thoughts, ideas, concerns, and dreams, and not a simple clog in a machine with no other existence.
“Position” – the rank or title which the person holds. Even in a hierarchy or other formal structure, you are still dealing with human beings, who come complete with abilities, skills, knowledge, motivations, pains, worries, and a life already lived. Consider that every single person with whom you interact shares one important thing with you: Both of you are dealing with a fellow person.
If the above is too wordy, just remember this: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”)
Is Continually Learning More
Well, you knew I would add this one, right? How can anyone keep up a professional level of knowledge or present a professional image if they are not constantly learning new things. I might add that I am not talking just about knowledge in their field or career. Maybe I should have said “Has a curiosity about learning new things”.
When someone learned their last new thing many years ago, you might call them “boss“, “sir“, and even “professor” … but the odds are against you ever calling them a professional.
Shares Knowledge Easily With Others
“Knowledge is good”, as the founder of the college I wish I had attended says.
“Knowledge unshared is just taking up valuable brain space“, as I say.
Professionals do not hoard their knowledge, counting the bits of information like gold doubloons. They share it freely and nurture the growth of knowledge in others.
When we help others grow, we grow.
Well, that’s my list for what characterizes professional behavior. What did I get wrong? What did I miss?
Reviewing my own qualifications to be called professional and finding “room for improvement” in the Heartland ….