Principles of Professionalism
by Mark SanbornIt’s About How You Do Your JobWho is a professional? The simple answer: someone who gets paid to do something. Do it for free and you’re an amateur. Do it well enough to get paid consistently and you’re a professional.That’s the simple definition. It does, however, miss something more important.Anyone who gets paid to perform a given task is technically a professional. That doesn’t mean, however, that the person exhibits professionalism, which is a key distinction many people miss.B.C. Forbes said, “There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive.” Professionalism isn’t the job you do. It’s the way you do the job.What Is Professionalism?A Google search for professionalism turns up scores of articles. Every definition is slightly different, but there are some generally agreed upon elements of professionalism qualities, such as dependability, positivity, and good communication skills.
A common thread among these definitions is that they are about inner qualities or traits. Professionalism, according to traditional thinking, is determined more by your innermost qualities than those you serve.
However, I want to suggest a newer and more expansive concept of professionalism. According to my definition, the consummate professional is more concerned about the impact of their products and services on their customers than the customers themselves are. A professional is someone who worries more about your problems than you do.
Consider these four aspects of professionalism:
- Orientation: Orientation is determined by the “true north” of your life such as your values, worldview, and the criteria you use to make personal judgments. As you navigate the waters of the business and work, orientation is like the rudder on your boat.Not only does your orientation direct your course, but you’ll find yourself attracted to and attracting others with attitudes and values similar to yours. Professionals recognize professionalism in others, and they respect, admire and learn those individuals.
- Demeanor: Your demeanor is related to your countenance and spirit as well as the way you interact with others. Professionals are seen by others as calm and collected, even in heated situations. A professional’s ability gives him or her confidence to handle challenges and problems.All of your interactions with others display your even temperament. Demeanor is image backed up by substance.
- Attitude: The word attitude typically gets divided into two categories: good and bad. Attitude, though, is more than that. Attitude isn’t static. Rather, at any given moment, your attitude is defined by how you feel about what you do, and how those feelings affect performance. True professionals aren’t lethargic or complacent. They keep looking for better ways to practice their craft.They aren’t sloppy, lazy, or apathetic about their work either. The attitude of professionalism encompasses enthusiasm, passion, attention to details, and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.
- Consistency: Professionalism must be practiced every day. Despite off days, days when you don’t feel your best, you choose to do what needs to be done rather than what you feel like doing. Those are the days when you’ll remain a professional not because you really want to, but because you’re committed to something much bigger than your momentary mood.
Whatever you are…
Abraham Lincoln summed it up nicely when he said, “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Abe had an amazing resume to back up that advice. Those six words define professionalism as well as any book could do in 100 pages.
To be a professional, it’s also important to know what professionalism is not:
- The title you hold: Any entry level employee could, potentially, surpass a VP of a Fortune 500 company in terms of professionalism. It’s about the individual, not the title behind their name.
- Arrogance or putting on airs: While a pro often turns in a superior performance, he or she doesn’t act superior over others.
- How you dress: Conducting yourself in a professional manner does include dressing appropriately and keeping yourself well-groomed. However, wearing designer labels doesn’t make you a professional.
There isn’t any job title in the world that can automatically make you a true professional. Professionalism is an inner drive that delivers results. It’s a pride in your service or product coupled with a sincere desire to truly please. Professionalism is in how you do the job, not what you get paid to do it.