Professionalism is more than just being good at something. Life being broadly analogous to a contest, professionalism is about how you present yourself before, during and after the game. So what does being a Pro mean?
If you’re new to business, look at the following as a rough guide to doing business with people. A people primer, if you like.
As a businessman, I have to play the politics game as well as my own game. Why? Because the other businesses I do business with have their own take on things and how those things need to be done.
So diplomacy plays a big part, in the sense that business people must pay some respect to each other and our own, sometimes idiosyncratic, way of doing things.
Sometimes, there will be a clash of personalities and it’s during those moments that you have be a diplomat first and foremost. But at the same time, you need to distinguish yourself by maintaining some degree of composure.
If it’s a conflict and it transpires that you’re wrong, then bow out gracefully and ensure you can articulate the reasons why you thought your were right.
Be sure sure you’re not closing any doors, or burning any bridges.
Sports stars are a great example of how we often get the whole professionalism thing used interchangeably with talent. Or use the word professionalism so often that it’s almost throw-away, disposable.
A huge salary is not a sign of professionalism. Nor is a insulting the competition, getting blind drunk in public, beating up your girlfriend, illicit affairs, gambling addictions, abusive behaviour or questionable TV appearances.
Professionalism is about being dignified and composed in the face of adversity. Being aware of your influence and using that influence in a responsible and measured way.
In ‘blogging, upholding these qualities can be a challenge, which I know only too well myself. As an example, dealing with bad comments can sometimes mean making uncomfortable, difficult choices.
Showing restraint when writing is another challenge. As a rule, if you’re in the mood to write a rant, do so, but leave it until the next day at least, or when you’ve calmed down. Then, re-read and edit accordingly. You’ll be surprised by how differently things look!
Of course, business people and sports stars are driven, motivated individuals. They often share common, key character attributes, such as aggression, towering egos, extreme natural talent, an intuitive awareness, huge self belief and a hunger for success.
However, what separates the professionals from the also-rans is how those qualities are harnessed, focused, channeled and then applied to their life. And I say life because professionalism is a life-long thing, not something you can switch on & off with all the convenience of a light bulb.
So I thought I’d put the question to the people of my Social Network and ask them for their definition of what they think professionalism is:
- Ash Laws via Pownce — “Conducting any dealings or interactions with other people ethically.”
- Richard Alan Cowling via Twitter — “It’s simply an attitude. Nothing more … but the attitude … results in behaviour which is.”
- Alex Hardy on Twitter — “Working to certain standards of quality and how you conduct yourself with other professionals / customers.”
Also, here’s some things that don’t automatically make you a Pro:
- wearing a smart or an expensive suite;
- just saying that you’re a Pro, or an expert, guru et cetera;
- going to the same venues / events / gigs as the Pros;
- having Pros as “friends” on some social network;
No, professionalism is everything you do done well and noticed by enough of the right people often enough that they consider you to be a professional.
Even if you act like a Pro, to be considered a Pro is for others to say, not you…