Professionalism: An Attitude and a Way of Life

Tips to help you develop positive behaviours in the workplace

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a move behind the scenes by groups of professionals and industry associations to ensure professional work standards in their industry sectors.

In some cases, these groups want to create a nationally recognized professional designation. Such strategies aren’t simply a nice thing to do, they are designed to help ensure consistent customer service and quality of work. On the other hand, having professional standards and professional designations also creates individual personal and professional power and influence in the work world.

There’s a lot more to professional standards, power and influence than placing a recognized insignia on your business doorstep, personally wearing a professional insignia on your lapel jacket, or putting letters behind your name.

It’s more than attending association meetings or espousing a code of ethics. True professionals live and breathe their professional standards and ethics and they know how to influence others effectively, for the good of all.

As I mentioned earlier, it is not what you know, it’s what you do. It’s your behaviour!

With this in mind, here are some of the positive, professional behaviours I am confident people will look for in your everyday work in 2017:

Positive First Impressions

Professionals believe there is never a second chance to make a good impression and they act accordingly.

Professionals know that even in the first conversation, people create a perception about whether or not they want a long-term relationship or if they will seek out your expertise.

If the reaction is positive, then communication and energy will increase and a relationship can begin.

Change Orientation

Successful professionals recognize that change is all around them. They continually adapt and modify to new ways of doing things. They continually seek out new knowledge and look for ways to apply it in their practice.

They also take the lead in helping others to adjust to new realities.

Active Self-Assessment

Your mother might have taught you to "think first, talk later" and this is still good advice. It requires that you are always thinking about the impact on others of what you say and do. Successful professionals have strong "emotional intelligence" in that they understand themselves and manage their own emotions well.

 

In addition, they can easily recognize emotion in others and help harness these emotions so that critical thinking and effective problem solving can take place.

They are always self-assessing.

Development of Meaningful Relationships

Understanding the lifetime value of your relationships is critical to success.

This means being sensitive to others’ needs and giving time to build relationships, or "social capital" as it is sometimes called. Positive relationships help to develop personal respect, enable you to build a solid reputation and allow you to tap into a wide variety of different networks for when you personally need help or advice.

Promoting Success in Others

The generous sharing of your professional knowledge, willingness to help others succeed and development of others without expecting something in return is the mark of a strong, confident professional.

In turn, this behaviour creates respect. People will pay attention and listen to your advice, thus allowing you to influence others.

Sharing Your Assets

You have many personal assets that could be considered as a type of currency — something that can be exchanged with others as a means to influence behaviour.

This could range from assisting with a project to making an introduction to an influential individual to collaborating on an equipment purchase.

Practicing Meaningful Dialogue

Whereas leadership is essentially a "language game," it is important to pay attention to the what, when and how of what is communicated.

This means practicing strategic communication, paying attention to the goals you wish to accomplish and finding the right words to express yourself.

In addition, good communicators pay special attention to their body language and non-verbal behaviour to ensure they are perceived as genuine and sincere.

Applying Good Questions

Good questions elicit good answers; the challenge is to frame questions so there is a good flow of information. Bombarding an individual with questions is nothing more than interrogation, which won’t elicit the information you expect. Plan your questions and ensure they are appropriate for the discussion. Ask open-ended questions, some personal and some business. Learn as much as you can about a person.

Being a Good Listener

Once again, wise elders have told us the reason we have two ears and one mouth is so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Being a good listener and building your conversation capital enhances your professional image. It shows respect for the speaker and shows that you care. That’s because good listeners don’t just hear words, they listen for voice tone, body language, vocabulary and most of all, for meaning.

Focus on Decisiveness

There is nothing more troublesome than a professional with all the knowledge and experience but none of the stamina to make a decision.

In today’s fast-paced world with our multitude of problems, an effective professional must be able to make timely decisions, otherwise they will lose that critical window to act.

Managing Conflict

While conflict for some leaders creates fear, professionals view conflict simply as a situation where there are differing views.

They tackle the conflict immediately rather than let it fester into an unresolvable problem. They recognize their own conflict management style and that of others and choose an effective methodology to work things through.

Engaging in Thoughtful Acts

Doing something unexpected for someone, sometimes known as paying it forward, is like giving a gift. Such actions are always appreciated and the recipients will always remember your kindness. Giving provides you with not only the satisfaction and happiness that result from helping others but also the knowledge that someday, your thoughtful act will come back to you.

Despite the fact that "professionalism" is growing in terms of professional designations and industry standards, having letters behind your name and/or a sticker on your business door doesn’t mean behaviour is professional. Professionalism is all about making connections, gaining trust and doing what you say you will do in an honest and forthright manner.

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