Why Professionalism Matters

As President of the NAPO-Chicago chapter, I quarterly write a piece for our newsletter.  This week I've decided to share my last  letter, as I think it relates to all professions.

I was recently brought in on a large-scale project. The family was in dire need of a variety of services that a third party was coordinating. The project head had an assistant that was supposed to be my contact. In the weeks leading up to the project, there were a lot of communication problems. Information was missing; information was provided in an untimely manner and so on. Not only was this frustrating, but it hindered the success of the project as a whole.

Instead of placing blame on who did or didn't do what they “should” have done, I'd rather concentrate on the importance of why all of us should embrace our professional side so that we can walk away from our clients knowing we conducted ourselves appropriately.

Each of us has a vision as to what kind of company and services we'd like to represent. Regardless of the details of that vision, we probably can all agree that we want our clients and our peers to agree that we are, in fact, a professional. I conducted a bit of research as to what most people agree makes a professional. Most sources agree that there are some key areas that are important to creating this image:
  • Dress and speak the part
  • Write well
  • Be on time/Honor commitments
  • Communicate early and often
  • Have the infrastructure you need for the job at hand
  • Mind your hygiene
  • Don't make excuses or lie
  • Don't talk about clients behind their backs
  • Be positive
  • Offer to help
  • Don't air your dirty laundry
Even the best of us can use a reminder. How often are you running just a few minutes late? When have you agreed to tackle a project, thinking you'll figure it out when the time comes (lacking the proper infrastructure)? When did you walk in to a session already wanting to go home? We've all fell below par on some of these at one time or another. And, we're human; we're not going to be perfect. But, professional does not mean perfect. It means we are respecting those we're working with. We're respecting the problems we are there to help solve. We're respecting emotions and attitudes. Most importantly, we're respecting ourselves.

Reverse the list above:
  • Dressing and speaking poorly
  • Writing in a nonsensical manner
  • Being late/Forgetting commitments
  • Lacking communication
  • Lacking infrastructure
  • Ignoring hygiene needs
  • Making excuses and lying
  • Gossiping
  • Being negative
  • Only looking out for yourself
  • Airing all your secrets
Just reading this list over, we can all imagine how unreliable, uncomfortable and undesirable that working situation has become – even if just one or a couple of these are occurring. These characteristics have created a counterproductive workplace – for anyone involved. Productivity and job satisfaction will fall. Not to mention your over all physical and mental well-being.

Having worked in a less than professional situation, I'd rather not do so again. What does that mean for me and my company? It means I will refer work I'm not interested in or prepared for. I will do my best to stay positive and timely. I won't give excuses. Primarily, I will respect myself enough to let those working on projects with me know when they are acting unprofessional.

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