Tuesday, May 24, 2011

3C's of Professionalism

There are a variety of generations, expectations, personalities, values and ethics in today's complex workplace. Many people tend to focus on external characteristics when discussing the highly subjective topic of professionalism. Professionalism is so much more than the clothes you wear.

Whether you are a recent college graduate or a seasoned professional, there are three "C"s I believe employers across all industries and disciplines want to see for increased productivity, retention and harmony. From the CEO to the janitor, these basic skills can be practiced by everyone to raise the standard of professionalism in any work environment.

1) Communication
A true professional needs to be able to write and speak effectively. Demonstrating professionalism as it relates to communication has to do with the day to day spoken and written words we exchange. If your email takes more than one screen or six lines of text, you should probably call or try to speak to the person face to face. Always quickly read over what you have written before you send it. Eliminate unnecessary details. Make sure there is a call to action, if necessary. Try to anticipate the next question the reader might have after reading your message. Every written communication should include what, when, where, why and a summary of the next step or end with what you are asking the reader to do--that's your call to action. Don't use email or text  to avoid difficult conversations. Verbal communication can build or break relationships. But don't be afraid of it. True professionals think before they speak and are not afraid to engage in tough conversations. They answer and ask questions that are on-point--clearly and concisely. They anticipate potential questions that may arise from whatever point they make without worrying about being defensive. And finally, they ask intelligent questions then listen thoughtfully to the answers.  

2) Confidence
Many individuals desiring to be professional mistake having a harsh, hard attitude for confidence. Confidence does not mean you know it all or have the right to treat others harshly. Confidence means you listen as much as (or more than) you speak. Confidence is a silent strength that comforts as well as motivates.  It is the thoughtful courage to maintain integrity and make decisions that benefit the organization or situation even if it means being unpopular. Professional confidence involves a willingness to make a decision or move forward when no one else will. When properly used it may even push others outside their comfort zone. A confident professional knows when to confront, correct, encourage and when to be silent. Confident professionals take calculated risks. Confidence may frighten some people even when applied appropriately. Peter McIntyre said it best,"Confidence comes from not always being right, but not fearing to be wrong."

3) Consideration
Everyone has their reasons for behaving a certain way in the workplace. It is never acceptable to be rude or abusive to people no matter your title. Insecurities play out in different ways for leaders and employees. Some people may be overly sensitive to concise directives or correction and misinterpret direct communication. True professionals consider the fact that there are a variety of communication styles in the workplace. It is important to be able to adjust your style according to the situation or person but not lose who you are. Consideration does not involve tip-toeing around the unreasonable people or troublemakers in the workplace. True professionals do not seek to dominate a conversation in the office or in office related social settings. They know when to listen and how to ask questions to get others engaged in the decision or discussion. True professionals accept differences but rarely settle for differences as an excuse for mediocrity.

Whether you are a leader, employee or volunteer, try practicing these 3C's for one week in your shared environment. Let me know how it goes. Remember, time spent improving yourself cuts down on time wasted disapproving of others.  

What "C' would you add? Please leave your comment below.