A successful business integrates professionalism into all aspects of its operations, advertising and customer relations. But what does “being professional” actually mean?
oxford.com defines professional as a person engaged in a specified activity, especially a sport, as a main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
merriam-webster.com defines professional as characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2) : exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace
thefreedictionary.com defines professional as
- A person following a profession, especially a learned profession.
- One who earns a living in a given or implied occupation
- A skilled practitioner; an expert
Professionalism encompasses a number of different attributes and together these attributes identify and define a professional.
So, what are these attributes?
Accountability is an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions. For example:
- Demonstrating a sense of ownership and pride in everything you do.
- Following a daily schedule, time block, prioritise, organise, delegate and outsource.
- Having a plan for your intentions, goals and direction and be persistently patient with how it unfolds.
- Being consistent with how you execute your daily process and activities. Be flexible and willing to tweak things as they arise.
- Always reviewing, surveying and getting feedback. Conduct focus groups with your own customers and observe trends.
- Maintaining your focus regardless of the obstacles. There will be many bumps along the way. Don’t just give up or lose hope.
“Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses.” George Washington Carver
Competence is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. For example:
- Having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc, for some purpose
- Following policies and procedures,
- Maintaining the highest possible technical standards
- Referring work to others when you own skills are not sufficient
- Continuously seeking out opportunities to improve skills
“Effectiveness = confidence + competence” Rajeev Jain
Resect is having due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. For example:
- Treating everyone with courtesy and dignity.
- When working within a group, contributing equitably and appreciating the efforts of others.
- Being punctual and meeting deadlines.
- Maintaining privacy and confidentiality
- Maintaining a clean, neat, and appropriate appearance.
- Being sensitive to cultural, gender and religious differences.
- Recognising others for their efforts and giving credit where credit is due.
“We don’t need to share the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.” Taylor Swift
Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. For example:
- Adhering strongly to a set of values about how you do your work.
- Doing what is right rather that what is perhaps easy.
- Seeking and accepting responsibility.
- Following through on commitments
- Entrenching a strong sense of trust that you will carry out the required action to the best of your knowledge and ability.
- Maintaining high standards – determined to always do the right thing and do it well.
- Maintaining confidentiality of client information
“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” Oprah Winfrey
Ethics is being in accordance with the rules or standards for right conduct or practice, esp. the standards of a profession. For example:
- Adhering to all laws and regulations relating to the profession
- Not compromising client confidentiality
- Never sacrificing quality for financial gain
- Never discriminating on any basis
- Telling the truth
- Keeping commitments
- Treating employees, customers and competitors in a fair and honest manner
“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.” Potter Stewart
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. For example:
- Learning from mistakes – turning adversity into opportunities for growth
- Accepting challenges
- The inability to recognise points of failure inside the business and act on them
- Knowing how to manage stress
- Adapting successfully to disruptive changes by anticipating risks
- Focusing on internal process excellence with an awareness of emerging patterns in regulatory, socio-economic, and environmental changes.
- Controlling what you can, and don’t beat yourself up for what is beyond your control.
“Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them.” H. Jackson Brown
Organisation is the action or process of planning and arranging something. For example:
- Physical organisation – clear desk that allows you to reach things when you need them, systems for storing paper and electronic files
- Time management – managing time efficiently with a calendar, to-do lists and time allocated for tasks
“Fail to plan. Plan to fail.” Winston Churchill
Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. For example:
- Being clear about the message to be delivered. Mysterious, vague, distorted or conflicting messages foster mistrust. Use familiar, commonly understood language.
- Considering the situation before taking any action
- Focusing on problems, not personalities
- Being direct and honest and give the feedback truthfully
- Proofread all emails prior to sending; use a business email address with a proper signature
- Branding that represents your business: for stationery, signs, cards and Web site etc.
- Using of a separate dedicated phone lines for your business and fax lines
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
Commitment is a willingness to give your time and energy to something that you believe in, or a promise or firm decision to do something. For example:
- Working with urgency and commitment to be successful from individual and business perspectives.
- Timeframes that are always met unless urgent circumstances mean renegotiation of new timeframes with all parties.
- Meeting clients’ needs on time and within budget.
“Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes… but no plans.” Peter Drucker
What steps do you take in your small business to make sure that every interaction with your customers is professional? What do you look for to gauge the professionalism of a business?