We can talk about it until we’re blue in the face. We may write about it, design programs and build entire initiatives around it. If we have enough juice we might be able to insist on a moniker or title that insinuates we have arrived.
But when it comes to what it really means to be a professional, titles, labels, and even robust branding efforts have little to do with the reality.
When it comes to determining what it means to be a professional, what we do speaks much more eloquently than what our business card (or Linked In profile) says.
Professionalism is a characteristic. It is the sum of traits that form the foundation for behavior in defining moments — whatever the venue might be.
The only thing most of us are able to control with respect to this discussion is our own personal pursuit of the traits we deem central to the professionalism to which we aspire.
The temptation is to act as though defining moments on a big stage…in the glare of bright lights..in the context of high visibility.
In our gut we know that true professionalism is defined daily — in scores of moments that are often more private than public…where there is little fanfare.
Simply calling someone (or something) professional, does not make it so.
In the interest of a productive pursuit, and with acknowledgment of personal blind spots, here is a six-pack of some of the traits present in the consummate professionals I have had the opportunity to know.
- Professionals accept responsibility. They don’t whine or shrink in the toughest moments. Nor, it should be noted, do the best of the best demand the spotlight for sustenance.
- The professional possesses crystal-clear self-awareness, and is constantly honing the ability to understand personal limitations. This is manifest in honesty, intentional listening, and a big-picture perspective.
- Professionals don’t engage in turf wars, and do not tear down others. Rather, they build bridges, and are apt to deflect credit.
- The professional doesn’t avoid difficult moments, conversations or problem personalities…approaching challenges with honesty.
- Professionals follow up, and follow through. Always. No matter what. As cliche as it may sound, this is fact.
- The professional is always professional — without respect to position or title.
This is not offered as an exhaustive list. It does, however, represent the foundational traits to which I personally aspire. Have thoughts and/or additions that might be instructive for all of us? Please contribute.