What makes a professional a professional?

We normally write about strategy and research, but this week I’d like to discuss a different topic: Professionalism.

Professionalism is important if you’re an executive vice president or a new, entry-level hire. It is often the difference between people who receive more opportunity and those who do not. So, what is a professional?

[NOTE: I sat down and wrote these using good, old-fashioned experience and original thought. Some of them are classics. If you feel I should have attributed you or someone else, let me know and I will append.]

A professional is always on time.

A professional values the time of others.

A professional measures efforts by their effectiveness before their efficiency.

A professional apologizes for mistakes and is willing to admit when they are wrong.

A professional measures their efforts in real numbers.

A professional runs a marathon, not a sprint. Professionals know when to rest.

A professional seeks the advice of peers and colleagues.

A professional builds coalitions.

A professional is not biased and judges every person by their character and ability.

A professional reads.

A professional listens.

A professional is not afraid to show up early or stay late.

A professional helps team members and receives help from team members.

A professional always tells the truth.

A professional always seeks to be useful and kind.

A professional does not seek to be the smartest person in the room.

A professional has good writing skills in any profession.

A professional is detail-oriented, but never loses sight of the big picture.

A professional searches their own biases and blind spots mercilessly.

A professional seeks to communicate in clear, simple language that doesn’t confuse.

A professional is always learning about their own expertise as well as the expertise of others.

A professional embraces creative solutions and enjoys solving difficult problems.

A professional asks follow-up questions instead of making guesses.

A professional dresses slightly better than the position requires.

A professional looks for ways to help others and is never too busy to be a team member.

A professional is not afraid to make mistakes and fixes them quickly.

A professional teaches others and learns from others.

A professional does not choose sides and avoids office gossip.

A professional applies ideas both modern and traditional to get the best result.

A professional leaves a paper trail documenting what was done and how to do it.

A professional keeps current on research and considers the present, the short-term and the long-term.

A professional finishes projects on time.

A professional starts with an ambitious vision instead of maintaining the status quo.

A professional gives every meeting, every email and every interaction a clear purpose.

A professional creates an agenda and sticks to it.

A professional mentors others.

A professional builds friendships by learning about colleagues and their worlds.

A professional manages their own emotions, even while others are angry or juvenile.

A professional treats every team member, regardless of rank, with the utmost respect.

A professional is wise with the institution’s money and is a good steward of it.

A professional seeks to contribute and focuses on the big picture. 

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