Adventures in (Un)Professionalism – inspired by real events

Why fight and argue when you could use that time for something meaningful?

It’s been quite some time since I wrote something new in my Blog. So long, that I am almost embarrassed to say exactly how long… Perhaps because of the many engagements I have been speaking and interacting with people at. Or perhaps even because I was so busy getting some serious work done, that I didn’t notice the progression of time. Until recently…

Some recent “goings-on” in my business life have given me pause to think about what it is I have been doing over the last 2 years, how my actions affect others around me, and why sometimes – no matter what you do – haters gonna hate.

I have had to ask myself why it is that we work in environments where there are always people who are all about self-realisation at the cost of others. Why it’s important for some people to cover their own ass instead of collaborating to find a solution for everyone. Why we have to spend time fighting some strange internal wars over who did what wrong and why the other person is the bad guy.

We’re on the same team. We are in this together. We have the same overall goals. So why fight instead of trying to understand each other? Why is it that one side of a conflict is able to reach out a hand and say “hey let me try to give some insight into why things perhaps did not go so well, then we can avoid those things in the future, find the best way to collaborate, and get on with the business of doing great work together”, and the other side will slap that hand away and say “yeah, well – that’s like, your opinion man.” (Sorry, had to do that).

I guess what I’m trying to say is this: professionalism is not just about how many Spreadsheets you created, how accurate your numbers are to the 10th decimal place, or how exceptionally well-written your last Presentation was. Professionalism to me is also all about whether or not we are able to learn from mistakes, be compassionate, put petty squabbles aside and learn how to do things together, how to accept that you are just as prone to mistakes as everyone else, and how to focus on what really matters.

So, without further ado – here are some things I would just like to say about Professionalism. This is not intended to be a course on management and leadership. I’m not writing this now because I believe I wrote the book on the subject, or because I think I’m smarter or better than anyone else. It is simply a short run-off of things that I think we can all agree on. And things that certainly have worked well in my experience.

#1 You’re not always right. And even if you are, it doesn’t matter.

What matters is the bottom line, a customer’s needs are met, you helped someone live a better life or become better at what they do.
Stop fighting your colleagues, and trying to beat them. Use that energy to win together.

#2 Stop trying to make everyone like you – focus on the value you create.

Like the man said: haters gonna hate. Focus on the things you can do to bring value. Don’t be an a-hole along the way, but also don’t think you’ll get better results if everybody likes you. Let results also speak for themselves.

#3 The problem is never the problem.

My internet service kept going out. So I called the phone company – they said they’ll fix it. Apparently some cable fell down somewhere. Then it happened again. And again. Many times. And each time they sent some dude out to pick the cable back up. But not once did they ask themselves “why is the cable falling down?”. Now back in my job: there’s that guy or gal who keeps pointing the finger and saying the cable is on the ground, and it’s somebody’s fault. But hey – be a professional: ask why it is the case, and ask how you can fix it together. 

#4 If it doesn’t sell one more tomato or make one more customer happy, then just let it go.

Would you rather spend 8 hours of your time digging up old mails, putting together a paper-trail, and spamming people with long drawn-out mails about why whatever the problem is is not your fault, or….   Would you rather spend that same amount of time with your colleagues figuring out how to solve whatever the issues are that will help in whatever the common end-goal is? 

#5 Don’t just raise issues and think you’r contributing to a solution by doing so. Ask more questions like “wouldn’t it be better if…”.

’nuff said, right?

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