After a series of talks with various people the topic of what does it mean to be or to act professional. From my point of view being professional is a mix between:
- Being trustworthy
- Always taking actions on time
- Handling things in a structured way
- And of course, having the proper skills and using them to the maximum
I believe that trust is the most critical aspect of any relationship, whether it is professional or personal. Getting people to trust you is a very complex job and there is no recipe for it. Trust comes from many factors but one of the leading ones is whether you trust yourself. Having a bold and positive attitude confers trust directly, while being uncertain or insecure will prevent any form of trust being established with the other party. Also trust is something that develops over time and can be destroyed in an instant.
In the current world in which media, news and the entire world around us makes us wary of potential dangers at every corner, we can assume that most people start off relationships with caution (at different levels). This cautionary behavior disappears over time if people don’t perceive you as a threat. And by threat I don’t mean necessarily a physical one, but in the context of business threat can range from not being able to live up to your promises up to not having the skills to do what you say.
I believe that in order to acquire trust, you need to know when and what decisions to take. It’s better to say no at the right time (with the proper arguments) than to be a yesman that will mess up things on the long run. Also you must be able to prove your skills or at least to find alternatives when your skills are not enough.
Taking actions in due time
Time management and punctuality are a key factor for a professional relationship. I personally hate it when people are not able to provide me with a time horizon when it comes to actions, products, services and even more when they are not able to meet promised times without a very good reason.
Providing time horizons is a proof of taking responsibility for actions or decisions. The moment when you commit to a deadline you take responsibility for making it happen. Avoiding this decision makes me think that responsibility is a trait you are missing and this in turn is a very quick way of losing my trust.
On the other hand, providing time estimates and deadlines which are unrealistic or which are not met is another way of proving the lack of professional behavior. Unforeseen things can always happen and any good time planning should account for a certain level of unknown. If bigger issues arise, then the best action is to bring them upfront as soon as possible so that all involved parties can decide and take action on how to continue. In my opinion having such behavior shows me a much more reliable professional and does not affect my trust relationship so hard compared to hiding problems until there is no good way to fix them.
A professional mind always structures thoughts and actions. Because you are good in what you do, you know how to approach things, you know the potential dangers and pitfalls so you avoid them. A chaotic person transmits uncertainty and creates the image of someone who tries hard to hide the fact that he has no clue about what he is doing. Either that, or he has a complete lack of focus and tries to do too many things at once, which is also not reassuring.
Having a structured and coherent attitude is definitely a way in which trust is established and many initial obstacles can be moved aside by this.
Communication is a very wide topic, but there are a few things that I believe are important:
- Being able to express clear, concise ideas that stick to the point. Unending rambling or side stories transmit lack of focus so by extension I can assume that in general you have a focus issue. Being on point and clear transmits the exact opposite.
- Being able to communicate in an educated, mannered way. Lack of manners or education can only make me think that our relationship will evolve in the same way and that I need to take a ghetto attitude to keep it running. For me this is a big no.
- Keep the bad mouthing for yourself. This is really a deterrent for me in professional relationships. Meeting someone that starts talking badly about their colleagues, boss, management company etc. makes me immediately want to stop any further activity. I believe that any employee – from the factory worker to the management is part of the company’s image and breaking this image, means breaking your own image. Of course there are somethings bad things happening behind the scenes, life is not full of roses and unicorns, but wash your dirty underwear in private.
- Timely updates. Being able to provide timely answers, updates and in general interaction makes me less nervous about the potential issues that can come over time. Not being able to keep a consistent communication makes the other party always wonder what problems might be hidden, it makes them nervous and can lead them to taking preventive actions. Also the trust level goes down if communication is not consistent and timely. A short “I cannot answer now but I’ll get back to you later” does way more good than not saying anything.
A professional relationship exists mainly because of your skill set or position. There are many times when maybe we don’t have all the skills necessary to perform what is expected of us. The important thing in my opinion is that we either inform the other party upfront and allow them to take another decision or if this is not possible, we do everything in our power to fill the missing skill sets or to find alternatives. Losing some profit because you need to outsource or use external resources, in general, is more desirable than losing the entire business because you can’t do something. I appreciate people that are smart, think outside the box and which I can see that they give the best to find a solution, even if it’s not perfect.
Success builds on top of a professional behavior. The points above are my vision or at least my top aspects that make or break such a relationship.
I’m really interested in hearing what you think on this topic. What do you expect from a professional?