There are three things we need more of in today’s workplace: commitment, accountability, and simple professionalism. This new year, I’ve decided to be more disciplined in each of the three. I hope these thoughts will inspire others to follow me.
I believe these are basic rules all serious professionals should demand of themselves, independently of the field or industry they occupy. For Catholic professionals, observing them should also take the form of a duty, since doing so would not only be good for business but also contribute in the sanctification of our lives and the secular world. Let me share what I mean by each of them.
We all know what unforeseen—urgent—circumstances are. I would add that there is also a universal consensus on what qualifies as an emergency. During the new year, let’s prevent ourselves from the embarrassment of offering up excuses by calling emergency something it is not. Not only will we be breaking a commandment, but we will never fool others this way. When we commit to something professionally, be it showing up to an appointment, delivering a service or product, or collaborating to a project—unless we run into a real unforeseen circumstance—coming up with complex explanations for our lack of preparedness, organization, or basic planning skills; can only be damaging to our reputation (which is arguably the most valuable asset we have as professionals, and potentially an effective means of evangelization).
What to do then? Show up to your appointments and call ahead of time if running late. Complete the project you offered to be part of and deliver your product or service on or ahead of time. Do not ask to be part of an endeavor you are not ready to meet. Learn to say no.
It should have been taught at home. It is not something we necessarily learn in school; we simply must be accountable for our commitments and responsibilities.
Since we are humans, we will inevitably fail from time to time. So, this new year let us learn to address our shortcomings, admit them and always offer up a way to make it up to the other party. Admission, repentance and penance, what we do with our sins in confession can also be helpful when we fall short in our professional life.
Perhaps the broadest of the three areas (as the previous two are part of professionalism too). This is an area where we make the most common errors of deed or omission. The list is too long to enumerate, but here is my advice for the most neglected areas I notice in professionalism.
1. Dress professionally. I have addressed this in the past. Refer to my article “What I Call Dress for Success” for more.
2. Return all voicemails and emails in a timely manner. A good standard is 24 hours, never more than 48. If away on vacation or a business trip, set up a special recording on your phone and/or an autoresponder for your email.
3. Be ethical. Do the right thing always, especially when you think nobody will notice. That’s when it counts most to God (and your clients, who are paying more attention than you might think).
4. Practice care. Christians refer to it as charity. In the business world, it translates into a manifested concern for the well-being of the other party.
5. Be respectful. Always address a Ph.D. as a doctor, a policeman or woman as an officer, etc. Titles mean something. Today too many people forget what they stand for. Someone might invite you to drop the title and address him/her by first name. Until that happens, stick with the title.
6. Communicate well. Respect other people’s personal space and look at them in the eyes when you speak to them. Stay focused and listen. Address all concerns. Learn to say please and thank you. Always project a positive attitude towards anything being discussed.
7. Last, follow up—on everything—calls, emails, conversations, questions, but especially promises.
This is certainly not an all-encompassing list, but we must start somewhere. So how do you practice professionalism? Were there any areas I missed? Where do you see the most common transgressions taking place in your field of work? Please comment below.
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