Each year, required reading for my team of early childhood teachers and supervisors is an article by M. Parker Anderson entitled, “Professionalism: The Missing Ingredient for Excellence in the Workplace.” It is required because, after years of living on this planet and interacting with thousands, I’m dismayed that I agree with her assessment that, “professionalism is missing and unaccounted for” in so many places of work.
What has happened to our work force, our self-image, our civility to one another, our work ethic? It seems pervasive enough to say that we have lost our way a bit – when working with others, working for others, or simply working.
Somewhere along the road, doing one’s best has taken a hit. There is mediocrity, a doing-just-enough-to-get-by attitude, even a cynicism that is far from the standard of excellence many of us desire for our businesses, our teams, our customers, and even ourselves.
Having said that, there are those who do exemplify the highest work standards, ethics, and values – and whose achievement and success tells the tale. There are those who are professional in their interactions with others, who do their best in each situation, on each project, and who feel a sense of pride and accomplishment at the end of the day.
So, how is it that some places of work foster professionalism? Who holds the key to setting the tone, creating the climate?
When there is professionalism at work, you feel it! Trust and confidence come through in professional interactions. Long-lasting positive feelings toward staff members, toward the environment, toward the organization, and toward the services provided by the organization are established. Relationships are easily built among all constituencies. People feel taken care of.
What are some of the factors that contribute to professionalism? And, what can be done to move toward creating a more professional climate in your organization? It is certainly more than just the way you speak, act, or behave.
You dress to work. What you wear, and how you present yourself can be comfortable and stylish, but it must communicate that you are ready, focused, and prepared for whatever might come your way during the work day. What message do you send?
Your attitude is positive, courteous, and pleasant. You come to work ready to learn and do, and are motivated by a strong sense of individual and group purpose. You have energy, are interested in what you’re doing, and bring a sense of joy to your work.
You know your own skills and abilities. And, you strive to know as much as you can about your career field and your work within it. There is a thirst for knowledge, and a desire to get better at what you do. And, a never-ending quest to find new information, and then share it with others. You continue to grow and remain energized.
You are also motivated to initiate new ideas, propose new procedures, and find solutions to challenges and problems. The bottom line is that a professional does whatever is needed to get the job done, and to get it done well!
A professional always adds that something extra, goes that additional mile, and exceeds expectations.
And finally, professionalism requires personal responsibility and accountability. Personal responsibility means arriving on time, meeting deadlines, performing complete and accurate work, returning calls and relaying messages in a timely fashion, and following through on required tasks. And, if things don’t go according to plan, the buck stops with you – you fix it! Professionalism means displaying honesty, integrity, respect, and dignity in dealing with all people.
And, yes, ultimately, the professional hears the compliments, receives the accolades, and is known and recognized as possessing that elusive, but oh so important element, professionalism. I believe, an element worth striving for!
I invite you to look at yourself, your team, and your organization, particularly at this beginning of the school year. What tone are you setting? Is professionalism a “missing ingredient” in your program? Or, is it alive and well, and recognized as soon as someone walks through the front door?
In a later post, I’ll share some other ways that you – the director, the supervisor, the leader, the owner – can foster professionalism in your workplace, for I do believe that true professionalism is something that all can achieve.