What do you call it when someone takes pride in the things they do? When they’re not just phoning it in or checking off a box? When they really care about where they sign their name?
And what do you call it when that same person takes responsibility for everything they do – the big mistakes as well as the little wins?
What happens when you add in a healthy and solid self-respect? I’m talking about the healthy ego kind of self-respect that’s grounded in integrity and honesty. The kind of self-respect that, for instance, allows for difficult conversations to happen before situations get to a crisis point.
Know what this set of attributes creates?
In my book, it creates professionalism.
And professionalism is the foundation of success.
Imagine what it would be like to experience a real professional in, oh, let’s say, house painting.
You’d have a clear estimate of the work to be done.
The painter would show up on time, ready to work.
He’d have all his tools and supplies in good working order.
He’d work smart and thoroughly.
There would be no paint splatters or wobbly corners.
He’d finish when he said he would, and the fees would be as expected.
If there was some blemish, some something that you weren’t too happy with, he’d come back, accept responsibility and make it right.
And you’d hire that guy over and over again.
Now, imagine that same professionalism in your office, or in your home.
(Some of you are having a good laugh right now, huh?)
Seems to me that we live in a time when there are a lot of factors stacked against professionalism. In our go-go, get it done, check-it-off-the-list sort of world, sometimes bosses and organizations make it nearly impossible to take pride in our work. Or maybe we touch such a wee little bitty part of a massive project that our contribution isn’t that noteworthy.
Yet, you all tell me you want something different. You tell me you’re hungry for meaning and that you’re dying for connection.
You want what you do to matter.
You want to make a difference.
Easier said than done, I know. Last summer, I led a webinar for The Harvard Business Review on bullies and toxic people in the workplace. It became their most popular webinar ever and during the live session there were so many questions that the Q&A platform stopped working three times.
It’s really hard to have self-respect, pride in your work and personal accountability when you work in a toxic environment.
You may find that to be as fully professional as you want to be, you have to take the leap – to a new job. Which is easier today than it’s been in years – depending on what you do and where you live, of course – due to expanding employment.
This expansion means, too, that organizations will need to change and stop seeing employees as disposable widgets. Where there were once 400 people in line for a single job, now candidates will have to be sourced and wooed as demand outstrips supply. And, when attrition becomes a critical issue, toxic leaders and bullying work environments will finally have to be addressed and fixed.
That can be done by amping up our individual commitment to professionalism and for organizations to let go of those who refuse to step up their own.
Remember, it’s these three things: Take pride in your work; Be responsible for your actions; Respect yourself.
Everything else you want stems directly from these foundational pieces.
Whether you’re ten or ninety, you can do it. In your office, or your home, or at school, you need nobody’s permission, no certificate, no degree to be professional.
Now’s the time to start.