The Green Sheet Online Edition
November 24, 2014 • Issue 14:11:02
Professionalism and pocketbooks
How is your professionalism affecting your pocketbook? In today's business environment, it is absolutely essential to be professional if you want to advance your career to its highest level and to achieve the financial success you desire.
The Emily Post Institute's website (www.emilypost.com/on-the-job/workplace-relationships/1060-is-professionalism-declining) references the 2012 Professionalism in the Workplace Study published by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania. For the CPE study, the Polk-Lepson Research Group surveyed 629 human resource and management professionals.
What does the research indicate?
Respondents to the survey identified four indicators of professionalism as interpersonal skills (33.6 percent); work ethic (27.3 percent); appearance (25.3 percent); and communication skills (24.9 percent).
One-third of the human resources (HR) and management professionals in the study stated they believe professionalism has declined over the past three years. The most frequent problems managers and HR professionals encounter in new employees include poor time management (32.6 percent); sense of entitlement (27.2 percent); weak work ethic (23 percent); and poor attendance (22.2 percent).
In its 2013 survey, the CPE noted a decline in professionalism driven by a too casual attitude toward work (86.6 percent); not being self-driven (71.5 percent); and a lack of ownership of one's work (69.3 percent).
What is professionalism?
But what does "being professional" actually mean? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines professionalism as "the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person." According to Wikipedia, the term "also describes the standards of education and training that prepare members of the profession with the particular knowledge and skills necessary to perform the role of that profession."
Other words associated with professionalism include able, adept, career, competent, established, experienced, expert, learned, qualified, skilled, skillful, specialized and trained.
Professionalism is demonstrated in the following ways:
- Proficiency: Professionals have the knowledge and expertise to get the job done. They fully understand and demonstrate all of their company's products and services. They master the specialized knowledge needed to succeed in their field, and they keep this knowledge up-to-date to deliver the best work possible. They are reliable, dependable and exceed the client's expectations. When it is not possible to meet the stated deliverables, professionals communicate clearly and regularly and fulfill obligations as quickly as possible.
- Ethics: Professionals demonstrate the highest levels of honesty and integrity. They honor their own and their company's values. Even when working in a highly competitive environment, true professionals do not engage in activities and tactics such as lying, cheating, misrepresentation or arrogance, all of which negatively reflect on them and their companies.
- Culpability: Professionals hold themselves accountable for their thoughts, words and actions, especially when they make mistakes. This personal accountability is closely tied to honor, honesty and integrity. If they are unable to resolve a situation themselves, professionals are always willing to ask for assistance, seek advice from a more-experienced colleague and learn from other seasoned professionals.
- Comportment: Professionals understand it is important to maintain a businesslike attitude, calmness in the face of unhappy customers or employees, and a willingness to help resolve issues rather than fuel an already volatile situation. Being respectful and considering other people's needs indicate a maturity and depth of emotional intelligence, as well as a high level of professionalism. In other words, they don't let a bad day impact how they interact with colleagues or clients.
- Image: Professionals look the part. They don't show up to work inappropriately dressed, with slovenly hair or nails. They're polished, and they dress appropriately for the situation. The area of the country, climate and the type of customers you serve dictate appropriate clothing styles. However, it is never appropriate to make a sales or service call dressed in shorts, T-shirts and sandals. Also, both men and women need to be aware of general grooming standards to help exude an air of confidence that generates respect.
Why is professionalism important today?
Your professionalism, or lack thereof, is directly linked to your pocketbook. How? Here are the top 10 reasons:
- People who demonstrate professional behavior are invariably the first to be considered for promotions, raises, new project assignments or development of new clients.
- If you fail to demonstrate knowledge, expertise and proficiency in your products and services, you will not make sales.
- If you misrepresent your product, service or company, you will lose existing clients, who will tell colleagues, friends and neighbors not to do business with you because of your lack of ethics.
- If you are not dressed and groomed properly, you may not get past gatekeepers to reach decision-makers to pitch your product or service. You will fail to make sales.
- If your attitude is poor, your sales presentation is sloppily done and you are lackadaisical about your desire to be of service, you are unlikely to close sales.
- If you do not follow through on promises, deliverables or other commitments, you may lose clients.
- If you fail to keep scheduled appointments, decision makers may move on with their schedules and decline to schedule you again.
- If you focus on your competition's weaknesses rather than your company's strengths, you may be unable to close sales. Most business owners are not interested in your interpretation of your competitors. They are interested in what you can do for them.
- If you approach your prospects with arrogance, disrespect or a feeling of superiority, you are likely to lose sales.
- If you do not demonstrate overall professionalism, you cannot be successful.
In Selling Simplified, Michelle Moore said, "Professionals never guess – they make it their business to know their business." Don't let lack of professional standards adversely affect your pocketbook. Step up your level of professionalism to provide every opportunity to increase what's in your pocketbook.
I would like to hear from readers about what professionalism means in your area, whether you see a decline in overall professionalism in the industries you serve and what steps you are taking to demonstrate your professionalism. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Put "professionalism" in your subject line so I will be sure to read your message.
Vicki M. Daughdrill is the Managing Member of Small Business Resources LLC, a management consulting company. E-mail her at email@example.com or call her at 601-310-3594.
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