People love to comment on how professional someone is or isn’t, especially if they are irritated with the person. Professionalism is all about how someone acts and how they treat others.
Growing up, my mother had a different word for the same thing: manners. You knew how to act at the grocery store (no, the cookies are not yours, put them down), you knew how to act at school (if the teacher calls me you’ll be in worse trouble when you get home), you knew how to play with the kids on your street (sharing is expected), you knew how to have a conversation with other parents who were also in authority (Thank you, thank you Mr and Mrs. Greenberg!), and you knew how to act in church (no carrying on when the preacher’s preaching).
One could say there are some basic, maybe foundational, rules of conduct that apply to everyday life. If you master them, you will also be seen as “acting professional”. Here are a few things to consider that a professional-acting person does in her or his day job:
- Be on time, the world does not revolve around you
- Look people in the eye (unless in a culture that does not appreciate that, meaning you’re respectful and mindful of where you are)
- Pay attention when someone is talking (Put the phone down – it can wait)
- Don’t talk over others, allow them to finish their thought
- Keep your swearing to yourself (why share how limited your vocabulary really is)
- Treat people as people, not objects to do your bidding.
- Be respectful of other people’s time – be prepared, be organized, “be brief, be bright, and be gone”
This is only a starter list. I’m sure if I had more time to list “professional manners” we’d soon cross over into Miss Manner’s guide to basic living in rather short order.
Many a good debate has been had over whether it is harder to give and/or to get constructive feedback. I am not sure if it is the American culture or human nature that makes us uneasy regarding constructive feedback. I know my family never has a hard time telling me how my behavior needs to improve! However, when it comes to people we work with it becomes a much more difficult thing.
Giving feedback… (The Hard Part)
Provide feedback in an on-going conversation. Let me say it again, providing feedback happens all year. Messaging and messages are better understood when the dialogue is continuous. I don’t think you can ever “over-communicate”.
Try to link broad concepts to a specific example. This means you have to do some pre-work: identify the behavior, make notes of a couple examples, and present in private.
In the book “Crucial Conversations”, it shares the idea of creating a safe environment for someone to receive feedback. Specifically, when giving difficult feedback, you have to start by setting up a safe environment for the receiver – or they won’t hear the feedback. Why go to all the trouble identifying the feedback if you don’t ensure the receiver hears the feedback.
The trickiest part? Checking your emotions at the door. If you do not set the tone and tenor – the message is lost. If you are earnest in your efforts to honestly serve your staff and communicate in a way that helps and not hurts – then you are doing it right.
Getting feedback… (The Harder Part?)
- Have an open mind. You may not always agree with what you are hearing.
- It is important to listen, to work to understand, and to do your own self-assessment.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. Ask “if I did X instead, would that be an example of improving the behavior?”
- Do not jump to conclusions – focus your energy on understanding and then improving.
- Recognize we all have room for improvement, and be thankful someone took the time to share a way you could grow.
- And the trickiest part? Checking your emotions at the door. We all have them. If the person providing the feedback is earnestly trying to help you, this is a good thing, accept it in that view and move on.