Professional Behavior

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Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

Professionalism requires the development of both professional attitudes and behaviors. The starting point really doesn’t matter as long as the professional development program includes both aspects. You aren’t a professional unless you both think AND act like one.

Professional behavior is the sum of lots of little simple acts. The role of parents and teachers is to get children started with some of the basics. Hopefully the purpose of their behavior training is not just to keep the kids quiet, but to establish a baseline and a growth pattern that will mature into attitudes of professionalism.

“Behavior is what a man does, not what he thinks, feels, or believes” — Unknown

It’s never too early to develop habits of good behavior. When someone acquires a position that demands professionalism, he’d better have a solid base of professional behavior because every subsequent action will be judged accordingly. Continual practice is needed to reinforce, improve and refine both behaviors and attitudes – they feed off one another.

Your GPS

People will form judgments about others with little regard for time or place. Nine-to-five professionals will soon be discovered for the actors they are. There’s a term for people who treat professional behavior as something that can be checked in and out at the door. They’re called hypocrites.

“O, what may man within him hide, Though angel on the outward side!” — William Shakespeare

“Go put your creed into your deed.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Does becoming a professional sound like a lot of hard work? Let’s do some analysis starting with a few more questions.

  • Does it take more effort to say, “You’re welcome!” than to say, “No problem!”
  • Is it really any harder to open the door for someone else before entering than to open it just for yourself?
  • Which sequence requires less effort? A) Taking a bite, talking, chewing, swallowing; or B) Taking a bite, chewing, swallowing, talking?
  • Does it require less work to arrive late than on time?
  • Which requires greater effort, remaining quiet or blurting out an angry response?

“Do thou restrain the haughty spirit in thy breast, for better far is gentle courtesy.” — Homer

Unquestionably it takes work to learn and develop new habits. But after that, the effort between professional and unprofessional behavior would appear to be roughly the same. So, if you are going to do something anyway, why not learn to do it professionally? I propose that professional behavior might even require less effort in the long run because it produces a more positive result, which reduces stress, which in turn is an easier road.

These rules of the game, though they may vary among professions and cultures, are intended to pave a better road for human interaction among friends and strangers alike. Such customs are usually rooted in matters of character such as: compassion, respect, humility and gratitude.

“There is a courtesy of the heart; it is allied to love. From it springs the purest courtesy in the outward behavior.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)

“Gratitude is the most exquisite form of courtesy.” — Jacques Maritain (1882-1973), Reflections on America, 1958

“The greater man the greater courtesy.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

The characteristics of a professional are so similar to those of a leader that professionalism and leadership are essentially the same thing. They consist of the same attitudes and are demonstrated by the same behaviors. If they are not exactly the same, they are certainly inextricable. Leaders exude professionalism; Professionals exude leadership.

God bless,

— CC

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© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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2 thoughts on “Professional Behavior

  1. I would like to propose that there is a very important connection between Attitude and Behavior. On one side I can argue that while Behavior is easier to observe and measure, the key to significant Positive Behavioral Change lies in the Attitude that I bring to the endeavor. On the other side is the argument that changes in behavior CAN bring about changes in attitude. Sometimes, behaving “as if” I was a good salesperson actually results in positive results – so I now have a better “attitude”.
    What sort of thoughts does this bring up in other readers?

  2. Great points, Pat. I started out this series on “Professionalism” in my 8/13/08 post with the same points. You just said it better. Thanks for your comments!

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