Professional Attitude

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Professionalism” is one of those words that’s rather hard to define. Consequently, people have different viewpoints on what characteristics constitute professionalism. Let’s explore.

“Believe passionately in what you do, and never knowingly compromise your standards and values. Act like a true professional, aiming for true excellence, and the money will follow.”
— David Maister (1947- ), business management consultant. The Advice Business: Essential Tools and Models for Management Consulting, Chapter 23.

“…a professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.”
— Alistair Cooke (1945- ), British-born American journalist, broadcaster. Six Men, 1995, p. 136.

At first glance, these quotations might appear somewhat at odds with each other and yet, I think they both define different moments of professionalism. It is not contradictory to have an enduring passion about one’s career and not feel like engaging in that passion at a particular moment.

So, what is professionalism or perhaps, what is it NOT? By my thinking, professionalism has nothing to do with the profession — it’s all about the person …

“Professionalism: It’s NOT the job you DO, It’s HOW you DO the job.”
— Anonymous

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy…neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
— John W. Gardner (1912-2002), president of the Carnegie Corporation.

… it’s not about the payment …

“You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional. Professionalism has nothing to do with getting paid for your services.”
— Attributed to: Joe Paterno (1926- ), Penn State University football coach.  Strategic Outsourcing, by Maurice F. Greaver, 1999.

… and it’s not about conforming to arbitrary standards.

“Professionalism is not about adherence to the policies of a bureaucracy. Professionalism is about having the integrity, honesty, and sincere regard for the personhood of the customer, in the context of always doing what is best for the business. Those two things do not need to be in conflict.”
— Eric Lippert, software expert, author.  25 Jun 2008 at:
< blogs.msdn.com/ericlippert/archive/2008/06/23/customer-service-is-not-rocket-science-part-two.aspx >

Your GPS
Professionalism consists of certain attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors sometimes known collectively as “virtue” or “good character.” Attitudes and behaviors have two things in common. First, both are produced by our beliefs. Second, we have the power to choose our attitudes and behaviors.

“We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.”
— John C. Maxwell (1947- ), American author, speaker, minister. The Maxwell Daily Reader, 2008, p. 58.

As mere humans, we are hindered from peering into the minds and hearts of others to gage their professionalism. Fair or not, character judgments are made from outward signs such as what people say and do (i.e. behaviors). Only God can look inside to know a person’s attitudes.

“…Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
— Bible, 1 Samuel 16:7

“Behavior is a mirror in which every one displays his own image.”

— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German author, philosopher. Novels and Tales by Goethe, 1868, p. 153.

“We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.”
— Attributed to: Ian Percy, motivational speaker.

“Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essence of our past behaviour.”
— Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), American essayist, critic. All Trivia: Trivia, More Trivia,
Afterthoughts, Last Words
, 1934, p. 162.

Knowing we cannot see inside a person’s heart, it is important to remain humble and guarded when judging the character of others with partial information. For ourselves, it is important to understand that judging behavior is the very thing that others will do about us. In fact, there are those who wait in ambush and will pounce unmercifully at the first sign of moral indiscretion.

As we develop understanding of our own professional development needs we must not become fixated on the outward behaviors at the expense of the inner attitudes and beliefs. Consider the most fundamental relationship among beliefs, attitudes,  and behaviors:  beliefs are the causes of our attitudes, which in turn cause our behaviors.

“… human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
— William James (1842-1910), American psychologist, philosopher.

This fundamental cause and effect principle of humanity states that improvements in our values are required to produce improvements in behaviors. Unfortunately, there is the temptation to go straight to the behavior, bypassing the beliefs and attitudes.

“If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior. In other words, begin to act the part, as well as you can, of the person you would rather be, the person you most want to become. Gradually, the old, fearful person will fade away.”
— Attributed to: William Glasser (1925- ), American psychiatrist.

While it is accurate to recognize that the roles can be reversed as Glasser proposed, the effect is temporary at best. Real, change that sticks, good or bad, comes from new attitudes. To be more precise, real change happens only when beliefs change.

Becoming a professional is an attitude adjustment process that begins by understanding what it means to be a professional, creating a personal vision of professionalism, and aligning one’s values in accordance with that image. Another way to say this is “change on the outside begins on the inside.” If you were to understand professionalism, then claim it as your set of personal values, where would you start to begin your professional tune-up? A good place is with the attitude called “respect” and a person must start by respecting himself.

“Self-respect – that cornerstone of all virtue.”
— John Herschel (1792-1871), English mathematician, astronomer, chemist.

“The way to procure insults is to submit to them. A man meets with no more respect than he exacts.”
— William Hazlitt (1778-1830), English writer.

Professionalism also insists on respect toward others, explained best by “The Golden Rule.”

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
— Bible, Galatians 5:14

“Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.”
— Bible, Luke 6:31

Building professionalism also requires courage, the attitude that conquers fear.

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because, … it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
— Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British Prime Minister. Maxims and R
eflections, 2005, p. 169.

Fear is an emotion manufactured in the imagination. The best proof of this is found by observing the differences in what people are afraid of. If fear was instinctive, genetic, or the product of rational thought, shouldn’t we all fear pretty much the same things?

“Some people are afraid of heights. I’m afraid of widths.”
— Steven Wright (1955- ), American comedian, actor, writer.

Fear can be tamed and it can be conquered. History is full of examples of ordinary people who became heroes merely by confronting their fears. How does one take action while in fear’s shadow?

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
— Dorothy Bernard (1890-1955), American actress of silent movie era.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
— Attributed to: Ambrose Redmoon (1933-1996), Hippie, writer.

“Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”
— Susan Jeffers, Inspirational writer, speaker. < http://www.susanjeffers.com >

It’s time for those who care about professionalism to stop being amazed at timidity, lack of respect, and other unprofessional attitudes in today’s culture. It’s time to do something about it, one person at a time. Who should be the first person on your list? You! If the adage is true, “actions speak louder than words,” doing nothing more than becoming a living example of professionalism may be all that is needed. If enough people make that choice and commitment, our world will be changed for the better. Life is short — it’s time to get busy.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
— Attributed to: Zig Ziglar (1926- ), American author, salesman, and motivational speaker.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,”
— Bible, Colossians 3:23

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact attitude has on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.
— Attributed to: Charles R. Swindoll (1934- ), evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, radio preacher.
< storiesfortrainers.com/attitudepoem.aspx >

God bless,

— CC

[ Index | B=Behavior ]

© Copyright March 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

Make Way for Youth

The ABC’s of Professionalism

What do kids have to do with a series of essays about professionalism? Everything! Let’s start with legacy. A professional takes his legacy seriously, knowing his “self portrait” will create a ripple effect through multiple generations. Youth, especially those within his circle of influence, are influenced by what they see probably more than anyone will ever know.

“Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
— John W. Whitehead, The Stealing of America, 1983

“Young people need models, not critics…”
— John Wooden

“What we desire our children to become, we must endeavor to be before them”
— Andrew Combe

While children are especially aware of how adults manage their lives they also learn from their own experiences. Allowing children to participate with adults in challenging, real life situations is just as important as what they learn through observation.

If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.”
— Abigail Van Buren

“We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today.”
— Stacia Tauscher, Reader’s Digest Quotable Quotes, 1997, p. 57.

These are times influenced by the mindset that childhood and adolescence are periods of freedom from any real responsibility. “Let kids be kids — don’t rush them through their childhood.” reflects the predominant contemporary philosophy. As warm and fuzzy as this attitude seems, it is cheating our kids. There is a more significant role kids can and should be playing in the adult world long before they turn 21. If we don’t allow and encourage this, we are stealing their opportunities for success.

“Society doesn’t expect much of anything from young people during their teen years – except trouble. And it certainly doesn’t expect competence, maturity, or productivity.”
– Alex & Brett Harris, Do Hard Things, 2008, p.36.

“Do not handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
— Robert A Heinlein (1907–1988), American novelist, science fiction writer. Time Enough for Love, 1974, p. 270.

“Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s a long and challenging process, making responsible adults from helpless infants. Raising children means loving and respecting them enough to make personal, continuous, and substantial investments in their lives.

“If you haven’t time to help youngsters find the right way in life, somebody with more time will help them find the wrong way.”
— Frank A. Clark

A generous portion of this investment can be in the form of good old-fashioned fun. Children are usually better at fun than adults. Before they get hooked on video games, kids will spend hours exercising their imaginations by playing make-believe games. (Maybe they don’t know this is part of the learning process.)

“Children find everything in nothing; men find nothing in everything.”
— Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), Italian poet, essayist, philosopher, philologist.

“There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.”
— Walt Streightiff

“I always won in my imagination. I always hit the game-winning shot, or I hit the free throw. Or if I missed, there was a lane violation, and I was given another one.”
— Mike Krzyzewski

In the area of creativity, adults can learn from kids. In their spare time, adults could be engaging their minds with mental exercises instead of “vegging-out” in front of a television.

“That’s another thing, we made up games. We didn’t have equipment. When it snowed, we would play slow motion tackle football. We would play hockey, but we wouldn’t skate. We just made things up. I loved doing that.
— Mike Krzyzewski

At the risk of sounding like an advocate for child labor camps and sweat shops, I propose that a healthy childhood should also include a substantial measure of work. Children are not helpless creatures. They deserve the opportunity to mature and learn responsibility through work experiences.

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world”
— Maria Montessori

“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right”
– Bible, Proverbs 20:11

“If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things.”
— Norman Douglas

Most kids are willing and even waiting to be challenged. When adults care enough to provide challenging opportunities, it is amazing to see how often kids meet our expectations. Set the bar low and that’s what they aspire to. Set it higher and they rise to meet it. How else do you explain 14-year old world class gymnasts, 18-year old world record holders, and teenage entertainment icons? Now, if we ever become as serious about our minds as we are about our sports and entertainment, watch out!

“Youth is a period of missed opportunities.”
— Cyril Connolly

Children are born with no fears — adults have many. Between birth and adulthood, something must happen to create fears where none existed at birth. The fact that we have the capacity for fear implies that it must have survival value. But, how many fears are irrational, unnecessary, and stifling? Which ones are caused by well-meaning parents trying to protect their children? How many could be avoided by helping children experience new things before they learn to be afraid?

“Fear always springs from ignorance.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Fear breeds fear.”
— Byron Janis

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
— Frank Herbert (1920-1986), American science fiction author. Dune, Litany Against Fear, 1965.

So, for the good of our children and the future of mankind, we need more adults to challenge our kids, nurture their creativity, and resist the temptation to shelter them from every difficult situation.

“In the final analysis it is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”
— Ann Landers

There’s a second and perhaps less obvious reason for including youth in adult opportunities. Adults learn from kids. Children can introduce fresh creativity to a conversation. Their questions and comments can help adults see the world in a new light. A child’s innocent inquiry can cause an adult to rethink an old opinion or idea. Wouldn’t it be a powerful combination for adults to combine the benefits of their experience with the optimism and unconstrained creativity of a child?

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
— Pablo Picasso

“A child can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer.”
— Author Unknown

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.”
— Franklin P. Jones

“Children are unpredictable. You never know what inconsistency they’re going to catch you in next.”
— Franklin P. Jones

So, what should we do? Here are four practical suggestions for adults who accept their responsibility toward our youth.

Say “Yes!” to Youth — When a child asks to join the party, let him. When he wants to help clean the garage, find a way to include him. Of course, not every project or adult gathering is appropriate for every child. My observation is that the more wholesome an adult’s lifestyle, the fewer gatherings are off-limits to children.

Invite Youth — People are sometimes leery about asking to join in — kids more so because they have been trained to believe they don’t belong. Adults probably need to make the first gesture and always with sincerity. Not every invitation will be accepted. That’s okay. Treat that first invitation is an icebreaker and keep on inviting. When the kids in question are not your own, invite them several at a time. There is safety and comfort in numbers.

Engage Youth — When children are included, help them feel the value of their presence. Ignoring them or treating them like they are “in the way” is not very uplifting. Introduce them. Brag on them. Include them in the conversation. Let them join the fun. If it’s a work project, give them a task and the appropriate responsibility. Show them how to be successful. Praise their efforts and results and help them improve as necessary. Treat them like partners.

Join Hands With Youth — Kids really can contribute. When we create in ourselves and in the minds of our youth an attitude of partnership, they will respond accordingly. As they reach their objectives, raise the bar. Give them more responsibility. Help them find opportunities to branch out on their own toward larger challenges. For example, demonstrating proficiency in cutting grass in your own yard qualifies them to volunteer their skills for an elderly neighbor or start to a yard care business.

Please don’t misconstrue these four ideas. None of them is intended to imply that adults should forfeit their rightful status as authority figures in order to make friends with children. Folks who trade authority for friendship will always lose respect during the exchange. The professional approach requires preserving one’s roles as parent, teacher, mentor, and/or coach.

George Zimmerman taught music first throughout the City of Dayton public schools and later at the University of Dayton. Many thousands of people, I’m guessing, know George as a musician, artist, writer, entertainer, teacher, broadcaster, organizer, and/or a great cook. Many also knew him during their childhood and young adult years as a mentor and friend. He excelled in teaching people to appreciate music and theater. George was also fond of inviting college students, two or three at a time, to his home for a special meal and pleasant conversation. I remember his home being filled with photographs and other artifacts of his personal treasures. What are these treasures? To this day, George’s trademark of professionalism is displayed in the kids he’s taught, his treasures. His life has been dedicated to taking excellent care of them and helping preserve, enhance, and showcase their unique qualities. Our youth need more friends like George.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
— Frederick Douglass

God Bless,

— CC

[ X=eXcellence | Index | Z=Zone ]

© Copyright February 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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Assume Responsibility

The ABC’s of Professionalism

Every now and again, the subject of rights takes center stage in the public arena.  Human rights, personal rights, maternal rights, rights of the unborn, the right to bear arms, and the right to health care are just a few of the more common topics.  This column deals with the forgotten part of the rights discussion -– responsibility.

“We’ve gotten to the point where everybody’s got a right and nobody’s got a responsibility.” — Newton N. Minow (1926- ), Attorney, former FCC Chair

Perhaps the most famous expression of personal responsibility is President Harry S. Truman’s motto, “The buck stops here!” The record does not say whether this was Truman’s private joke toward political rivals or simply his retort to the very human practice of “passing the buck.”  It was undeniably part of his public persona.  He even had a sign with these words on his White House desk.

buck-stops-here
Image Courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

This may be the most powerful and concise statement of personal responsibility of all time.  Here’s another strong, Trumanesque statement:

“If you mess up, ‘fess up.” — Author Unknown

Today, people like to say, “It happened on my watch.” as if to imply, “Please note that I didn’t directly cause the problem, but I’m in charge so I’ll deal with the mess.”  While perhaps true, it seems to contain just a hint of figuratively “passing the buck.”

Discussions about responsibility tend to gravitate toward unfavorable outcomes and the folks stuck with cleaning up the mess.  This is reactive responsibility.   There is another dimension.  One is engaging in proactive responsibility when he acquires sufficient wisdom in advance regarding the probability of certain causes and effects, courageously commits to be personally accountable for all outcomes (good or bad), and moves forward optimistically and prepared with his action plan.  In other words, responsibility includes preparation, commitment, and “pre-action,” not just reaction.  Sounds a lot like the other aspects of professionalism, eh?

Preparation: “Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility.” — G. M. Trevelyan (1876-1962), English historian

Courage: “Responsibility is the thing people dread most of all. Yet it is the one thing in the world that develops us, gives us manhood or womanhood fiber.” — Frank Crane (1861–1928), Minister, columnist

Action: “Actions have consequences…first rule of life. And the second rule is this – you are the only one responsible for your own actions.” — Holly Lisle (1960- ), American novelist, “Fire In The Mist”, 1992

There’s wisdom in the coaching cliche, “There is no ‘I’ in team.”  However, it is also true that there is a lot of “I” in responsibility.  In fact, responsibility exists only at the personal level.  As people band together to form companies, institutions, governments, teams and other organizations, personal responsibility either gets foggy or it completely evaporates, producing unintended negative outcomes and outright corruption.

“Power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages” — Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936), English author, poet

“When government accepts responsibility for people, then people no longer take responsibility for themselves.” — George Pataki (1945- ), Former governor of New York

“The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use – of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.” — Robert F. Kennedy (1925-1968), U.S. Senator, ‘I Remember, I Believe,’ The Pursuit of Justice, 1964

To prevent or eliminate this sort of chaos, each person needs to act like a professional by first remembering that responsibility always remains in the hands of individuals, then willingly claiming responsibility wherever and whenever it is appropriate.

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” — George Burns (1896-1996), American comedian, actor, writer

“You can delegate authority, but not responsibility.” — Stephen W. Comiskey

“‘I must do something’ always solves more problems than ‘Something must be done.'” — Author Unknown

“You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say” — Martin Luther (1483-1546), German monk, theologian, church reformer, writer, composer

A professional makes promises and keeps them.  A professional accepts a position of authority and performs to the best of his ability.  A professional speaks inspiring words, then leads by example.  Responsibility begins with words and is fulfilled with deeds.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Political and spiritual leader of India

“Life is a promise; fulfill it.” — Mother Teresa (1910-1997), Albanian Roman Catholic nun, missionary, humanitarian

Deeds produce outcomes.  Positive outcomes are often called results — negative outcomes are euphemistically known as consequences.  When outcomes are good, the responsible professional is humble, shares the credit and moves forward to build on those results.  When outcomes are less favorable, he accepts the blame, makes amends, seeks forgiveness and continues moving forward, but a little bit wiser.

“Failure is nature’s plan to prepare you for great responsibilities.” — Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), American author

“Nobody ever did, or ever will, escape the consequences of his choices.” — Alfred A. Montapert, American Author

“It is our responsibilities, not ourselves, that we should take seriously.” — Peter Ustinov (1921-2004)

Personal responsibility is each person’s first prerequisite, especially before attempting to instruct others on this aspect of professionalism.  No irresponsible person can be effective or credible when it comes to promoting responsibility in others.

“If you think taking care of yourself is selfish, change your mind. If you don’t, you’re simply ducking your responsibilities.” — Ann Richards (1933-2006), former Texas Governor

“Character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self respect springs.” — Joan Didion (1934- ), “Slouching Towards Bethlehem”

“You must take personal responsibility. You cannot change the circumstances, the seasons, or the wind, but you can change yourself. That is something you have charge of.” — Jim Rohn (1930- ), American author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker

Your personal responsibility path leads to opportunities to leave a legacy of responsibility for your children and others within your circle of influence.  This includes becoming the best person you can become.

“Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors” — Jonas Salk (1914–1995), American biologist, physician

“Work while you have the light. You are responsible for the talent that has been entrusted to you.” — Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881), Swiss philosopher, poet

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” — Anthony Robbins (1960- ), Motivational speaker

“Every person is responsible for all the good within the scope of his abilities, and for no more” — Gail Hamilton (1833-1896), American writer

Opportunities for responsibility are instrumental in building character.  They should be treated as life’s quizzes, tests, and exams — tools to learn, reinforce, stretch, and provide a progress measurement.

“A new position of responsibility will usually show a man to be a far stronger creature than was supposed.” — William James (1842–1910), American psychologist, philosopher

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.” — Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), American educator, author, orator

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” — Abigail Van Buren (1918- ), Advice columnist

Free will allows each person to accept as much or as little responsibility as he sees fit.  But, everyone must be willing to accept some measure of it.  Whereas some will consistently leave responsibility on the table, the professional will rise to the challenge, picking up the slack for the greater good.  The hidden gem for the professional is what he becomes in the process.

“Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German author

“The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British Prime Minister

God bless,

— CC

[ P/Q=P’s and Q’s | Index | S=Service ]

© Copyright November 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
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