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

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.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

CHANGE

“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This expression can be a good reason to keep on doing what has proven to work effectively. Makes sense, right? But, this good advice misapplied can also create problems. Consider someone using this cliché as an excuse to avoid necessary change. A threadbare tire that still holds its air comes to mind. Technically, it is still working. But disaster lurks. Consider also something that works, but is about to fail due to a change in external conditions. This happens in business all the time. Products, services, and business models are constantly being made obsolete by something new and better. In business, continuous change is required to survive.

“Change before you have to.” — Jack Welch

Now, to my main point. Some people will do almost anything to avoid change. Certain kinds of change make people uncomfortable, even fearful. Instead of change being an opportunity for improvement or to experience something new, they gravitate toward the familiar, which they acknowledge could be inferior. Funny thing, this tendency seems to increase as we age.

“The devil we know is better than the devil we don’t know.” — Cliché

“Middle age is when your broad mind and narrow waist begin to change places.” — E. Joseph Cossman

Change should not be something to automatically fear. After all, changing socks is a fantastic idea. Changing lanes is often necessary. Changing keys makes music interesting. Changing colors makes autumn beautiful. People enjoy watching the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Finally, this post is the result of many changes. (You should have seen the first 59 drafts.)

Change is more acceptable when seen as a remedy for suffering. Like most elections, the buzzword in the last presidential election cycle was “change.” Most of the candidates have used it or similar words such as reform. For example, Huckabee proposed to “reform” the tax system. Obama’s overall theme was “stand for change.” (This was later changed to “Unite for Change.”)   In these and most other cases, the same game plan is in force. Step 1: Convince the people something is terribly wrong or headed in that direction. Step 2: Offer to come and save the day through “change.” (I think I hear the Lone Ranger theme song.) Before taking sides in these matters, some questions we must ask are, “Will the proposed changes really save the day?”, “Which person or group is most qualified to save the day?” and “Does the day even need to be saved?”

Here are some thoughts to help change our attitude toward change.

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.” — Professor Irwin Corey

“In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future.” — Eric Hoffer

“No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” — John Stuart Mill

“Only I can change my life. No one can do it for me.” — Carol Burnett

“The most effective way to manage change is to create it.” — Peter Drucker

“Lord, where we are wrong, make us willing to change; where we are right, make us easy to live with.” — Peter Marshall, US Senate chaplain

“If the rate of change on the outside (of the firm) exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.” — Jack Welch

“I find it fascinating that most people plan their vacations with better care than they plan their lives. Perhaps that is because escape is easier than change.” — Jim Rohn

“We all have big changes in our lives that are more or less a second chance.” — Harrison Ford

“The main dangers in this life are the people who want to change everything – or nothing.” — Nancy Astor (1879 – 1964)

“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” — William James (1842 – 1910)

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.” — Warren Buffet

“It’s not that some people have willpower and some don’t. It’s that some people are ready to change and others are not.” — James Gordon, Medical Doctor

God bless,

— CC

© Copyright June 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com

The Finish Line

[ E=Entertainment | Index | G=Grace ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

I’ve heard it said, “The fortune is at the finish line.” The best example I can think of is farming. The farmer can plant, water, and fertilize, but these activities mean absolutely nothing unless the farmer harvests the crop. The harvest is at the finish line — success is all about finishing.

“There is no bigger waste of time than doing 90% of what is necessary.” — Thomas Sowell

Swimming champion Michael Phelps is an expert finisher. In Beijing, the Men’s 100 meter butterfly final was decided by a hundredth of a second. Phelps and Milorad Cavic approached the wall both needing a partial stroke to finish, with Phelps still trailing. Cavic coasted. Phelps drove hard into the wall. I believe it was the instinct of a master finisher that caused Phelps to take that extra short stroke and make up the deficit.

“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.” — Mark Spitz (on Phelps winning his 7th gold medal)

While people continue to talk about the photo finish, Phelps actually out-finished his opponents at the other end of the pool as well. World-class swimmers know that the end of each length is actually the start of the next one and an opportunity to build momentum. Phelps reigned supreme in finishing every length, not just the final one. Going back to the race of the century, Phelps was said to be in seventh place going into the turn. Coming out, he appeared to be in fourth. Without two strong finishes, he would not have earned the gold.

So many people never put themselves in position for a strong finish because they never even get started. If I had been born as Yogi Berra, I might have said, “70% of success is showing up. The other half is finishing.” To become an expert finisher, first become an expert starter. As long as you develop the mindset of a starter, you are positioned to finish. Then, as you become a consistent finisher, you can learn to do it faster and better.

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.” — J. R. R. Tolkien

To finish first, you must first finish.” — Rick Mears

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

There’s satisfaction in finishing if for no other reason than the objective can be crossed off the list.

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.” — Arnold Bennett

“Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.” — William James

In other cases, satisfaction is found in the task itself. In fact, rushing through the task can result in missing the enjoyment.

“Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” — Greg Anderson

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” — Fr. Alfred D’Souza

Based on this concept, one would have to conclude that the old adage about success and paying the price is all wrong. Zig Ziglar explains, “You do not pay the price of success, you enjoy the price of success.” Struggles and challenges become part of the adventure. When this attitude connects with a vision, a champion is born.

“Don’t be content with doing only your duty. Do more than your duty. It’s the horse that finishes a neck ahead that wins the race.” — Andrew Carnegie

Your GPS

Keeping promises is an example of finishing. Whether it’s a promise, a small task, or a major goal, the objective needs to be following through to the finish line. There is no integrity without finishing and no professionalism without integrity. To become known as a person of integrity, one must develop the good habit of finishing.

“Once you learn to quit, it becomes a habit.” — Vince Lombardi

“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it, and doing it.” — Frank Tyger

“We are judged by what we finish, not what we start.” — Anonymous

Find that to-do list. Get busy crossing off the artifacts of your procrastination. Don’t worry about perfection. Perfectionism is a stumbling block for finishing. Many times, my late father-in law used the following expression to make this very point.

“It’s good enough for who it’s for.” -– Donald P. Nock, teacher and coach

Fear of imperfection is a poor excuse for not starting and not finishing. Approach every task in four parts: get started, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and finish strong.

“It’s not where you start it’s where you finish.
It’s not how you go, it’s how you land.
A hundred-to-one shot, they called him a klutz,
He can outrun the favorite all he needs is the guts.

“Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop.
It’s not where you start it’s where you finish
And you’re gonna finish on top.”

“It’s Not Where You Start (It’s Where You Finish)” Lyrics by Dorothy Fields

God bless,

— CC

[ E=Entertainment | Index | G=Grace ]

© Copyright August 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: ClancyCross.WordPress.com