Appropriate Attire… check
Attention to detail… sometimes
Respectful… up to a point
Certainty… if only
I increasingly don’t like the term ‘Professional’ and what it represents. Don’t get me wrong, I like the basics – punctuality, appropriate attire, politeness etc – but actually think that a lot of what mascarades for professionalism actually creates distance between us, and if we can’t connect as people, we can’t do very much at all.
“A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.” Alistair Cooke
How often do we mistake supposed professionalism for competence? I’d much rather listen to bumbling honesty than slick presenter any day. And rather than admire the sharp suits and the spreadsheets, I’d much rather work with people who embrace uncertainty with a sense of humour and determined optimism.
In one of my first jobs, in an appraisal after a probationary period, after lots of positive feedback, one of my ‘areas for development’ was described as follows: “When you are in a situation where you are not sure about what the answer is, you are not sufficiently good at bullshitting.” Obviously such colloquial language didn’t make the final report, but I find that sentiment astounding in hindsight. Perhaps I should wear that as a badge of honour!
Anyway, I guess I’ve always felt like a bit of a square peg in a round hole (doesn’t everybody?) and I know others perhaps feel the same. And yet we now find that the very reasons why we didn’t perhaps always suit our previous organisations are the very reasons why we do what we do now. To think a bit differently. To ask stupid questions. To try to do good stuff.
Surely people only want to work with other people that they like and they respect. And most of the stuff we all do is too difficult and complex to do on our own. And our hierarchies arn’t big enough or ugly enough to get it done on their own.
So rather than aspiring to be aloof gurus, or professional experts, I would prefer us to ‘put down your clever’ and admit that we don’t necessarily know what to do but we’ll figure it out with enthusiasm, and perhaps find some other curious likeminds that can perhaps help out. For me that’s much more productive, more interesting, and more unprofessionally professional.