New ways to spot old problems (or what a baguette tells us about professionalism)

Some people think professionalism is a very obscure subject.  What does it mean, why is it relevant, how can it help my career?

By far the best way to understand its value and meaning is to take a look at how people behave in a variety of circumstances, both at work and in their personal lives, and to reflect on whether their behaviours lead us to make some assumptions about them.  Are they people you would trust, would they be likely to complete work on time, would they consider others' feelings in a difficult situation?

Consider the following real-life scenario;

Two colleagues decide to take their lunch break together after working together all morning.  Following a swift discussion about the dismal weather they decide to go to the local coffee shop as it is quite close by.  One guy buys a filled baguette but no drink while the other has coffee and a sandwich.  They sit facing each other at a table with four seats.  Baguette guy wolfs his lunch down in a very few bites while the other guy takes his time with his sandwich and leisurely waits for his coffee to cool down.  Not a word has been exchanged.  As soon as he has finished eating, baguette guy gets out his iPhone and proceeds to work on his messages without looking up or interrupting himself or acknowledging the other guy's presence in any way.  15 minutes go by.  Coffee guy is now looking around and indulging in a spot of people watching as if sitting at the table on his own.  When he finishes his lunch he also gets out his phone, glances at it briefly and puts it away.  They leave together, discussing work issues.

What do you make of this scene?  If they were colleagues of yours or you were their boss then what conclusions might you draw about the behaviour of each and what, if anything, might you be tempted to do as a result of what you have seen?

Case studies and stories from real-life give us some eye-opening information to work with as a means to unpack the huge variety of characteristics and attitudes which combine in each and every one of us.  Are you displaying as many professionalism characteristics as you think you are? 

Would your organisation benefit from discussing these important areas together?  

Give me a call if you want to talk about your conclusions from the scenario above or any other professionalism issue, I'd love to hear from you.

Why we all need support - especially CEOs

This month I’m returning to a subject that is as important as it gets for the ongoing welfare of non-profit organisations – how the leaders within this very varied sector are able to flourish as individuals while remaining in charge of the destiny of their organisations. 

It is almost impossible to pick up an article or book about successful leaders and entrepreneurs these days without finding a story or quote about how that individual derived enormous benefit from having a mentor at some stage of their career.  Mentoring has been going on for a very long time – famous relationships include Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and Alexander the Great, and more recently Freddie Laker and Richard Branson.  Indeed, government statistics show that 70% of small businesses whose leaders receive mentoring survive for five years or more, which is double the rate compared with non-mentored entrepreneurs and, in addition, they are 20% more likely to experience growth. 

We know that a CEO crisis line has just published data to say that it has received twice as many calls this year as last.  So, if it is true that the leaders within our sector are increasingly aware of the need to run their organisations as successful businesses while also being under incredible pressure from all sides, and if it’s also true that leaders of all kinds benefit from having a mentor, why do so very few Chief Executives, senior management or Board Chairs have mentors?

 

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Will it fly? Take a risk and grab those opportunities

I discovered something recently that I’d like to share.  It starts with me admitting that I like poetry.  Although I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea I read it sporadically, I even write a little.  I’m not sure mine is very good but it pleases me.  One day I may even come clean and show it to someone.

In most areas of our lives we can be creatures of habit, liking the comfort of familiarity.  Hands up, I do too.  In my poetry choices I tend to turn to poems I know well and perhaps have loved for a long time, because they evoke an expected reaction, a response that I recognise and find pleasing or comforting depending on what I need that day.

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The dreaded acronym - it can easily confuse

Have you ever had one of those days when just about everything you touched or came to your attention was bigger, more complicated, more difficult than it, at first, appeared? Someone asks an innocent question or an email arrives and your first answer needs qualifying in some way and then that answer triggers another train of thought and so it goes until you wish you hadn’t answered the phone or opened the email in the first place! At  the close of just such a day a while ago, it occurred to me that at the root of this type of problem we often find the issue of implied, implicit or assumed understanding.  If your understanding is not clear in the early stages of the conversation or transaction then you will labour under the misunderstanding for quite a while, usually until someone realises that you have been talking at cross-purposes.

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Thursday's Magic Moment

As someone who spends their time working to support others in their personal and professional development, I am always thrilled to hear that people have found working with me both helpful and useful. Verbal and written feedback is always gratefully received and I value it highly but yesterday something very special happened.  It was the first time that I have ever seen physical evidence that affirms the value of what I do and what I had written. One of the attendees at my afternoon workshop entered the room and, while she was settling herself down,  took various items out of her bag as she was looking for a pen which had clearly sunk to the bottom.  One of the items which appeared was the most dog-eared copy of my book that I have ever seen.   She told me that she dips into it every day and that it is incredibly useful to her.

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R.E.D. and G.O.L.D. – an auspicious focus for the coming Year of the Dragon

Tomorrow sees the start of the Chinese Year of the Dragon, believed to be the most auspicious year in the calendar, with red and gold as the auspicious colours for the New Year.  They are also great shorthand to think about how we approach the coming year and what it may hold for us, both at work and in our personal lives.

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Wow! I'm a trend setter - that's reassuring

After a blustery and challenging week I find myself with a big smile on my face this morning.  As the year winds down and we all start to look forward to what the next one brings it seems that I am way ahead of the game. What a delightful surprise! The Pantone Color Institute have announced what they believe will be the colour of 2012 - and it just happens to be the colour I chose as my corporate livery some time ago!  If  you have one of my business cards or have visited The Professionalism Group's website then you will recognise the lovely, warm colour instantly.  The particular shade is apparently called Tangerine Tango and was chosen, according to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, because it is "reminiscent of the radiant shadings of a sunset and marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”  Doesn't that sound great?  She went on to say that their choice of orange is because of its association with urgency and calling to action and added: “Consumers look to Spring for renewed energy, optimism and the promise of a brighter day.”

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Reach out – I’ll be there

The title of this post is an old song title from the Four Tops.  It’s amazing how old song lyrics can get you thinking.  The song is all about support systems and asking for help when you need it and, hearing the song the other day, that thought collided with some statistics I heard a few days ago. You can’t possibly have missed the fact that it is only a few weeks to the holiday season and you are probably starting to think about what you might be giving to those around you as gifts – well you will be soon if you haven’t started just yet! There is one person, however, that most of us don’t include on our gift list and that is ourselves.

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PROFESSIONALISM & POLITICS STILL DON’T MIX!

I am not a political animal and I promised myself that this election would not appear on these pages but sometimes you just have to admit that enough is enough.  The behaviour of  The Right Honourable Gordon Brown, MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (to give him his full title) demonstrates two professionalism issues very clearly and could not be ignored without a few comments. The first issue is, of course, standards in public life and levels of ‘Trustworthiness’.  This election has thrown up some horrible examples of individuals behaving in an unacceptable way and clearly having learned nothing from the public anger in the recent expenses debacle.  They have demonstrated contempt for the public they are supposed to serve and a belief in their own importance which appears to override any moral constraints which ought to be an integral part of the concept of public service and which seems to have eluded them altogether.  They are, in no particular order:

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“Consider this” (1)

“My life is my message" (Gandhi)

It’s been an odd sort of a week. The death of an elderly aunt, and meeting relatives I haven’t seen for a while at the funeral, has meant that we have been thinking and talking about a subject we often take care to step quietly around - the unavoidable passage of time and how we have ‘spent’ our years so far. Unavoidably, you also start thinking about the things which matter most and which are of value in a world in which few things are truly predictable or stable, those people and things which make us feel safe and valued – our core personal support system and how surprisingly small most probably are.

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