Most people will agree that professionalism is, in many respects, the backbone of any successful career. And yet, even though it is a term that is tossed around a lot in the workplace, many people only have a vague understanding of what professionalism actually entails. This is understandable, because professionalism is, in truth, not a straightforward subject or by any means a simple art to master. Professionalism is an umbrella term that encapsulates a broad array of outlooks, attitudes, and behaviors. With that in mind, professionalism should be thought of less as something that has been accomplished merely as a result of showing up to work on time or wearing the right attire and more as a mode of being in the workplace that should be continually honed, adjusted, and practiced.
To give you a more definite sense of what it means to lead by example in the modern workplace, this post will walk you through four ways to embody professionalism at work.
- When you identify a problem, try to identify a solution. No office is perfect, and building a strong workplace culture requires everyone’s ongoing attention and collaboration. Mistakes will be made that will leave some of your employees or colleagues feeling frustrated or alienated. If you notice something about your workplace that is calling out to be fixed - something that, if it were to be remedied, would result in a healthier, happier, and more productive environment - do not merely express your frustration. Analyze the situation so that you might be able to bring a possible solution to the table.
- Build your communication skills. Any professional that can articulate their thoughts and deconstruct work-related problems in a transparent and confident way will always retain a significant edge. On the other hand, someone who struggles to communicate complex information will come to be seen as less reliable by his or her colleagues. You can set an example of professionalism by striving to improve your verbal and written communication: clarify your speech, tell your colleagues and employees exactly what you need, and then watch what happens.
- Own your mistakes. The willingness to accept responsibility when a mistake has been made is one of the clearest indicators of professionalism. By taking the initiative to admit that you are at fault when a mistake has been made, you will be communicating to your team that you value honesty, integrity, and personal responsibility. Your employees, in turn, will then be much more likely to embody those values in their work and their conduct.
- Build and maintain a strong rapport with your team. It’s not uncommon for managers to separate themselves from their workforce, limiting their interactions with employees only to rare and special occasions. Studies have shown that only around 30% of employees report feeling consistently engaged by their employers. This style of leadership can quickly foster feelings of alienation, resentment, and bitterness within a team. From there, it’s a slippery slope to decreased productivity and feelings of overall wellbeing in the workplace.
The alternative - a style of leadership that fosters cohesion, community, and cooperation in the workplace - is for managers to effortfully and frequently engage with their employees. While every manager will necessarily have a slightly different style of engagement, the point is that taking steps to ensure that your employees feel heard, acknowledged, and understood will contribute a great deal towards building and spreading professionalism in your workplace.
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