Rules of Professionalism
March 26, 2015
By Beth Brooks, CAE
Association staff transitions have been increasing and as younger people are joining associations as both members and staff, a lot of discussions have centered on “professionalism.” Merriam-Webster describes professionalism as the skill, good judgement, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.
Recently, the President of Concordia University (Austin), Dr. Don Christian, wrote a blog about his 10 rules for Professionalism and I thought they were perfect to share with you.
Don Christian's 10 Rules of Professionalism
- Always tell the truth - you don't have to always tell everyone everything but when asked, tell the truth to the extent you are able...and if you cannot reveal certain information at that time, follow up with the person to let them know you were not able to do so.
- Use good grammar and correct spelling - if this is not your strength, have a proofreader handy...and ALWAYS double check your emails or blogs before hitting the SEND button.
- Answer emails promptly - I have a 24-hour rule for answering email, even if it is an quick "I will get back to you in a few days" response...and develop a way not to lose emails in the mix if you are reading off of different devices.
- Return a phone call with a phone call - while it is not always easy to do, phone calls made to you should be honored with a phone call back to that person...for this I have adopted a 72 hour rule (within 3 days).
- Do not send an email if you have any emotion wrapped around it - stop typing, delete the email, and then go see (or call) the person...even a well-worded email can be taken wrong, so use email for information only, not to share your feelings or opinions (especially if they are directed to that person).
- Dress for the occasion - I used to tell my high school faculty that professional dress was dictated by what they were doing that day and with whom they were doing it...PE teachers had a different dress code from math teachers, and science lab teachers had a different dress code from English teachers. The same is true for all professions.
- Listen more than you talk - if, in a group setting, you find yourself having to respond every time a question is asked, you are probably talking more than listening. Here's the interesting paradox - listening is harder than talking, so it takes more practice.
- Engage in the discussion - as a corollary to #7, professionals offer their opinion and help move the conversation forward. If, at the end of a meeting you have not spoken, then you have robbed the team of your best thinking.
- Be on time - nothing connotes disrespect as being habitually late for meetings...remember that everyone's time is valuable, and making people wait tells them that you consider your time more important than theirs (if you are going to be late, do everything you can to let the other person know).
- Keep your work area organized - I understand that cleanliness does NOT equal godliness, and that the sign of a clean desk does NOT equal an empty mind...an organized work area says to those who visit or walk by that you "handle with care" the work given you (besides, how will you find that phone message left on your desk and return it in 72 hours?).
And finally, a #11 should be included that states: professionals learn to use the words "please forgive me" because they know that they will break one of these ten rules from time to time...and perhaps that is the true mark of a professional, one who is able to say "I'm sorry" and then move on with their work.