- Self-evaluation is the beginning, middle, and end of continuous improvement of any kind.
- No matter how high or low your work position is, focusing attention on factors within your control will maximize your power.
- Not following good work habits with consistency makes you seem younger and less mature.
Mastering basic professionalism will help you get ahead faster regardless of where you work or what you do. Some people are known for being great to work with, while others are known for being difficult. In either case, it’s almost always a commentary on the person’s level of professionalism.
If you want to be known as someone great to work with, these are the five basics of professionalism to master.
I learned a profound truth from my longtime karate teacher, mentor, and friend, Master Frank Gorman: “The mirror is the best teacher.”
That is not true, however, if you always like what you see. If you always like what you see in the mirror, there’s nothing upon which to improve. To use the mirror as a teacher, one must have an external objective standard against which to measure one’s reflection.
This is why you should really care about creating the habit of regular self-evaluation. Studies show that what really drives learning and growth is real self-awareness through regular productive, honest self-evaluation against clear standards. That is the fundamental building block for systematically learning any skill. Without measuring yourself against some measuring stick, it is very hard to set meaningful concrete goals for improvement, much less monitor your progress on the way to meeting those goals.
Regular, honest self-evaluation against clear standards: this is not only the fundamental building block for learning soft skills but also the fundamental building block for learning any hard skill. Self-evaluation is the beginning, middle, and end of continuous improvement of any kind.
2. Personal Responsibility
When it comes to practicing personal responsibility, the key is keeping the focus on factors within your control. Ask yourself every step of the way: What is within my control right now? Where will I focus my attention and energy? What are my options? What’s the plan? What are my next steps? What are my next thoughts, words, and actions?
This is why you should really care about increasing your sense of personal responsibility. No matter how high or low your position is, if you focus your attention and energy on factors outside your control, you will be "powerless."
However, the flip side is also true. No matter how high or low your position is, focusing your attention and energy on factors within your control will maximize your power. In any situation, no matter how little is within your control, the way to make yourself more powerful is to focus like a laser beam on whatever thoughts, words, and actions you can take. Sometimes it is a very small amount of power, but any amount is better than none.
3. Positive Attitude
As long as you think of attitude as a personal, internal matter, it will remain intangible. Feelings are on the inside. Observable behavior is on the outside. That observable behavior can be seen, heard, and felt. Dealing with attitude becomes a whole lot easier if you treat it head-on, directly, as just another matter of personal performance.
This is why you should care about demonstrating a positive attitude at work: Attitude may be hard to define and describe–great, good, bad, or average. But it is very important. At every level, leaders and managers rate "attitude" as one of the most important factors in employee performance. Attitude can be the difference between success and failure for even the most highly skilled employees.
4. Good Work Habits
Not all things that could be considered good work habits apply to everyone in all jobs. What really matters, in your case...
- ... when it comes to wellness?
- ... when it comes to self-presentation?
- ... when it comes to timeliness and work schedules?
- ... when it comes to meeting goals and deadlines?
- ... when it comes to using systems to stay organized?
- ... when it comes to paying attention to details?
- ... when it comes to follow-through?
- ... when it comes to taking the initiative?
If something really matters, it is probably worth learning and practicing.
Here’s why you should care about learning best practices and building better work habits: These basic habits might seem like matters of personal style or preference. But in fact, there are strong business reasons for these requirements. How you present yourself and conduct yourself at work has a big impact on your performance and on all of those with whom you interact. Perhaps more to the point: It has a huge impact on your reputation at work.
Not following good work habits with consistency makes you seem younger and less mature. It gives some managers second thoughts about trusting you with important work. If you want to be taken seriously in the workplace, your best bet is to learn best practices and develop good work habits. People will perceive you as being more professional. That will greatly benefit you, both here and anywhere else you work.
5. Interpersonal Communication
Are more and more people today becoming weaker at interpersonal communication simply because we are all becoming so accustomed to communicating with our devices and losing the ability to communicate well in person and on the phone?
That’s surely a big part of the story: Communication practices are habits. Most of us are increasingly in the habit of remote informal staccato and relatively low-stakes interpersonal communication because of our constant use of hand-held devices and more social media and instant messaging.
Communication habits can be changed like any other habit, but it is not easy. Putting more structure and substance into your communication—regular structured one-on-one dialogues–will allow you to practice interacting more professionally. Over time, learn to prepare better agendas that are increasingly organized, clear, and focused for your one-on-ones.
Here’s why you should care about improving your people skills: Even though it seems like your interactions with other people are a matter of personal style, there are proven best practices for workplace communication. When people do not follow communication best practices, things are much more likely to go wrong. Poor communication is the number-one cause of unnecessary problems in the workplace, both great and small.