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Being a "Professional"

By Seiki "Stan" Hirota

Originally published March 23, 2018 on LinkedIn

Our company announced a Long Term Management Vision 2030 last December. In the vision statement, there is a sentence which require all employees to create and develop business from the power of our individual “professionals”.

We often hear the word “professionals” used in a business context, such as leadership training and job interviews; but what does it really mean to be “professionals”? We all kind of have a perception of someone “not being professional”, and someone “being really professional”, but this concept could be a bit relative to many.

When we think of lawyers, accountants or physicians, these professions are “professional” in nature, which are high skilled work within our society with requirement for high levels of education, but in my view, anyone who has a job, regardless of their level of education, position or pay, should always have a sense of “professionalism”, if they are providing a role and a function in the labor market.

As we all know, our world is experiencing unprecedented rapid change with the adoption of new technology getting faster and faster. These changes have profound impact on changing rational, empirical decision making of consumers, which forces businesses to redraw business border lines, bringing unconventional competitors in the picture and facilitating faster innovation across the board. To me, being a “professional” means trying to be a contributor of creating our future in some form or fashion, by helping the customers we serve to build stronger sustainable business.

There are many principles for being a “professional”, but what I think is the starting point is being “Caring and Considerate” for the customers we serve.

Caring and Considerate. A “professional” person must have a trusted relationship with their business customers, and is able to observe and assess the business situation that the customer is facing objectively, to recognize the bigger picture of what needs to be done to help the customers be ahead of the curve in the market. A “professional” is a person that a customer can turn to as a trusted advisor regarding any specific field of work provided.

Competence. A “professional” person must be good at what they do, and always strive to be the best in their respective field. They must have a good pulse on the new trends in the industry, and must have mastery in their job skills, whether its sales, marketing, recruiting, accounting, finance, HR, legal, logistics, administrative, or whatever their role is. Mastery builds confidence with customers, as well as colleagues, leaders, vendors, or anyone with whom they interact with.

Commitment and Sacrifice. A “professional” must be a person others can count on. There are always setbacks in any projects or work, but it is someone who can figure out a way to get the job done right and on time. There must be a willingness to make sacrifices when problems occur, to put in the effort, time and creativity to provide an appropriate timely solution. It is okay to make mistakes. What is more important is how the person handles the problems and mistakes when it occurs.

Positive Energy and Image. There is a quote from Alistair Cooke, who was an American journalist, who said, "A professional is someone who can do their best work on a day when they don't particularly feel like it". I remember P!nk once said, “A rock star is someone who can give the best performance of their life when they don’t feel like getting on the stage”. It all means to be in the moment of time, making the connections with people in the room through eye contact, posture and body language, and always suggesting ways to help your organization to a better job and helping out colleagues when you can.

Respect. All “professional” people show respect toward those with whom they interact. They think about the impact of their actions on others. Perhaps most important, they act in ways that not only deal with the situation at hand, but also positively affect the other people involved. Coming from Japan, respect is the backbone of our culture and it’s ingrained in our traditions. Like in any team sport, every person has a role to play towards the collective, and true “professionals” can view the world that whatever one does effects the whole.

Honesty. A “professional” person is always truthful. Deception is never a part of their actions. James Altucher, a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist said “Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure”. Honesty means sincerity. A core trait of the “professional” person is that they exhibit sincerity in their interactions.

When these characteristics are employed, they engender trust. Business is built on trust. It takes a lot of effort and consistent repetition over a long time to build trust. Just one insincere act can cause trust to be lost, and once lost it is very difficult to regain. “Professionals” know how to build trust by exercising the above mentioned principles.

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