We all need to interact with people who sell us their services or products. That is to say we have to, on a 24x7x365 basis, have an interface with workers who are skilled in some function or the other; a function that assists us in leading our work and private lives smoothly. From the member of the domestic staff (true for many parts of the world), the grocer, bank teller, housekeeping attendant, valet, call centre customer care support, plumber, maitre d’hôtel, doctor, chauffeur to the owner, financial consultant, the priest who presides over our birth or weds us and the legal eagle who reads our last will – our life on Planet Earth is driven by people. The human interaction gets compounded and complexed in people-specific industries which are run more by people such as hospitality, medicine, BPOs, travel & tourism, advertising, financial services and the like.

So, if I were to define one attribute that has the perspicacity to keep my life balanced, safeguard my sanity and infuse a sense of perfectionism into the most prosaic of situations, then it would have to be professionalism. Professional people keep your boat safe from sinking into the choppy waters of inefficient service, lousy products, no after-sales service, no guarantees, no returns or refunds. Basically, no nothing. Nada! For a professional you are an individual; for a non-professional you are one of the crowd. For a professional, you are not just the current focus but a future prospect. For a non-professional you are part of the assembly line; you move out another comes in. To keep it simple, professional people make our life easy. Period!

If you have even the slightest of doubt and are about to send to me your counter arguments in torrents, then weigh the pros and cons of engaging in an animated, attentive dialogue with a professional BPO staff member who may be sitting in Philippines but is clued on to bringing a sense of closure to the problem at your hand, most likely to your satisfaction. Now compare this to losing precious work or sleep time over a prolonged, fruitless discussion with a non-professional who not only fails to provide you with a solution, but instead goes on miserably to add to your monthly medicine bill by raising your blood pressure by several notches. Same thing with a pro and non-pro flight attendant, a hotel front office manager or reservations clerk, the travel agent, the media representative, spa specialist, chef, business development manager, a business partner – heck, even a boss or the undertaker.

So what sets a professional apart from the riff raff that seems to strut its stuff without sense or shame in our stratosphere! Well, there are a range of hard and soft traits that help us define a Professional.

 

Hard Traits

1. Professionals are knowledgeable – The moment you hear the word Pro, you know that you are going to enjoy the privilege of dealing with a virtuoso; someone who is an expert in their field; be it keeping a guest room spotlessly spic and span or managing a large hotel chain, ensuring that it stays the highest ranked in any rating or recognition. The bank of knowledge keeps them ahead of the game. A professional is a maven with pronounced facets of a maverick because excellence is the course he takes and his goal is to break the glass ceiling. A professional sets exemplary standards with his working style, his know-how and eagerness to present his best, always.

2. Professionals are experienced – Several years of hard work – first study, then practice – have gone into shaping the professional into what he/she is today. The professional dips into the pool of experience to outshine and often go beyond the brief.  

3. Professionals are SMART – in their approach and the results they show. Their performance is, indeed, specific (professionals are focused), measurable (result-orientation is a key factor for them), attainable (professionals are practical and seldom have their head in the clouds), relevant (their efforts must bear fruits of business, satisfaction, customer retention, problem solving for themselves, the company they represent and the guests) and time-bound (professionals apprehend the importance of time and are aware of the ills of non-deliverability or deliverability in an untimely fashion, which may be as good as the task not done).

4. Professionals are leaders – Professionals take charge. Have you noticed how there is that one server who will outperform and over-deliver should things go wrong with your order at a restaurant? He will assume command over the situation, apologize sincerely, rectify the order, make certain that you are not made to wait any longer and cap it off with a comp side or dessert. He is a professional who knows his work, is in control, values you, is adept at saving the reputation of his company and ensuring that the business stays with them and does not walk over to the competition. In a crisis condition, have you taken note of the security guy or guest relations executive who will go beyond expectation to take stock of the situation, swiftly, and then strategize to provide safety while soothing your frayed nerves with a personal touch. He or she is a professional. He need not be a certified fire fighter; it is enough that he is the best in his role, is quick to assume responsibility of his actions and does not ever mind pulling the weight of others when they fail to match up.

Professionals have a strong leadership quality even in their everyday work situations. And in times of crises, they are stars that shine out with their steely resolve and stellar skills.   

5. Professionals are visionaries – Professionals are on a journey – their destination is ‘being the best in their field and roles’; higher after higher scales of excellence are the milestones. To be such work wizards they strategize to develop new tactics, perfect their old good practices and draw a road map that is onward bound, both in terms of productivity and passion. Professionals are far sighted and that is why they always manage to rise above small issues and petty people.

6. Professionals are perpetual learners – Professionals know that the place they have reached has not come easy. They are also aware that the road ahead is going to be tough, arduous and competitive. Professionals refuse to rest on past laurels. They are mindful of the fact that their skills and the business must evolve in step with the dynamics of the world and the changing times. Besides, their drive and zeal nudges them to push the envelope of learning, mental growth and physical limits of performance.

7. Professionals respond and resolve – This is one of the most common grounds on which somebody is called a professional. Professionals bring together their learning, experience and attitude to give sensible, effective and optimum resolution to your issues. Because they have the expertise, they need not skirt the issue and hide behind files and faux reasons to escape the matter. More importantly, they hold in high esteem the tag they have earned on merit and they are not willing to lose that by being seen as laid back, inefficient, careless and non-committed. Hence, Professionals always respond.

One of the nicer aspects of dealing with such people is that even if it is to decline or regret, professionals leave such a great after taste that you wish to do business with them again.

8. Professionals are competitive – Not only with others but with themselves too; in fact more with themselves. They must meet their own high expectations and come up to the level they visualize themselves at. Professionals blossom in good, honest competition. The eagerness to outclass, the passion to chart new courses, the excitement of better, brighter goals keeps them motivated and stimulated. Professionals admire other skilled workers & specialists and must compete with them to get to greater heights of brilliance. This sense of competitiveness gets going the ball of learning, improving, growing into the state of work awesomeness; to the satisfaction of both the doer and the recipients.  

9. Professionals are bottom line friendly – Professionals endeavour to perform such that the outcome of their actions is always profitable. They despise anything that brings loss; in terms of bad service, inability to close the service delivery loop, losing a client, profit deficit or business failure. They are conscious of the fact that for them and others to grow and flourish, the business must remain successful. What’s more, they acknowledge the fact that it is often bad actions, bad planning and bad decisions that lead to bad business. And they wish to be associated with none of these.   

10. Professionals always see the Big Picture – Professionals usually do not sweat over the small stuff. Their sights are set high; hence little everyday battles are simply stepping stones in their way; as it is the war of wisdom, wonderment and world class achievement that they must win.    

 

Soft Traits

1. Professionals are kind and compassionate – Perhaps because professionals are self-made and have tilled to get there, they are thoughtful of efforts put in by others. Because they have figured that every day is not the same and every person even more different, they are considerate of others’ eclecticism and cherish the worth they bring to the table. Professionals are generally more understanding. They value others and their efforts and are inclined to bring out the best in them. On the other hand, the ‘nons’ may give two hoots to all other beings but for the three most important in their scheme of things – I, Me, Myself.   

2. Professionals are hardworking and self-disciplined – That is how they became professionals in the first place. They have a strong willpower, are persistent and persevere to attain the seemingly unachievable. Professionals believe in turning boulders into building blocks and enjoy the thrill and the challenge of the process.

3. Professionals always deliver – Be it the General Manager pledging a healthy bottom line to the CEO, the CEO always being answerable to the owners, the talented chef presenting just what the guest wished, the concierge managing to get the right and full information sought, the chauffeur offering a smooth, suitably informative, relaxed and enjoyable ride to the hotel, the sales manager connecting all the dots from opening a dialogue to successfully closing the deal to everybody’s satisfaction; professionals deliver. Without fail, each time, every time!

Professionals are duty bound and committed- which is why they deliver.

4. Professionals make mistakes – they also make no compromises – Professionals understand that making mistakes is an integral part of learning and growing. So they make mistakes unabashedly but not carelessly. And they detest making the same mistake over and over again. ‘Compromise’ does not exist in a professional’s lexicon. They do not cut corners. Professionals know that the path to excellence is not easy and that there is no short cut to success.

5. Professionals instill trust – On the basis of their prowess over their function, the proficient hold on their area of work and the enviable experience under their belts, professionals instill a strong sense of trust in us that they will carry out the required action to the best of their knowledge and ability. They have no excuses up their sleeve to shirk work or responsibility entrusted in them and they can be implicitly relied upon. Professionals also earn our trust because they are honest and ethical. Because they are above board, there are not many motives for them to resort to lies. Also, professionals believe in fair play; they play by the principles.

6. Professionals do not step on others to climb up – Professionals respect hard work. They recognize the blood and sweat that goes into putting sincere efforts. They are aware of the rough patches one has to overcome before the ride gets smooth. Because they treasure what they have achieved on merit and not by easy means, Professionals do not believe in stepping on others, undermining their efforts and putting others down to put themselves up. In their rule book there is no place for such shameful, worthless shenanigans.

7. Professionals are team players – Professionals gather that no man is an island. From the teacher who imparted lessons beautifully, the class which egged them on with a sense of healthy competition and cheered them every time they stood ahead to get that medal, the University guide who refused to accept shoddy work on their dissertation, the new work mates who accepted them and made them feel comfortable in their first jobs – professionals know that work life is all about team playing. For you to strike a goal or hit a sixer, there must be others on your team who rally around you to help you in giving your best shot. The mental, intellectual, skillful games we play at work are no different. If it were not for the team mates, professionals realize that they would remain lone rangers in a lonely, uncharged, unexciting world of low or no productivity. This holds true for our virtual work worlds, too.

8. Professionals are secure, confident and humble – Professionals are self aware of their strengths and weaknesses – the first they build upon continuously and the second they overcome by practice and persistence. Professionals are self-sure and confident of the distance they can travel and the summits they can successfully climb. This sense of confidence stems from the learnings that they have built upon as their bank of knowledge; which practiced with finesse and commitment over time gets translated into experience par excellence.

Professionals are never proud but they have a pleasing sense of pride in their mettle, merit, acumen and accomplishments. Professionals maintain humility because they know that they have to grow more and on to perpetuity and that the room for improvement is, indeed, the biggest – always – no matter what they have achieved and where they have come to, this far.

9. Professionals are mentors – Professionals thrive in active cultures of growth, learning and development. They need to be challenged and love to add the extra to the ordinary. Therefore, to create such an environment, they must nurture others around. Professionals get immense satisfaction from dispensing their endowment and sharing their skill-set with others. For them to bite the bigger part of the pie, they must ensure that the ball is left in other able hands. Moreover, professionals see mentoring as an extended exercise in personal growth and self-advancement.

10. Professionals are happy, enthusiastic, positive and optimistic – There is no other way. Happiness flows out of the fact that it has been a well-spent day with a task done well. Enthusiasm is integral to carrying out the job in the finest way known. Professionals breathe in and out positive energy; because negativity can sap the sense out of professionalism. And professionals are optimistic – hope springs eternal, for even if things didn’t turn out as planned today, tomorrow will always be a better day. Professionals will strive such that is does!  

 

A professional has the power to add a spark to or ruin your day. He/she can set the tone for a great day ahead just as a non-professional can spoil it so badly for you that the bitterness or exasperation of the exchange carries on into your other interactions and spheres of work.

So, what are you and who do you wish to be?

The choice is in your hands.

 

Authored by L. Aruna Dhir

Ms. Dhir is a featured contributor, national poll-winning Corporate Communications Specialist, PR Strategist and Writer. She is the first-ever Creative Writer for Archies Greetings and Gift Ltd and the only Indian woman on the Board of Association of Emerging Leaders Dialogues (AELD).