Article: Am I a true professional?

Learning & Development

Am I a true professional?

It doesn't matter what profession you are in; what matters is the commitment with which you carry out professional duties
Am I a true professional?

If you are a true professional, you must have an ability to find strengths in others so that you can use them in doing what they do best and bring in transformational change in their productivity


In my career spanning for over two decades in human resources, I have seen people struggling with this question many times. Interestingly, I have seen individuals introspecting with this dilemma irrespective of their experiences and the stage their careers are in.

It doesn't matter the kind of profession you are in, what matters is the intention and the commitment with which you carry out your professional duties. If we wish to leave footprints in our profession on the sands of time and want people to remember us for our professional contribution, then we need to really focus on our actions. Remember, people will believe in actions and not mere communications about our intentions.

I have interacted with many professionals, but there are just a chosen few whom I consider as true professionals. As aptly put by entrepreneur and MindTree Co-founder Subroto Bagchi “Contrary to popular belief, one does not become a professional just by attaining professional qualifications. A professional strives for greater, though often, the most simple of things.”

Let me try to demystify this high sounding word and articulate five simple yet very profound behaviorial traits that I observed in true professionals.

1. Congruence in commitments and conviction

All of us make commitments. But, a true professional has the conviction to deliver on those commitments. When we show that conviction to keep up to our commitments, even if they are ordinary ones, we become extraordinary to people who witness them. People around professionals get inspired in following up with their commitment. Donald N. Sull and Dominic Houlder, two strategy experts from the London Business School, found that until and unless we are clear about what matters to us most, we will not be able to match up our commitments with conviction. Professionals know what matters to them the most and their commitment is always centering out those so that their conviction is often unflinching in fulfilling these commitments.

2. Respect for other professionals

A true professional is one who has respect for other professionals. We must remember, in an organization, all of us perform different roles which require different set of professional competence. If I can do a set of tasks better than others because of my professional capabilities, I must remember that there are others who can do other tasks much better than me because of their professional competence too. Many times, without performing those tasks, we start judging others. Today’s world is definitively moving towards multi-skilling and those who make it to the top are those who respect other professionals and therefore are always better and fast in learning different set of competencies from other professionals. So next time you pass a comment on a fellow professional, think whether there is a need for introspection for yourself.

3. Differentiate between ‘expert behavior’ and expertise

People respect a professional because of his/her professional expertise. But do you approve of the behaviour that more often come along with the expertise? Ask yourself a simple question. If you have to choose between an arrogant and humble professional, whom will you choose? It will not take more than a few seconds to decide. We often forget that law of human relations does not follow the law of Siphon in physics. If you are a professional and continue to behave in a manner that you are on the higher level and the others exist in a significantly lower level than you, unlike the law of physics there will no transactions (in good faith and trust) to make you come up to the same level as others. Peter Block, the renowned leadership guru, once told me “If you are not accepted as a human being, it is very unlikely anybody will accept your advice, howsoever brilliant it might be”.

4. Operate with strengths and see strengths in others

All of us have some weaknesses in us, but a professional uses his/her strengths to deliver superior results. Though it seems easy, research studies show very different results. After studying 1.7 million employees from 101 organizations from 63 countries, Gallup found only 20 per cent of them use their strength in daily work situations. In the same vein, a true professional is able to find out strengths in others with whom he/she works. If you are a true professional, you must have an ability to find strengths in others so that you can use them in doing what they do best and bring in transformational change in their productivity. Many years back, while learning how to search for talent, one of my leaders told me “If you need to find somebody to hop, you must hire a rabbit”.

5. Adhere to professional codes of conduct

The word professional is derived from the word professio, which means taking an oath. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as “belonging to a profession”. If we are professionals, we must follow professional ethics and a code of conduct. People respect a professional when they see them following these codes of conduct in their day-to-day transactions. In fact, this is the biggest differentiator between a professional and a non-professional. Peter Drucker once said values provide us with the constancy of purpose. No profession can be complete without a set of guiding values. These guiding values get translated into codes of conduct. They are like saliva without which we cannot digest food; without the code visibly displayed through our day-to-day work, we will never become a complete professional.

Viktor Frankl, the internationally known psychiatrist, wrote “Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a secondary rationalization of instinctual drive. This meaning is unique and specified in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone, only then does it achieve significance which will satisfy his own search in to meaning”. To become a true professional is an endless journey, in some sense to search and discover meanings in our own lives.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #ExpertViews, #PersonalJourney, #Excellence

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