What does professionalism look like to you? Some of us may think of professionalism as being a rigid framework, one in which you must be dressed a certain way, you must look a certain way and act a certain way to uphold some archaic standards of business or professional behaviour. Professionalism has been misused to undermine and intimidate members of certain social groups that do not uphold the status quo – examples of this are “debates” surrounding whether afro hair is professional in the work place or how women should dress in the workplace to be taken seriously. This is a deeply damaging view of what professionalism is and might explain why some individuals experience the impostor syndrome in business and workplace environments. In an ideal world professionalism would have nothing to do with outward appearance; in fact there have been many instances in which people have looked the part but their behaviour has let them down.
Professionalism is the key to upholding a trusted reputation, it is not perfectionism. To act professionally in business or in the workplace is to honour your agreement with your client, customer or team in a way that ensures the best outcome possible is achieved for all parties. If for example you want to go to a shop to buy an item of clothing, the retailer should be welcoming, the shop should be clean, it should be open when it says it will be open and the transaction should be relatively straightforward. This is the basic standard of professionalism – you get what you want based on your expectations and if the shop exceeds your expectations then you are more likely to return, trust the shopkeeper and probably let people know about your experience. Now there will be times when things do not go as planned for the shop; they might be short staffed, they might run out of stock, there might any series of variables that could cause an issue but as the customer you would expect that the shop does its best to ensure that your experience is not unpleasant in such a way that even if you do not get what you want you are still likely to return. If you are a business owner think of yourself like the shop that I have just described. There will be times when circumstances out of your control may have an impact on the service that your customer or client receives from you but it is up to you to ensure that little damage is caused to your reputation. You want people to know that even when mistakes happen they can still trust you to do your best and if you cannot do your best at that time make sure that the transaction is not so terrible that they use it against you in the future. I would not set my sights on perfection, in my view perfection can induce stress and anxiety as it leaves no room for the realities of life. Focus on what your intentions are, if your intentions are to provide a great service then honour that intention and manage the expectations of your clients and team in a way that maintains trust and builds your reputation. We all make mistakes, things happen, life happens; it’s how you handle those mistakes that makes a difference – you can always be professional and still be true to who you are.
This interview clip featuring Vice-Chair and MD at Morgan Stanley, Carla Harris, which highlights the power of relationships is so powerful that I want everyone to watch and share it.
I have reiterated this message during any private consultations or seminar sessions that I facilitate on personal branding and networking. In the PR industry, relationships are key and can make or break a brand or even an individual’s career journeys. I encourage clients and contacts to understand that the same principles which apply to business brands can often apply to individual brands, not just entrepreneurs but professionals too. For too long we have worked under the narrative that hard work is enough, particularly as Carla mentions, within Black communities. The idea that hard work will get us to where we want to get to is not entirely true and we can see that when we look at who often holds the keys to power in society and we look at structures like “The Old Boys’s Network”. It is undeniable that hard work leads us to the the standard doors of opportunity but the rules of the game of life are not simply based on how many qualifications we have or (unfortunately) how hard working we are. Hard work can get us to the door but it won’t always open up the door or even get us through that door. We need to build and maintain the right relationships – recognise who you are, identify what you want and use who you really are to build relationships that will get you to where you want to go in life. By building the right relationships, for the right reasons and by maintaining authentic, intentional and purposeful communication within those relationships you can go so much further. The energy flow within those relationships should be genuine; give as much as you receive, don’t become a taker or user, build trust and a clearly defined reputation. Build relationships that add value to all involved, relationships that enrich spaces not as a means to stroke egos stand the test of time. By all means continue to work hard but remember that relationships will work just as hard to get you to where you want to get to. Watch Carla Harris’ full interview here.
On the 28th June 2018 I hosted a high impact seminar at the AFFORD Business Club. I provided delegates with the strategic insight into how they can boost their personal brands in order to raise their corporate visibility and business credibility. Delegates learnt how to make more of an impact within their sectors and how to use PR tactics to raise their personal brands effectively, develop effective relationships and build a community of personal brand ambassadors who will champion them throughout their career or business journeys.
Key takeaways from the session:
- The Power of A Personal brand – how having a strong personal brand can make an impact on your overall marketing strategy and open up new opportunities in your business or career journey.
- Using PR to enhance your profile – Using public relations strategies to enhance your public profile.
- Identifying your values & Knowing your purpose – Understanding what your brand is and how you can maintain your integrity and authenticity.
- Social Media strategy – How to use social media platforms to raise your visibility.
- Public Speaking Tips – Advice and guidance on becoming a more confident public speaker.
- Measuring Success – Assessing Long term goals and celebrating success.
Use hashtag #AriatuPRPersonalBrand
About The AFFORD Business Club
AFFORD Business club will support African diaspora entrepreneurs by providing business development support to entrepreneurs who seek to develop or launch their businesses in Africa.
If you are an African Diaspora entrepreneur then the AFFORD Business club is an ideal space to network, and get support for your business, in the diaspora, and in Africa.
We provide business development support and services to innovative, fast-growing diaspora SMEs to ensure they can – deliver their core business; produce socially-responsible products and services; and create well-paid, and sustainable jobs to contribute to Africa’s wealth and prosperity. For more information and to become a member: http://www.afford-diasporafinance.org/abc/