Professionalism Vs Perfectionism

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

The Difference Between Criticism and Feedback

We all experience criticism and feedback with regards to the work we do, the way we behave and the services/products we provide. This aspect of communication is not always something that people want to face but it is a reality of life, especially in business and in work. One of the major causes of tension or discomfort arises when we don’t understand the distinction between criticism (some of which can be constructive) and feedback which can come in positive and negative forms. The discomfort arises when people criticise you in a way  that you might not like or even appreciate and you sometimes internalise or react to particularly because whilst you often ask for feedback you rarely ask for criticism. Feedback can be used to learn and to grow however criticism is often much more challenging to accept.  It is an important part of the reputational journey – your ability to adapt and learn from feedback can have a long term positive effect on your brand; be it personal, business or professional.

In this video I highlight why that is the case and what the core differences between criticism and feedback are:

If you do receive criticism that you don’t like the sound of here a couple of tips to avoid internalising it in a way that holds you back:

  • Remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and their own tastes, not everyone is going to like what you have to offer no matter how “perfect” you think it is.
  • Be discerning in how you accept critique – some people are biased for whatever reason so its not always about you.
  • Develop a thick skin – there might be something to learn from the criticism or it simply is coming from a hateful place regardless you have to develop coping mechanisms to ensure that you keep moving forward and growing.