Boss Mode: 10 Habits That Help You Look Extremely Professional

Business.com / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

No matter what industry you're in, professionalism is key to success. Adopt these ten habits to ensure you're handling business like a boss.

We’ve all had a bad experience with an airline.

Flights get delayed, weather causes cancelations, there are maintenance issues with the plane you’ve been waiting on for two hours.

With Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, Americans will have their fair share of traveling and airport interactions.

With nearly 47 million Americans traveling over the Thanksgiving holiday, some things are bound to go wrong. I recently had my own poor travel experience with delays, maintenance issues, and more. You name it and it went wrong on my trip. But even though I arrived at my destination five hours later than expected, I didn’t find myself in a horrible mood upon arrival.

Trust me, I’ve experienced plenty the feeling of withering spirits due to hiccups in airline travel many, many times, but this time was different. Every airline employee I interacted with demonstrated courteous professionalism, making me feel heard, which improved my awful travel experience at least a little better.

No matter what industry you’re in, a constant air of professionalism will only serve to improve your interactions with colleagues, clients, bosses, and anyone else you come across. To position yourself for this kind of success, start by adopting the following ten habits.

Related Article: The Art of Focus: 10 Zen-Based Habits To Motivate You

1. Give People Your Full Attention

Listening is the key to any communication exchange, and nothing will make your colleagues respect you more than the feeling that they have your undivided attention when they are talking to you. James Cash Penney, the founder of J.C. Penney, was known to say, “The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.”

2. Be Reliable

If you’re known as the “dependable one” around the office, you’re on the right track. Establish a reputation for reliability and you’ll find yourself becoming the go-to guy or girl for the most important projects. When a big deal is on the line, your boss will turn to the most reliable employees, and you want to be one of them. Meet deadlines and deliver on your promises to garner this reputation.

3. Adopt Agile Practices

If you have the opportunity to lead a team or a project, try adopting agile management practices. Championed by the tech industry but adopted from practices at Toyota, Agile project management can apply to the governance and control required to deliver almost any complex project. Agile management consists in submitting deliverables in stages. This will help you catch mistakes and remain detail-oriented. You’ll learn your project inside and out, allowing you to demonstrate unparalleled knowledge to your colleagues.

4. Keep Calm Under Pressure

Composure, even when things are going horribly wrong, is one of the most professional qualities you can possess. True leaders are able to remain calm and set an example even when the building is burning down around them (figuratively).

5. Be Articulate

In a time taken over by character limits and word counts, you might think that longer emails seem more professional, but the opposite is actually true. Rarely do you need multiple, lengthy paragraphs to express an idea if you really know what you’re talking about.

Related Article: The New Reality of the Jet-Setting Professional

6. Avoid Over-Apologizing

When you apologize for little, inconsequential things, it creates a perception that you are incompetent. Always apologize when necessary, but here are a couple of things that you don’t need to apologize for: using the coffee machine while another person is waiting, bringing up a point in a meeting, asking for a minute to speak with a colleague, requesting input on a project.

7. Show Up 10 Minutes Early

If you’re early, you’re on time. My friend and successful entrepreneur Syed Balkhi says "If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, don’t bother coming. Let this become your mantra. Consistently showing up late tells colleagues and superiors that you don’t value their time, and there’s no habit that makes you seem less professional than that." These are worlds that I have grown to live by.

8. Own Up to Mistakes

It says a lot about a person if they can admit when they are wrong. It shows maturity and respectability (as long as you’re not unnecessarily apologizing - see #6). If you’re not making mistake after mistake after mistake, you’ll actually gain a lot of positive points by owning up when you do make one. It can be difficult to know how to best handle these situations, so feel free to read up on best practices for admitting your mistakes.

9. Respond to Emails Within 24 Hours

Responding punctually to emails is a tangible way to show both reliability and punctuality. And there’s no reason an email should sit in your inbox for days on end anyways. Respond while it’s still relevant - you’ll be helping yourself out while contributing to your newfound professional reputation.

Related Article: Don't Be That Guy: Bad Social Media Habits to Break Now

10. Get to Know the Higher-Ups

Showing that you are capable of interacting with your superiors is extremely important when cultivating a reputation of professionalism. It will also help you down the line when you are looking for a promotion. Set lunch meetings and get to know not only your boss, but your boss’s boss too. Ask about their career paths, goals for the company, and family without getting too personal. You can also develop a more casual rapport by striking up a conversation at the water cooler or in the breakroom. The trick is not to get intimidated

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