It is something that is set by example.
Like the other key elements of workplace culture, professionalism starts at the very top with your company’s leadership. It is something that is set by example; and regardless of the culture you have in place, it is absolutely vital to your company’s success.
“Professionalism is knowing how to do it, when to do it and doing it.” -- Frank Tyger
What’s interesting is that, since the word “professionalism” has such broad and relative applications, it is challenging to tie it to corporate leadership through one specific avenue. An ever-reliable resource is Dale Carnegie & Associates, which defines business professionalism as “the code of behavior that is expected of you in a leadership role.” Broad, right? Within the realm of professionalism in business, though, are more specific elements such as physical and behavioral presentation, punctuality, accountability, communication and respect of company’s policies and other employees.
This is where it gets especially tricky. Professionalism, that is. Each individual, as an employee and extension of your company and its culture, derives a sense of their own professional identity through the convergence of their own communication, knowledge, skills, reasoning, emotions and values. Ideally, what you want is for every employee to match up to a certain professional standard; but that’s not necessarily realistic given growing diversity in the workforce and each individual’s context and characteristics. In a contemporary professional workplace, this issue is only amplified in complexity by technology. Which brings me to this: why it’s important for corporate leaders to have composure, and how exceptional leaders maintain it.
Why composure is important
Why should it matter for you to maintain composure through adversity? You’re the boss, right? In short, composure matters because at the end of the day, it’s not about you -- it’s about your business. It’s about the success of your company. Maintaining composure as a professional in the workplace is important because, as a leader, you’re one of the key examples and influencers of the creativity, innovation, vision, respect, loyalty and work ethic necessary to drive your business. Any lapse in composure in your professionalism affects your credibility as a leader, which has a negative effect on your company’s workplace culture and ultimately hurts your business.
It also gives your employees a free pass when they demonstrate a lack of ability to control their emotions. If they see that you’re unable to account for your own emotions or recognize and manage your response to others regardless of whether they’re derived from issues in or away from the workplace, they will believe that it’s okay to do the same. Ultimately, professionalism is tied closely to self-awareness. Until you’re in-tune with yourself, your ability to connect with and lead others in the workplace will lack consistency. Without composure there’s no professionalism; and without professionalism, well, there’s no success.
How the best leaders maintain composure
Like in high school English class, there’s no right answer. However, though no two exceptional leaders are the same (in how they maintain a high level of composure), there are a handful of similar characteristics and behaviors. What I’d like to point out is that, in most cases, how exceptional leaders respond to adversity is a matter of perception. How they view and seek to resolve problems is more glass half-full than glass half-empty. In other words, exceptional leaders don’t see problems, they see opportunities. It’s how they respond that’s important, and with that, here’s how (thanks again, Dale Carnegie):
- Don’t let your emotions become obstacles.
- Don’t take things personally: Always keep business separate from your and other’s personal lives.
- Be accountable: As I discussed, this means that your behavior and communication as a leader must be exemplary.
- Communicate wisely: Listen as much or more than you speak.
- Be decisive: Don’t show or respond with doubt.
Above all, always remain positive. Even in times of crisis, remain optimistic and constructive towards your employees. Even if you’re facing exit, it won’t help you, your employees or your business to lead with a lack of professionalism. Stay composed and good luck!