Level 1 Leadership – Being A Professional

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What A Leader Is

A professional acts on motivations

  • Self-aware and always looks for happiness in their work:
    • The work is meaningful
      • The stress of the work (commute, coworkers, culture, setbacks) is worth its reward
      • The results of the work are visible to us or we know helps others
    • A feeling of being able to develop in current skills
      • Talented enough to pick up the intricacies of the work involved
      • Focused on producing consistent and high-quality work
    • Learning plenty of new things
      • Passionate about developing the skills in the subject matter
      • Deeply curious about subjects related to their line of work
    • Opportunities for recognition and achievement
      • The less appreciated we feel about our work, the more we want to be paid to do it
    • Has enough responsibility to feel impactful
      • The harder the project is, the prouder we feel of it
  • Stays morally pure
    • Avoids cutting costs by using illegitimate or dishonest shortcuts
    • Stays away from dubious deals or questionable practices
    • Does the right thing by valuing trust, honesty, integrity, transparency and propriety
    • Lives and works generously with an understanding that their hard work and altruism will bring justice
    • Maintains professional humility by understanding that there is always a possibility for personal growth
  • Their work is connected to their true priorities in life
    • Focused on an overall life mission more than simply a career
    • Passion that is driven by values and principles
      • Works as hard as possible on whatever they’re going after
    • Focused on their chosen discipline, but it spreads to many parts of what they do
      • More concerned with being the best possible than with competition from others
      • Often the line of work will relate to personal hobbies or lifestyles
  • Devoted to service for others through adding value for people
    • They consider the value of time, which means they try to avoid wasting time with others and becoming more productive
    • Professionals make a manager look good, a donor inspired and a customer grateful
    • The focus on adding value is more about improving lives than changing people
    • There’s an awareness that the end result they add will provide a gain to the people affected by it
    • This focus on other people comes from a developed sense of selflessness
      • Since there is a sense of selflessness, they will sometimes give their work for free

Professionals are crafted from experience

  • This experience is rarely straightforward
    • Often, personal experiences determine a professional approach
    • Past work experience teaches things that learning from books may not teach
    • Work can bleed into personal and back again
    • Reputation is necessary to build a career, which requires time
  • The value of the experience isn’t about having it, it’s about learning from it
    • A lot of experience with very little consideration of it is worse than the other way around
    • Another word for applied experience is wisdom
    • Most of the techniques that an experienced worker uses will look like common sense
  • There are many bad things that a true professional might need to experience to know how to behave professionally
    • Having a very low-paying job requiring constant frantic activity
    • Having a job or career path that fails miserably
    • Having a horrible job that ends in being fired
    • Sabotaging every relationship in a group while leaving a job
    • Spending a number of years in a career that goes nowhere
  • No matter what discipline, there is a near-infinite realm of details and nuances that can be discovered and learned
    • A professional doesn’t necessarily understand all the details, but they understand which details really matter
    • Because of all of the details and how easy it is to miss them, a professional naturally verifies others’ work and prefers to be verified
    • Details produce risk, so professionals always over-deliver what they promise
  • A professional will look a certain way after enough time in their discipline
    • Secretly eccentric, since they are passionate about the work they do
    • Shows their ability much more than talks about it
    • Constantly tinkering with what they like in their line of work

Professionals pursue their desires by adapting to the opportunities they take on

  1. Anticipated opportunities are seen and turned into a strategy
  2. Unanticipated opportunities are expected to come from problems and opportunities that came from that first opportunity’s pursuit
  3. Adapts to those unanticipated opportunities to keep in line with their ultimate goals
    • Maintains those ultimate goals to match the newly discovered barriers
    • Ignores or sidelines opportunities that don’t line up with those goals
    • Emotionally releases from opportunities that are no longer attainable
  4. Makes reasonable sacrifices if the barriers become tremendously difficult
    • Works within the limits of the situation instead of wishing for an ideal circumstance
  5. Continues naturally looking for opportunities in any new changes while adapting to them
    • This can sometimes mean backtracking significantly if the motivations or situations change too much

Professionals are aware of the skills that carry out their strategies

  • Sees what they are capable of
    • The resources they can use
    • The processes they can put their resources into
    • The priorities that guide the processes into their results
  • Aware of their own learning style to best improve their skills
    • Sensing reality around them vs. comprehending symbols and comparisons
    • Seeing things vs. hearing them
    • Involved in a lot of hands-on experience vs. thoughtful and logical re-assessment of things
    • Seeing things sequentially as an ordered set of steps vs. seeing things as a global idea working downwards

A professional’s ultimate goals include building on relevant skills

  • They are constantly developing and improving their skills
    1. Looks at the demand for various skills and tries to find ones they are talented at developing
    2. Works on skills directly relating to their scope of expertise
    3. Pays attention to the seemingly mundane or irrelevant skills vital for success
    4. Adapts and grows in “soft skills”, which are applicable to many applications
    5. Improves communication skills in general
    6. Certifications often come in the normal course of the work
    7. Adds peripheral skills to their core skills
    8. As time goes on, the core skills increasingly become more and more specific
  • Goals for skills are created with the right attitude
    • Very specific desired outcomes to the training
    • Enjoys the process of developing expertise, not just the outcome
    • Has a specific place to apply the skill or knowledge after it is mastered
  • Learns knowledge through the natural stages of learning:
    1. Recognizes new terms, ideas or procedures
    2. Learns the information without a full understanding of its implications
    3. Applies general principles to specific applicable situations
    4. Separates a complex idea into parts and understands the necessary parts of the idea
    5. Creates new ideas from multiple sources
    6. Judges ideas and methods with outside evidence and a self-created measurement
  • Masters physical skills through the natural stages of finesse:
    1. Observes sensory cues that guide a skill’s actions
    2. Gets psychologically ready to perform the task
    3. Learns the steps needed to do the task
    4. Repeats the task over and over to make it a somewhat confident and proficient habit
    5. Does the task very confidently and very proficiently as a natural habit
    6. Modifies actions to take in new problems or situations
    7. Creates completely new tasks as variations of old ones

Professionals are aware of their own and others’ limitations

  • Stays safe in their work environment
    • Doesn’t take unnecessary risks, either physically or in decisions
    • Avoids high-risk situations whenever reasonably possible
    • Understands at the same time the risks that are always inherent to the work they do
  • Recognizes personal shortcomings in their own line of work
    • Knows their skills and limits of skills in relationship to others
    • Knows they can’t do everything they wish to, and are constantly making sacrifices

Professionals always conform to their values as they walk into their work environment

  • Keeps their focus on their long-term effects
    • Stays motivated on results, not simply on procedure or what feels right
    • Keeps their long-term goals in mind, even when looking at the short-term tasks
      • Self-aware of the undesirable parts of their tasks, but motivated towards their results
      • Looks at least 3 steps ahead of the current situation
        • Analyzes the possible ways situations can turn out
    • Regularly growing and developing in personal endeavors and always open for new experiences
      • Stays up-to-date with technology and how it impacts their work personally, organizationally and in society
  • Stays away from dangerous situations
    • Stays safe from any excess or risk that could severely hurt their ability to perform
    • Slower to speak
      • Chooses words carefully to not be misunderstood or misinterpreted
      • Only speaks when they know it adds legitimate value to others
      • Avoids risking promises or guarantees that might not be met
      • Tries to prevent unnecessarily offending others
    • Stays honest and genuine in all their dealings
      • Avoids taking on responsibilities that are too far out of their scope of expertise by deferring their expertise to other specialists
    • Avoids certain career taboos
      • Undermining their work
        • Complaining about their job while at their job or that they’re job hunting
        • Stating that someone else is incompetent
        • Indicating how much money they make
        • Expressing interest in someone else’s job
      • Getting too personal
        • Expressing political and religious beliefs out of context
        • Sharing personal social media actions
        • Sharing sex life or intimate relationship details
        • Sharing past experiences about how reckless they were
        • Talking about how drunk or drugged they like to get
      • Gossiping or violating others’ professionalism
        • Sharing negative thoughts about others’ personal life
        • Making offensive jokes
  • Believes everyone’s current circumstances to be a product of their choices
    • Helps others purely from desire for others’ benefit instead of pity or guilt
    • Doesn’t compare self to others
    • Treats everyone equally
  • Focuses on answers to problems instead of failures, potential problems or excuses
    • Never whines or complains, but addresses problems in a formal and tactful way
    • Reasonably expresses the limits and learns to work within them
  • Immediately takes responsibility for mistakes and errors
    • Looks into self honestly and openly
    • Freely and respectfully asks for help from others
    • Accepts that everything they do can always be better
  • Maintains a professional image through adhering to character values
    • Always on time or early
      • Shows up to events and meetings punctually
      • Even when deadlines aren’t present, sets personal deadlines and stays productive towards the goals
    • Uses tactful words liberally when making requests or communicating
      • Please, thank you and you’re welcome
      • I’m sorry, my apologies, excuse me
      • Thanks people twice for a quality experience, first when finishing a meeting and again in a thank you note the next day
      • Avoids insulting others, making offensive remarks or being rude
    • Communicates promptly and openly
      • Returns calls, text messages and emails as soon as reasonably possible
        • Calls are returned within 24 hours
        • Emails are properly responded to within a week unless they are urgent
      • Leaves appropriate and professional voice mails:
        1. Speak slowly to ensure the words are clear
        2. Identifies self and number to call back to allow quick access when they replay the message later
        3. Address 1 or 2 topics per voice message describing the purpose of the message, not simply a name and number
        4. State the main point by the 3rd sentence, be specific about what you want
        5. Indicate the best time to call back, record it as an appointment and answer immediately to avoid “phone tag”
        6. Re-record if the message isn’t brief or starts rambling, it should be less than 60 seconds
        7. Leave phone number again to allow them a chance to write it down or confirm it
        8. Only leave one message, don’t leave others
        9. Only mark it as “urgent” or try calling back again if it is an emergency
      • Emails indicate who they are and their contact information in the signatures, a bit like business cards
  • Observes the culture of who they work with
    • Asserts themselves, but not to the point of becoming threatening
    • Dresses in culturally acceptable attire
    • Learns the most appropriate greeting for the culture
    • Finds out appropriate and inappropriate customs for dining, gifts and body language
  • Responds to negative situations confidently and tactfully
    • When treated unfairly or disrespected
      • They assert their capacity to perform and know when to find a better place to take their skills
      • When others become upset or jealous at their success, they’ll respectfully and openly circumvent the matter while maintaining distance
    • Tactfully avoids unnecessary conflicts or tries to resolve them diplomatically
    • When confronting a problem, will also either have a solution or at least a way to get to the solution
      • Embraces personal responsibility in fixing the bad news that is delivered
      • Quickly owns up to the problem, then looks towards finding solutions to it

Professionals carry themselves with a quiet dignity

  • They are confident about what they know to be true, in themselves and in what they do
    • This isn’t from believing they are right, it’s from having no problem with being wrong
      • Comfort with sometimes being wrong means being unafraid to look silly or take unconventional approaches
    • They willingly take on challenges that conform to their values that others shy away from out of fear
  • A great listener, since they’re aware that they learn more from listening than speaking
    • They are directly engaged with whoever they are communicating with
    • However, they only listen to people who have proven their worth in what they’re hearing
  • Quietly persistent on the tasks in front of them
    • They know that anything takes more work than it appears
    • They know that everything takes much longer than it looks like it will take
    • They don’t want to take any praise that could be given to others

A professional understands their value when walking into work

  • They know the value of their time, expertise and resources
    • They walk into every engagement fully prepared to perform or deliver
    • The attitude is always walking in as a consultant that is supposed to fill a role
      • They are ready to walk away from the engagement if it is no longer mutually beneficial
      • They will behave as if they are still being interviewed as long as they have the job
      • They know that the size of the project to the client will often be larger than to the expert
      • They treat a job title as merely a description of their necessary tasks and routinely work outside of it
      • The reason they were hired is never lost on them
    • The company’s values and their values must be compatible
      • They know the value they add to the organization
    • Understands that sharing any professional knowledge with others has risks and rewards
      • Any resources given to others can be used any way that person or group wants
      • Any shared processes are “trade secrets” that can enable them
      • Others’ priorities are different and sometimes opposite from personal priorities
    • They give the right input for the right context
      • Gives information or commands when someone needs raw information or needs to know what to do
      • Confronts someone who strongly believes something that the professional knows is wrong
      • Helps the other person express and overcome thoughts or emotions that they had previously not confronted
      • Helps the other person reflect, discover or learn things for themselves to enable them for the future
      • Builds up others’ confidence by focusing on their strengths, qualities and achievements
  • They know the value of others’ time, expertise and resources
    • Doesn’t misuse company time or resources
      • Doesn’t use the company computers or office supplies unless it’s work-related
      • Pays attention in meetings
    • Values others’ time and tries to only use it when it’s applicable, especially with a highly paid person
      • Avoids irritating them with too much communication through emails or calls
      • Stays in touch with them about important matters, especially if it will take drastically more time from them in the future
  • Negotiates their pay intentionally
    • Plans ahead
      • Creates a portfolio and/or presentation to the employer about why a salary is justified using the past 6 months of results
      • Prepares a compelling case about why the employer wants to give a raise
      • Considers all possible outcomes beforehand and looks at possible alternatives to a pay raise
    • Finds a non-busy time to talk about it
      • Schedules meetings after lunch, when employer is most relaxed
    • Indicates the planned future of the time that will  be spent with the company
      • Provides clear examples of future personal development and development of the position
      • Knows when to press the case and when to stopp talking
    • Provides an open opportunity for the employer
      • Only delivers a resignation to a job as an ultimatum with the understanding of its impact
      • Only uses who/what/when/where/how/why questions, and never yes/no questions that limit responses
      • Asks employer how they see their position in the future to inspire future skills development
    • Emotionally uncommitted to their employer’s response, but focused on the discussion about the pay raise
      • Kind in the approach with a gratitude throughout the conversation
      • Not afraid of getting a “no” as a response, and doesn’t feel a need to force a “yes”
      • Gets prior experience in negotiating in multiple other arrangements
    • Unafraid of staying silent
      • An offer made doesn’t need an immediate response
      • Silence allows time to think it over and the opportunities for them to deliver a counter offer with the silence
  • Networks with others fearlessly and seamlessly out of a genuine desire for shared benefit
    • Builds relationships based on performance, not on conversation
    • Looks outside of their company or group to find opportunities with others
  • The customers pay everyone who works, and a great professional will pay attention to the customer’s desires
    • Consistency is often more important in a professional than quality
      • Customers care more about the professional producing fast and reliable results than the distributors, vendors, sellers or anyone else related to the product
      • Customers choose a professional simply because they appear to be more valuable than the competition
        • A professional’s value only comes when they do such a good job that they can’t be ignored
    • They’ll observe a product’s place on the Project Management Triangle
      • project-mgmt
      • Cost – how affordable the item is
      • Time – how fast the product can be delivered
      • Quality – how reliable, effective and great the product will turn out to be
    • Results are determined by how effective they worked for the customer
      • This means it’s not about delivering, it’s about consistently over-delivering
      • Sometimes this means saying “yes” to work that is outside the job description or saying “no” to something far outside the work’s scope
  • As an employee, a professional’s job is about making their boss look good
    • The manager is a person that they help, not someone that tells them what to do
  • Transitions in and out of jobs seamlessly without burning bridges

Professionals keep work and personal life separate

  • Doesn’t mix personal life into work, even when extremely comfortable
    • Creates a work-life rhythm they naturally fit into
    • Doesn’t flirt with coworkers or affiliates
    • Addresses people differently in a professional environment than a personal one
    • Doesn’t take work-related offences or professional reprimands personally
    • Keeps separate work and personal wardrobes
  • Doesn’t take work into personal life and knows how to enjoy personal time
    • Keeps professional contacts at a distance for personal social events
    • Takes weekends off normally and has hobbies and interests that have nothing to do with work
    • Treats certain things such as holidays, family birthday parties and their childrens’ sporting events as sacred above work
  • If work and personal life start mixing, a professional takes action
    • They always try to offset the challenges of personal obligations while working
    • They learn productivity skills or find ways to hand off responsibilities
    • Their work week will start cutting back to meet personal demands
    • They may look for another job that more accurately fits their life goals or is more flexible
  • If a professional becomes a workaholic, they have reached an imbalance in their life and need to learn what true success is

A professional behaves properly in any environment, not just the workplace

  • Tactful in public
    • Avoids doing anything that will draw negative attention to themselves
    • Doesn’t publicly post content on the internet that conveys a negative image
    • Expects people to behave consistently with how they have presented themselves to be
    • Uses proper names and titles with others
    • Keeps mobile device on silent or vibrate and only answers it at the right time
  • Dresses appropriately
    • Maintains appropriate clothes for the work they do
    • Keeps clothing tasteful and sensible even when having fun
  • Maintains moral integrity in their behavior
    • Exercises moderation in drinking, eating and physical exertion
    • Stays healthy from a principle of self-improvement
    • Only follows causes they believe in
    • Engaged in service and giving in some capacity in their personal life
Next: Level 2 Leadership – Working With Teams