The Art of Professionalism

I grew up never really knowing what professionalism was. I came from a blue collar family that was more about living and acting in the moment according to the culture.  We didn’t always consider our actions and how we should behave or what we should or shouldn’t say around others.

In my early twenties I was more focused on my freedom to say whatever I feel, and not really worried about my responsibility to put a guardrail in place to keep my words from hurting others.  My filter was weak.

I had a wake-up call that caused me to question much of my cultural upbringing. I realized my circumstances, limitations and personal history did not have to control who I become. If I truly want to be successful at anything, it was going to take a lot of work, dedication and a change in the way that I look at myself, and present myself. I needed a new outlook on who I am and what I wanted to become.

Now as I find myself a business owner, I really appreciate a person with great verbal and writing skills. There is something about a skilled individual who can use their word to say, “I care about what you think”, or “I would like to assist you the best that I can” and “I assume the best in you and appreciate you”. Most of the world says “whatchu want?”, or “make it quick, my time is valuable”, and “Have I got a great deal for you!”

Professionalism is not just about looking sharp and acting sharp, but being sharp with direction and conviction. It doesn’t come from a script and you can’t simply take a class to become professional.

Ultimately professionalism will only come when we make the decision to put others ahead of ourselves and take what we do seriously. That’s really it. When we begin to understand what others need to hear we begin to think outside of ourselves. When what we do matters because we have already determined that it is worthy of our efforts and worth doing well, we begin to act and communicate more professionally with purpose and conviction.

Wisdom plays a major part in professionalism too. Wisdom of speech is the measure of a person. What comes out of your mouth is what others will judge you by. Even if what you say is socially acceptable, shouldn’t we try to be socially exceptional?

I have to admit that when I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had a pretty poor vocabulary (swearing), and now when I look back I see that it was mostly just to fit in with a society.  I wonder what people thought of my poor choice of words when I was young living without restraint.

What does it mean to live without restraint? Well, for me it meant that no one was going to tell me what I can say and can’t say. I was my own boss and if people don’t like me the way I am, they can take a flying leap. Foolishness!

The problem with being your own source of accountability is that you end up saying many stupid things that hurt others and yourself. You don’t even realize your own blind spot because what others see is not on your radar.  It should be.

When I was a kid I learned the term “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me”. While the intentions are good, that is one of the biggest lies ever to be told. Words can crush the spirit and wound people greatly. They can also heal and mend people if used with wisdom.

We need to be responsible with the words that we say and what we communicate to others. Learning to speak with restraint helps us to be more professional and courteous to others and keeps us from looking like a fool.

Learning to look at other people and determine what they need to hear makes us difference-makers. Sometimes people need encouragement, sometimes a smile or instructions; sometimes they need a kick in the pants. Whatever they need, when we do it with professionalism and respect it will be received with much better appreciation.

I don’t claim to be the most professional person or claim to have reached my best, but I do believe my behavior will make a difference in people’s day. So I will try to make it be a positive difference as often as I can.

 

 

5 Things Shift Leaders Need

The Shift Leaders Challenge

If you are a leader in the service industry, you fully understand how important our Shift Leaders are to our business.  Shift Leaders have a very challenging job.  They get to do much of the work and they don’t get to make many of the important decisions, yet they get their share of blame when the crew members they oversee fall short.

Shift Leaders are very valuable to restaurants.  They are leaders with the most hands on opportunity to make a direct difference with the crew and with customers.  They are right there in the thick of things rolling up their sleeves, making it all happen.

Sometimes Shift Leader training gets overlooked.  It’s easy to rely on their talent and experience as a crew member and overlook their need for leadership development.  This is usually an important transitional stage of a young leaders career and has the potential to make or break their leadership future.  Training sometimes gets truncated and they can tend to be a lightning rod for criticism when things don’t go right.  It all rolls downhill, but usually doesn’t quite make it to the bottom.

As veteran leaders in the service industry we have a responsibility to our entry level rock star leaders to help them kick off their leadership journey on the right foot.  Their survival may depend on it.  The example we set, and the impressions we make in these early years will stay with them for a lifetime.

Five things all Shift Leaders need from their Supervisors:

Quality Time – Shift Leaders need for their mentor to spend quality time with them. People don’t develop by accident.  Things don’t just happen without strategy and intentionality and certainly without trust.

When a supervisor takes a young leader and handcuffs with them, they introduce them to a new world. They begin to see their new opportunity in a new, practical, real way.  There is no substitution for going through the experience with someone you trust and look up to.  Likewise, there are few experiences more destructive than being thrown to the wolves during these vulnerable times.

A Vision Caster – Most young leaders have an idea of what they have done to earn the opportunity to be responsible for others in the organization.  What they usually lack is a clear understanding of what they may become.  When it comes to vision, few people really have an accurate perception of what they are capable of.  We tend to settle for what we already are, rather than focus on what we could someday become.  It takes a Leader to paint this picture for us.

A skilled and intuitive supervisor will be able to observe and identify specific areas of strength of their young protégés.  They have the power to help them understand their own talents and passions.  Without someone to paint a picture of what the future looks like, we tend to stay in the present.

Repetitious Communication – Shift Leaders need regular, daily communication.  The clay is still wet, it will take many conversations covering the same message over and over every day for some time in order for the message to take root and begin to be internalized.

Think about how many songs you know by heart.  You learned them by not intentionally memorizing them.  You learned them because you listened to them over and over again.  No one really likes this song but when you hear the lyrics “Here’s a little song I wrote…” people sing along, even against their own will.

Repetition is the key to any message that you wish to be heard, embraced, and passed on. You need to risk being a little annoying in order to make sure your students are developed without excuse, being armed with all the necessary buzz phrases firmly stuck in their heads. My team calls them Joelisms.

To Be Challenged – Everyone needs someone in their corner cheering them on to new adventures and new challenges.  Most of us are not capable of overcoming our natural fears without someone to walk with us through the doubt and confusion.

It is far too easy to stay in our comfortable zone and focus on the simplest or least challenging course.  It takes a leader to challenge us to move forward into unknown territory, to stretch our competence and raise our capacity.

A great leader influences their students to become leaders of themselves so that they are equipped to be leaders of others.

To Be Appreciated – There is no worse feeling than to put your blood sweat and tears into something to help someone or a group of people accomplish something, only to be dismissed without being noticed.

The more mature and self-sufficient we become the less we tend to rely on praise of others to fuel us.  We can forget that our fellow leaders at the beginning of their career still need encouragement to motivate their desire to perform. Everyone needs encouragement from time to time, but one of the most important skills we can develop is the ability to connect and read into other’s needs.  When we connect with them, we get a better idea of what makes them tick and how you can meet their emotional and motivational needs.

To Trust and Be Trusted (bonus)

All too many times our best crew people are left to fend for themselves and to learn the ropes by being thrown into the fire.  What they really need is to be able to trust their supervisor and know that they have their back when things get rough. They need to know they will not be stranded and that their needs are important. They need to know that when they have questions or problems, there is someone they can count on to help guide them to solutions.

If a young leader is ever going to be able to be trusted, their supervisors will need to prove to be trust worthy.  There is no shortcut for this.

Are you a leader?  or a leader of leaders?  There is a difference.