We all want to be seen as professional. But professionalism is in the eye of the beholder so even though you may think you are coming off as professional, in reality you may not. Over the next few articles I will explain how our professionalism is judged and give some tips on how to maintain your professional reputation.
We Are Judged on Our Communications
Effective communicators must be able to use their skills to persuade others to follow. They are able to present their vision and plan in a clear and concise manner. You need to be able to spell out your plan of action, asking for everyone’s support and showing confidence in a positive outcome.
We talk to people all day long. One-on-one, to small and large groups and chit-chat with co-workers. In each encounter miscues can damage our professional appearance and good communications can improve it. To be professional in your communications you need both skills and control.
Knowing how the act communicating works can help you become a better communicator. In the two part series Leadership Skills – Communications Part 1 and Leadership Skills – Communications Part 2 you will see how communications works on the part of the speaker and the listener.
The way you talk to others goes a long way towards establishing your credibility or losing it in an instant. Being too assertive will make you come off as aggressive or overbearing. Being too passive will present a perception of a lack of confidence. It is a delicate balance, but over time any manager can master communications.
The Wrong Message
One sure fire way to damage your professional reputation is to send the wrong message. How many times have you overheard someone you respected or admired carrying on a conversation that changed your perception of them?
As managers we must be very careful to watch what we say. Conversations are easily overheard and anything off-color or that could be considered in bad taste reflects back on us as an individual. Sometimes it only takes one sentence to damage your reputation.
A comment about a female co-worker, a phrase that can be associated with a bias, disparaging remarks about a co-worker or a team. All of these can damage your professional reputation. Personally I remember a racist comment made 6 years ago that changed the way I thought about someone I had admired and to this day I look at them differently.
It is best to avoid any conversation involving sex, religion, politics as well as any negative comments about others. Not only can they damage your professional reputation they can get you in hot water with HR. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it is best to not express them in the workplace.
The Hot Head – I know you work with people like this and I would be remiss if I did not mention them. Some people who may see themselves as just being passionate about their job in fact come off as being a hot head. Hollering, shouting, loosing your temper are all ways to send the wrong message. They are very poor communications methods and if you have them it would serve you well to learn to control them.
How Are Your Communications Seen?
Take some time to listen to yourself when communicating with others. It is likely you will find there are some skills you need to brush up on. Interpersonal communications is one of the most important skills a manager needs. It goes beyond the day-to-day communications with others. The message you communicate must build trust, respect and a sense of professionalism.
The next time you want to have a “good ole boy” conversation consider the consequences of your words should they be heard by the wrong person. More than one time I have seen someone taken to HR for something they thought was said in private or in confidence. It is best to refrain from any type of communications that can send the wrong message.
Your professional reputation is something that must be built and how you communicate is probably one of the most important factors. What you say and how you say it can improve or damage your professional reputation.