Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Crowdsourcing On LinkedIn: What Does It Take To Be A True Professional?

“The true professional is a person whose action points beyond his or herself to that underlying reality, that hidden wholeness, on which we all can rely.” Parker Palmer 

Last October I started writing an article about the qualities of a true professional, and right in the middle of the first paragraph, an idea came to mind. I thought, "What if instead of writing it on my own, I do some crowdsourcing on Linkedin and pick up the brain of the many professionals on my network?"And that's exactly what I did and what a better place to do it than a discussion group. 

Of the many groups I've been honored with being a member, I decided on using the "Advertising Professionals" group because it has the largest amount of members in our industry. See the whole discussion on this link:

As expected, I received lots of interesting insights from professionals of different backgrounds within the industry which helped me to come up with some bullet points about the essence of being a true professional: 
  • You should never promise what you can't deliver. A true professional always under-promise and over-deliver. Once you lose your CREDIBILITY you'll never get it back.
  • When you're a true professional your actions should never be motivated by personal matters. You must always bring to work your ETHICS 'toolbox.'
  • You should never stop from doing what you have to do because 'this is not my schedule.' When a true professional is asked by his/her boss to do or work on something, you'll never hear the lame excuses 'it is not on my job description' or 'these are not my hours.' A true professional is a CAREER-ORIENTED, TEAM-PLAYER and RESPONSIBLE individual, who is always willing to give more than what he's been asked to do. 
  • Effective COMMUNICATION is a critical skill in every professional. Communication is a 2-way path, so listening carefully and expressing your ideas, clearly, thoroughly, succinctly and accurately should be mastered by a true professional. Either when you're writing an e-mail, having a phone conversation or standing up in a meeting, clear and effective communication is a must. 
  • True professionals are constantly motivated to learn and to keep that knowledge up to date, always fresh. They understand the importance of becoming an EXPERT in their field of work by keeping themselves up to date in the latest software, skills, tools, techniques, required to do their job.
  • Indeed true professionals are models of what every company's code of conduct book says. As a rare breed they are, they'll treat everyone respectfully and pretty much the same way they expect to be treated. Especially when interacting directly with clients and costumers, either selling goods or as a service provider, the way you treat them will determine how successful your business will be. So certainly EMPATHY, COMPASSION, RESPECT and HUMAN RELATIONS skills are in a true
    professional's DNA. 
  • True professionals, regardless of being in a position of power, are humble enough to acknowledge what is not known. They are also capable of admitting their mistakes because they are up-front and responsible individuals. Another HUMILITY signal is that no matter how good they might be, you'll never catch them neither gloating or in a self-praise, boastfulness speech. On the contrary, they'll give credit to whoever deserves credit and possess the best attitude to pass their knowledge to their peers.   
In a nutshell being a true professional is an attitude, a passion that emboldens you to do your work with unparalleled energy and contagious enthusiasm. It's way beyond salary and more about giving and serving. It's also about integrity, responsibility, commitment and trustworthiness. Unfortunately for some individuals, you can't fake any of these values, and that makes being a true professional a very powerful brand. A brand that anyone would like to be associated with.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Coaching and Mentoring: The Keys to Being a Successful Leader

 If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. John Quincy Adams
Coaching and mentoring are by far the most effective ways to build a team and become a successful leader. They create a strong connection between supervisor and employees by building trust and loyalty, simply because employees feel that they are being valued and appreciated by their supervisor and/or organization.

When an employee is working under the type of leadership that invests in their career advancement —a leadership that not only sets goals and objectives, but also gives clear directions and access to the resources they need to attain top performance— they become a highly motivated employee, and highly motivated employees are usually the most productive ones.

More Commitment and Higher Employee Retention

When employees are experiencing growth and advancement in their careers, it's extremely difficult for them to leave. Realizing that their supervisor cares, the feeling of gratitude for the newly learned skills, and the perception of being part of the team are all powerful elements that strengthen their commitment and increase the accountability on any given task.

Reducing Cost of Freelancers

It also helps you to bring everyone to the next level of skills, which in return will improve the quality of performance delivered by your team. In a very challenging job market, where good talent is scarce and expensive, you're better off investing time and resources in helping your staff to realize their full potential, rather than hiring an expensive freelancer. Just imagine the immensely positive impact in your ROI if you're able to reduce or completely cutoff the spending on freelancers.

In a work environment that's constantly changing due to technology and/or economy, quickly adapting to new situations is a must. If you are a manager these days, you're probably facing more work to do with less people to work with; or maybe you've been asked to stop spending on freelancers for the next two months, even though your workflow will not lessen during that period. This is the time when you look at your staff and wish you had two or three copies of your best performer; it's also the time for a reality check, and to start thinking about how easy it would be if your under-performers could develop to their fullest potential.

The Infamous Indispensable Man

Have you ever heard a business owner or an employee gloating about every time they go on vacation, their shop or office descends into anarchy and chaos? You can actually see how important and proud they feel when they're talking about this. Their ego is so inflated they're oblivious to the fact that there's nothing to be proud of. Nobody, absolutely no one, should be indispensable! And when we let this happen, it just means we've failed as managers.

There's a tendency with some insecure individuals, out of the fear of losing their jobs, to "mark territory" and keep a tight grip on certain important tasks that may require specialized training. This is a very common and harmful practice in the workplace and the way to avoid it is simple. As a manager or business owner you need to ensure your coaching and training programs are followed thoroughly as part of the process, never allowing individuals to come up with their very own "personalized system," i.e., user names and passwords to access vendors and client sites, when needed, must be available to anyone in the office.

In an advertising studio, we have individuals with different sets of skills and degrees of expertise. It would be almost impossible to have a studio full of know-it-all, Jack-of-all-trades studio artists, but what you can do is to motivate and coach the team so they can strengthen their weakest skills by supporting them with the proper training. So when your best production artist is out, your designer can handle the task of producing a mechanical.

Leadership is about giving and sharing knowledge, which is the most precious asset anyone can possess, with the only difference that whoever gives knowledge is not losing a bit of it, and this is a beautiful thing. An organization with a structured coaching and mentoring programs would not suffer much if one of the key employees decides to go on a long vacation or leave the company, and periods of transition, i.e., promotion or succession, will go really smoothly.