In the professional business world there are many mentors, coaches and HR executives to teach established standards of professional behavior. And while some rules are unspoken, it’s easier to notice them when you’re the only one at the conference table wearing flip flops and smacking your gum.
There may not be a professional code of conduct for online entrepreneurs and as we are often isolated from one another it’s even more difficult to observe and emulate professionalism in the field. I would like to highlight a few habits that seem prevalent and why it’s so important to reverse this downward trend.
There’s a disturbing trend in online businesses that I’ve observed and experienced lately regarding a lack of professionalism, which I see as attention to detail, being responsible and treating everyone with respect. Of course there are many more facets to a professional mantle, but let’s start with these three.
Are you sloppy in your communication?
Some of the biggest time sucks, by far, is trading emails for information and meetings. Usually just planning a meeting takes significant time, which multiplies exponentially as the number of attendees grows. When you’re communicating be clear and professional in every reply.
What happens is that we often get in a hurry and then sloppy by not writing out a complete thought. Such as when three meeting times have been suggested and the reply is “sure” or “how about 10am?” without mention of a time zone. Just as frustrating is getting a request for a call or information which lacks essential details concerning who, what, when or why.
Acting as if everyone has the information in your head is presumptuous and somewhat rude. It is important to give context because people are busy and overwhelmed already, so few will take the time to contact you for clarification which may leave you wondering why no one is responding.
No one is perfect, but do you act as if you are?
There’s not a single one of us who has not missed a meeting by mistake, been late delivering on something or made some other faux pas in business. What happened is not nearly as important as how you respond.
Many people default with an excuse which leaves business professionals sounding like whiny college students. “My appointment ran late,” “You didn’t remind me,” “My roommate turned off my alarm,” or “I got busy with something else.” It’s hard to tell which excuses come from which group but overall the message is the same – it’s all a version of “not my fault.”
Stand out from the crowd as a consummate professional and own up to your mistakes by taking responsibility. You may choose to provide some context for your situation but quickly shift to making amends instead of blaming the wind, your internet provider, a faulty alarm clock or someone else talking too long.
Taking responsibility not only shows humility but respect for the other person.
Respect is more than a song
Treating colleagues, employees, clients and even competitors with respect is a cornerstone of professionalism. Respect has many facets but my favorite description is simply treating others the way you want to be treated. You may not be a student of the Law of Attraction but over and over again I see that like attracts like. If you want clients who show up on time and prepared for calls you must do the same. If you desire a business where clients pay on time without haggling then you must provide the same to your team.
Respecting other people’s time, talents and opinion goes beyond the words, it must be something that you practice every day. We all know that actions speak louder than words so consider how you’re responding and interacting with those in your business. Unconscious action (or inaction) may be telling others that you lack respect for them which will diminish your professional standing.
You may be wondering, how do I know if unprofessional behavior is hurting my business? I’m sorry to say it can be hard to tell – especially as many will not call you out for it but instead walk away. What is considered professional behavior varies based on your industry, location, culture and so much more.
If you’re wondering if you are acting unprofessionally and maybe losing respect, clients and leads because of it, I suggest finding a mentor in your field who can give you an honest, outsiders opinion and suggest changes that are appropriate for your business.