I think we all like to think of ourselves as professionals. In the truest sense of the word, since we all get paid for what we do, we are professionals. If we didn’t get paid we wouldn’t be called amateurs, we would be called unemployed. I’ve written in the past about what I think makes a leader in business. This time I am going to depart a little bit from that idea, but not too far. I am going to look at what makes a professional.

This may end up being one of my shorter discussions in that it doesn’t really seem to take a lot to define what a professional is. It does however take a lot to be a professional in business. It’s that execution thing that most people have a problem with. It is very much like golf (one of my favorite hobbies). Anybody can play golf. Get the proper equipment. Dress in attire that you would never normally own yet alone put on. Find a place called a golf course. Pay your admittance. Bingo, you are golfing. Very few however are golfers. I guess by extension even fewer are professional golfers.

I aspire to be considered a golfer. Since I have no illusions over the probability that I will ever be paid to play golf, I suspect that being a professional golfer is out of the question. Notice that I said I wished to be considered a golfer. Being a leader, being a professional, and by connected example being a golfer is really not something you can proclaim yourself to be. Others usually have to do it for you.

Being a golfer, like the other two, requires a little time and a commitment. It takes practice and an understanding of your own tendencies and behaviors. I have learned that getting mad or frustrated does not improve my golf game. It took me a long time to learn this. Sometimes I occasionally forget it after some unexpected turn of events or particularly bad break and my score then reflects this fact.

Professionals understand that similar events occur in business. Competition is fierce and occasionally may seem to be playing by a different set of rules. Management and staff may appear arbitrary and misguided from time to time. As the various television commercials enjoy pointing out, humans are not fully logical beings and seem to want to do things that from the outside looking in are misguided at best, but from the individuals point of view may have been a viable alternative at the time.

Regardless of whether the ball is in the fairway, the rough or a hazard, a golfer will always try to execute the best shot they are capable of in order to achieve the best score that they are capable of that day. Conditions change; people are not machines so their performance levels may vary from day to day. Just because you were able to par or even birdie a hole the last time you played it does not mean you will perform the same way or attain the same outcome this time. The experience helps but as they say in the stock market; past performance is no guarantee of future success. You have to try your best every time.

Professionals are those that understand that not every assignment may be in accordance with their opinion of a correct or proper strategy. They may not agree with the decision or direction that is being undertaken, but like the golfer, they do their absolute professional best regardless of the situation. They don’t complain or foment discord in the business ranks. They look at the situation, try to understand the direction and objective and do their best to achieve it.

They don’t get frustrated or mad that the business is doing something other than what they would prefer. They know that won’t help or improve their personal, their team’s or the business’ performance.

In theory golf is a pretty simple game. Get the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible. Unlike so many other sports there are no opposing teams or people trying to keep you from your objective, and the ball doesn’t even move when you are trying to hit it. Despite these facts there are far fewer golfers on a golf course that there are people playing golf. You know them when you see them, and they don’t usually proclaim it. They just go quietly about their game, doing their best at all times. Their score usually reflects this.

Business as well is not rocket surgery (to mix metaphors a little, just for fun). While there is competition, their goal is not specifically to keep you from achieving your objective. It is more to achieve theirs. But like golfers on a golf course, there does not seem to be an abundance of professionals in business. You know them when you see them, and they too do not usually go around proclaiming their status. They just go quietly about their assignments trying to make sure that the business’ objectives are achieved. This includes even the assignments and objectives that they may not be fully in agreement with.

Especially those.

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