I'm not sure what comes to your mind when you hear the word "professional," but you know what comes to mine? Nothing. Well, more like anything and everything that is nothing but boring. You know, white-bread, blah, etc. Yet as working adults, it's a trait we're expected to mimic. We're supposed to be professional in the way we act, the way we communicate, the way we dress ... Because we're professionals and that's how the real ones do it.
But here's a question: When did being professional become a bigger priority than being ourselves? I happen to think trying to be professional is overrated. So here's what I'm proposing: Stop using "professional" to describe your ideal behavior and the behavior of the people on your team - and hey, if you're someone who wants to use happy faces in emails, I say go for it. Here's why.
Your team will be better and happier if they're able to be themselves.
If you're someone who encourages your team to be nothing but professional, stop. Remove that adjective from your vocabulary and start encouraging them to be the best versions of themselves instead. Why? Because you don't want a bunch of robot professionals working for you. You want unique and passionate individuals who all bring something different to the team. Once they're given permission to be themselves, they'll be much happier - and happier people work harder.
Customers want to deal with REAL humans.
You want your team to connect with your customers. You're not going to make those connections if you have a bunch of stiff employees people can't relate to. Put yourself in the position of your customer. Who would you rather interact with? The scripted person or the one who's real, has candid conversations, and has fun? I'll take fun any day. Encourage authenticity among your team, and if that means a casual dress code and using exclamation marks in written communication, that's OK.
Being genuine is way better.
We get it. Professionalism sets certain expectations about behavior - and some of those are important for creating a healthy work environment. But what are you really wanting from people when you tell them to be professional? I think it all comes down to showing respect to others. So instead of keeping professionalism first on your list, replace that with being respectful. Combine respect with an emphasis on being genuine and you have a recipe for a winning team.
If you have something to add to this conversation, leave your comments below. Emoticons welcome.
Brianne Martin is the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Mopro and she says, "Hi!"