Have a robust work ethic December 2, 2011

Nobody ever drowned in their own sweat.

Make sure you’re sitting comfortably: this is a long one! Work ethic is a foundation stone of professionalism.

Professional people work within constraints to deliver results. They have a work ethic that sees them as reliable, punctual and motivated. They show fidelity to their peers, manager and the greater company.  They have a keen respect of their own self worth and that of their peers.

Professional people with a good work ethic are always analytical, use advanced questioning techniques (eg, 5-whys, to get to the root-cause) and use the results to inform their decision-making. They know that the more they understand of a given situation, the more informed the decision will be and the more effectively it helps the company reach its goals. Professional people don’t suffer from group think and are not timid in expressing a contrary view or testing conventional wisdom. Though, professional people admit they can be wrong.

Professional people use established systems, follow policy and procedure and use the inherent tools (like checklists and flowcharts) in their work, to ensure the job is done thoroughly and right every time. They liberally propose and implement revisions to policy and procedure that will better the process (less work, better effect, lower cost, improved quality).

Professional people choose their mood at work, and know that personal problems must be left at home, and never made an issue at work. They organise their personal lives to make this possible, but they take personal time off when they know they need it and when it will least affect the company. They never work themselves into the ground and use weekends to relax so they can perform effectively at work the next week.

Professional people are self-disciplined. They acknowledge it’d be nice to work only on the “fun stuff”, so they persevere and develop systems to minimise the boring work.  They work efficiently so the most amount of time can be spent on the sexy things that will help the company reach its goals.

Professional people are sincere and honest in their communications and work.  They are courageous and hold forth their well-formed opinions when working in teams, with a view to helping the team succeed and deliver results. Courageous people have the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. Professional people with a good work ethic are frugal – showing economy and simplicity of style, without being miserly – and spend company resources to meet department targets, while observing the current priorities of the company.

Professional people never take the “them and us” or “it’s not my job” approach. They lend a hand when their area of expertise is called for, manage their own workload to ensure this is possible, but provide guidance to others that helps them develop their own skills, actively working to de-key-man-ify themselves.

Professional people demonstrate their work ethic by having attention to detail, while keeping an eye on the larger picture, to ensure that detail is actually adding value. They always aim high and are resilient, learning from their mistakes, regrouping, then get going again with renewed speed, conviction and confidence.

Professional people never “play games” with their peers, managers, or their employer. They have an “uncarved wood” approach, truly believing that with hard work and a good sweat, a problem can be solved, the wood can be shaped as the company needs it, with no excuses.

Professional people are careful to never embarrass themselves by speaking authoritatively on a topic in which they have limited experience and never embarrass their manager by misleading, lying, or embellishing. They hold confidential information secure, respect the need for security systems (codes, passwords, keys, access, etc), and the associated rules and guidelines.

Professional people with a good work ethic are responsible for their area of work, but also for their expertise, training and professional development. Professional people aim to work to minimise negative impact on others’ ability to deliver results and being mindful of the value of other people’s time, for example, providing sufficient notice for leave, or engaging in a conversation that takes another person away from their work.

Professional people with a good work ethic invite feedback from all quarters, but act with particular intensity on feedback from their manager in a performance review, as they know this is the “purest”, most distilled, considered, honest and key areas they need to work on more, and are already excelling in.

Professional people keep their work space clean and neat, organise files and data in line with company requirements. They perform administrative tasks diligently and efficiently. They organise their emails sensibly, using folders and use their in-box as a “to do” list. They are conscious of never becoming a bottleneck, where they are holding up others on delivering results.

Professional people are conscientious of their presentation. They don’t over present (style over substance), but appreciate that making something look good helps others understand and appreciate their effort. They use company-standards and systems for presentations.

Overall, professional people with a good work ethic are the sort of people others enjoy working with. They have an interest and desire to do a job well, while having a positive attitude.

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