Fostering a Professional Work Environment – Part I

You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional.-Joe PeternoA professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.-Alistair Cooke

Your business depends on your reputation which can be greatly enhanced by fostering a professional work environment. Regardless of the number of staff you employ, the environment in which they work and to which clients visit should reflect your professionalism and the quality of your services. Unfortunately, some small business employees believe that a smaller work environment entitles them to a more casual approach to their jobs and the way in which they conduct themselves.A business owner stands with his professional staffIn an article published by SmartPros, James Ball discussed the importance of nurturing a professional culture in an organization. He said, “The concept of professionalism goes beyond ethics; it encompasses image, manners, respect, appearance, excellence, quality, expertise and other factors. Unfortunately, many of the principles of professionalism are not being fanned into a blazing bonfire in many organizations. Sometimes there is barely a flicker.” That’s where you step in. As the owner and operator of your business it is your responsibility to set high expectations for your employees and insist that they act in a professional manner.Here are 3 of 6 tips that will help you promote a professional work environment:1. Establish rulesIn his poignant article Ball went on to explain, “´┐Żunprofessional behavior exists when leaders inadvertently allow it to exist by failing to proactively establish, communicate and enforce a code of conduct and standards of excellence.”As the resident rule-maker it is your responsibility to make professionalism a priority. If you want your employees to act professionally you need to communicate what, exactly, that means. Establish rules regarding dress, customer service, office-interactions, etc. Once you have established a clear set of rules you must clearly communicate these rules and your expectation that they be honored. It helps to make these rules assessable in written form so that employees can refer to them often. In order to inspire conformity from your employees it is important that you not include silly or fussy rules that limit their creativity and unique contribution to your business.2. Practice professionalism and provide teaching momentsAs the boss your employees look to you to model professionalism. What good does it do to set clear rules for your employees and then break them yourself? If the rules are good enough for your employees, they should be good enough for you.And while you may not have gone into business to coach employees on professionalism, you are, in fact, initiating many of them into the business world. Take the opportunity to teach them how to exhibit professionalism, even if it’s just 5 minutes at the beginning of every staff meeting. You’ll not only improve the quality of your office, but you will aid in the professional development of your employees.3. Model respectA true professional is respectful not only to clients but to everyone with which he/she interacts. And that includes employees. Often the best way to teach respect is to model it. Treat your employees how you expect them to treat you and your clients. As John W. Gardner once said, “If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.”You can achieve a professional work environment, but it starts with you. Once you determine that professionalism is a priority you can take the necessary steps to foster and promote it in your office.Come back next week when we discuss the final 3 tips on fostering a professional work environment:

4. Provide positive reinforcement and clear reminders5. Invest in a comfortable and professional work environment6. Create opportunities for growth and advancement

ReferencesBall, James R. “How to Nurture a Professional Culture in Your Organization in Three Steps.” July 2007 Accounting.SmartPros.comKingston, David. “Creating a Positive, Productive and Successful Work Environment.” the-success-factor.comSolinsky, Keith. “Creating a Positive Work Environment.” 10 Oct. 2003. MomMD.com