The Pro’s Code: Be Honest

Part 8 in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 8: Honest: Communicates openly, has no hidden agenda. workplace imagesYears ago a wise mentor advised me, “Be honest and tell the truth, and you’ll never have to remember any untruths you have told people. The more you spin a web of lies, the more it will entangle you.” That was solid advice.

In my workshops, I ask participants to list their top three to five core values. I also ask them to consider how they live those values each day and how they communicate them to others. Invariably, a few people in the group will identify honesty as a top core value. When your behavior is aligned with your core values, you are presenting your most authentic self. When they are out of alignment, you present yourself as someone who is not true to the self.

There is much to consider when speaking honestly. You can either be honest or brutally honest. An honest person chooses words carefully, speaks with grace and kindness and considers the culture, environment or another person’s feelings. A brutally honest person doesn’t care about words or feelings; the goal is to tell it like it is.

There are different requests made of honesty.

Honest Opinion: What do you do when someone asks for your honest opinion? Since an opinion is subjective, speak to any level of opinion that makes you – and the other person – feel comfortable. Then it’s a win/win.


“Do these pants make me look fat?”

Response: “In my opinion, they accentuate your curves.” (The brutally honest person would say, “Yes, they make you look fat because you are fat!”)

Be Honest: “Be honest with me. Am I qualified for that job?”

Response: “Let’s review the position description and compare it to your qualifications. Then we’ll look at all of the facts and discuss anything else that either you or I know about the position.” (The brutally honest person would say something like, “Are you crazy? What makes you think you’re qualified for that job? No, I absolutely don’t think you’re qualified.”)

Straight Talk: “Give it to me straight. Don’t mince words. I can take it.”

Response: “What are you most interested in? What specifically would you like me to share?” You have to decide if the person really can take it, and how much. (The brutally honest person never needs permission to give anyone straight talk; it comes with the territory.)

Being honest requires some courage, especially when discussing controversial or delicate topics. One contemporary figure who is refreshingly honest is Pope Francis. When sharing his thoughts, ideas and opinions honestly, they come from a place of grace and integrity.

What would greater honesty bring to your work relationships? Your personal relationships?

The Pro’s Code: Use Good Judgment

Part 7 in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 7: Good judgment: All issues are thought through carefully and clearly; implications are considered before any action is taken.

ChoiceWith experience comes wisdom. An important lesson you have learned as a professional is to think before you speak – or act. It’s a lesson that often requires repeating multiple times throughout a career. Some examples of not using good judgment could include:

You don’t care that your boss is in a bad mood today. You ask for a raise anyway. You don’t get the results you wanted. You learn the importance of timing.

You exaggerate what happened in a meeting with a co-worker. You find out later that the new employee sitting in on that meeting just so happens to be your co-worker’s sister-in-law. Who knew? Open mouth. Insert foot. You learn the importance of discretion.

It happens to everyone in their careers…not taking the time to use good judgment to get the desired results.

Here are some tips on using good judgment:

Think it through. Don’t just act on the first impulse that comes to mind. Carefully scrutinize the decision that you are about to make or the action that you are about to take. Weigh any options.

Ask questions. Take a moment to ask several questions. Who will this decision impact? Who could I potentially hurt? What are the ultimate consequences of my actions? Is what I have to gain worth what I may potentially lose?

Listen to your intuition. If your intuition (or gut) screams out, “Don’t do it!!” then listen. Your intuition is always right. Your intuition knows when something feels right or not.

Question your emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence looks at human behavior from four perspectives: Self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

Consider others, not just yourself. It’s easy to put a thought, opinion or idea out there. Are you thinking of others rather than just yourself?

Learn from your mistakes. If you realize that you used poor judgment, then learn from the experience. Admit your mistake, learn from it and move on.

Here are a few examples of both good and bad judgment from recent news stories:

ESPN recently awarded its Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to Caitlyn Jenner for having the courage to announce her recent transgender transition. (Good judgment).

Donald Trump is back in hot water after making yet another inappropriate comment that caught the media’s attention, this one claiming that Senator John McCain was not a war hero (McCain was a POW in the Vietnam War). (Bad judgment).

A police officer in Texas forcefully arrested Sandra Bland, a 28-year old African-American woman, for failing to use a turn signal when switching lanes. The officer did not follow proper protocol (bad judgment), took Bland into custody and placed her in jail; later jail authorities found her hanging in her cell. The family has called for an investigation. (Good judgment).

There are positive and negative examples of judgment in the media every day. When you scan these stories, ask yourself “What would I have done differently if it had been me?” You will learn a great deal about your own judgment and integrity. Take the time to make the best decisions you can. In doing so, use good judgment every time, consider the consequences, and you will continue advancing your career.

The Pro’s Code: Be a Positive Role Model

Part 6 in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 6: Role model: Is a positive influence on others…respected, admired and emulated by others.

USWNT 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup Champions

USWNT 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions

You may have met people or even admired them from afar and quietly said to yourself, “I want to be like (insert name) someday.” There was something about that person that made you think that. Most likely it was a specific behavior, skill set or ability that caught your attention. That person served as a role model to you.

Recently, Americans enjoyed seeing some powerhouse role models in action, as the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated the Japanese women’s soccer team on July 5 to clench the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The U.S. team honored two of its veteran players, Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe, by putting them front and center, holding the trophy high at the awards event. These high performers served as role models and leaders to other younger players over the years. The trophy was immediately passed to every team member and coaching staff because everyone contributed to the team’s successful win.

Somewhere out there, young school girls and college players are envisioning their future success. They aspire to be like the U.S. women’s team members and the level of professionalism they each demonstrate both on and off the field.

As a positive role model, you are fully accountable and responsible for your actions, done with intelligence and grace. You are aware that others are observing your behavior, so you don’t make any missteps. For a closer look at what it takes to be a positive role model, read the feature article on this topic in the June issue of my e-newsletter, Q Tips. It may inspire you to be a better role model to the generations following you.

How are you being a positive role model today?

The Pro’s Code: Be Trustworthy

Part 5 in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 5: Trustworthy: Holds confidence with others; never talks out of turn, never gossips or talks about people.

Eleanor Roosevelt Credit: Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill

Eleanor Roosevelt
Credit: Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill

Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt, for your profound statement:

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Some of my most memorable conversations have occurred in the sacred space of meaningful dialogue, where I allowed others to openly share their thoughts and ideas and I did the same. It wasn’t small talk, chit chat or gossip. It was the meeting of minds on a new terrain of discovery. I came away from the conversations energized, uplifted and thinking differently.

To be trustworthy means that when people share information with you in confidence, it  remains in confidence; you tell no one. You have an uncanny ability to judge for yourself what is or is not appropriate to share. The professional who shares information in a confidential setting and then upholds that confidence commands respect from peers. If you begin a sentence with, “Let me share a little secret with you” or “You’re not supposed to know this but…” or “I heard that…” you dismantle your level of trustworthiness. Think before you speak or simply close your mouth and wait until you have something meaningful to say.

To be trustworthy also means that you do not engage in idle gossip. Gossip is the re-telling of a tale with an added negative spin. Don’t initiate it and don’t get pulled into someone else’s drama or ill feelings. If gossip that is generated by another person makes you feel uncomfortable, you have two choices. First, name it. “When you talk about Sarah this way, it makes me feel uncomfortable. I would prefer to talk about something else.” Second, redirect the conversation: “Tell me about your recent trip to Australia.” The person will get the message over time that you are someone who does not share a love for gossip.

Employers value employees who are trustworthy. In the workplace, defamation of character, which includes libel (false written statements) and slander (false spoken statements) can be grounds for dismissal or worse, legal action. Best to keep any negative thoughts to yourself and keep your job.

Don’t jeopardize your reputation and harm your credibility as a professional. When you  think certain thoughts and are eager to share those thoughts with others, ask yourself these questions:

Are my comments appropriate or inappropriate?

What do I have to gain by sharing these thoughts? Is it worth it?

How do my comments position me as a professional?

In building a reputation as a trustworthy professional, consider your behavior. You have more at stake than you may think. Following Eleanor Roosevelt’s lead, only you can determine if your mind is small, average or great.

The Pro’s Code: Be Selfless, Not Selfish

Part 4 in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 4: Selfless, Not Selfish: Puts the other person’s needs first.

Happiness-doesn’t-come-through-selfishness-but-through-selflessness.-Everything-you-do-comes-back-around-300x300How different would the world be today if more business leaders thought about other people’s needs when making important decisions rather than just thinking of their own? You know the answer. The world would be a far better place.

The most impressive professionals that I have either worked with directly or whom I have admired from afar are those who consider everyone’s needs, not just their own. Their world view is broader and more inclusive.

This past week was a busy one for blockbuster news stories, many of which encouraged us as Americans to broaden our national conscience, to be more selfless, not selfish.

Marriage Equality: The Constitution supports equality, all types of equality, for all people. The pursuit of happiness is one example. With the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex marriage is now legal in every state nationwide, people who were previously denied the right to be married simply because of their sexual orientation are now able to make a legal commitment to their partner. Many American companies welcome – and extend benefits to – the partners of their gay employees. Those companies have it right.

Immigrant Equality: Donald Trump was “trumped” by NBCUniversal because of his overgeneralized, derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants. As a result, NBCUniversal announced that the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants (partnerships between Trump and NBCUniversal) will no longer be televised by that network; also, NBC is seeking a new host of the popular program, The Apprentice, which Trump has hosted since its inception. How do you – and your company – treat immigrant workers (not just from Mexico…from every country)? Do you welcome them or treat them like second class citizens?

Race Equality: The issue of racism is very much alive in America and has been for centuries. For anyone who says that racism does not exist, encourage that person to sit and have a conversation with any person of color – African-American, Latin-American, Asian or Native American – and ask if it exists. It just may change their perspective. An excellent series of interviews entitled Racism in America: How Did We Get Here? appeared on the popular PBS-TV programs, Bill Moyers Journal and Moyers & Company. Many companies today offer diversity programs or committees to tackle these issues in the workplace. How well is your diversity initiative working? What suggestions for improvement could you make?

Overtime Equality: Expected sometime this week, President Obama hopes to present a new rule that raises the current cap for overtime pay (current cap is based on a salary of up to $23,660/year; proposed cap would be up to $50,440/year). This rule secures overtime pay to employees working more than a 40-hour work week. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal (remember that from civics class?) guaranteed Americans who worked more than 40 hours per week overtime or time-and-a-half pay. Rules have been relaxed in recent decades mostly in the retail and restaurant industries where adding the title of “supervisor” often doesn’t increase the pay to workers who work on average 50-60 hours per week. Do you value the additional time your employees put in? Do you extend appropriate compensation to those who have earned it?

To demonstrate professionalism requires confidence, compassion and grace. To move your thinking, your company’s thinking, and the national conscience forward requires acts of kindness, inclusion and selflessness.