Thursday, May 21, 2009

Authentic Professionalism (TM)

photo by Danette

What would it be like if you could still be yourself while being a professional? Do you think it's possible? What images are conjured by the word "professional"? Anything you want to be?

These are questions I explored when creating Authentic Professionalism (TM) in response to a request from the wonderful Danette Relic. Danette is a part of a rocking group of woman, including hoopdance instructor Allison Tarr and massage therapist Michelle Yee, who refer to themselves as a Power Pod. These women are vibrant, creative, loving and full of kick. They regularly meet and support each other in pursuit of their dreams. Danette asked me if I would talk to them about professionalism, a topic that kept coming up at their meetings.

The more I thought about it, the more inspired I became. I wanted to create something that would help these women and other creative independents define themselves as professionals in a way that they could really get behind. Instead of a boring definition full of "shoulds," what would it be like to create an authentic professional code that represented who you are and what you want to bring to your work? What would it be like to have an authentic professional code that would serve both as inspiration and also as a guidance system en route to your dreams?

There is an oppressive myth out there that in order to be taken seriously, to be successful, to make money, to be professional, (feel free to add your own words), you must fit a particular mould, do things a certain way. And if you're an independent spirit, a creative being inspired to start your own business, build your own practice, share your own creations, I know one thing -- you didn't choose that path because you wanted to do things just like everyone else. The beautiful thing is that each part of the process can be a part of your self-discovery and self-expression.

When I worked through the Authentic Professionalism (TM) process, I was surprised to find that one of my professional standards is "style." Seeing that helped me define my priorities and understand how deeply committed I am to my business being a work of creative self-expression. If you were to create your own unique set of professional standards, what would they be? What can you get behind?


Lori-Lyn said...

Wow. This is powerful stuff.

Danette said...

Yes indeed! Jamie, your workshop continues to birth insights for all of us in the Power Pod. I love that you are inspired by this work, you are so very very good at it.

I love to imagine the impact of your work, how it would ripple out...

You are stylin'.

rock, paper, scissors said...

Wow Jamie!! This really resonates with me. I wish I had just such a kicking group of women around here. I've been a square peg trying to pound myself in to the round office worker mould for years. I finally have the opportunity to really discover new paths for myself.

Holly said...

Years ago, I was a director of a Public Relations department for a major hospital. It was going through changes. They hired a psychiatrist who had re-mapped himself as being a professional change agent. Read: hatchet guy.

At any rate, I could just tell he didn't much care for me and my style. So, when it came for my day to be caught in the cross-hairs of his gun, he followed me around through my day to see how I operated an interacted with things.

At the end of the day, we were sitting in my office and he was looking at me in a very calculating way before he said,"You know, there's a lot of people in the upper management that don't think you're the right person for this job."

"I suppose that could be true for most of us. Seems there will always be people who like you or don't."

He looked at me harder and says, almost with a note of surprise,"You're actually quite smart. I'm not even certain you know how intelligent you are."

I replied, "Thanks."

He continues, "Don't thank me. I'm telling you that you're not doing yourself any favors. You don't act intelligent. You act like a fool. Always walking around joking and chatting. It's not serving you well."

I leveled my gaze at him and said,"Skip, I don't much care how stupid people think I am."

Shocked he says, "Well, what the hell is wrong with you? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard a professional person say!"

And, very quietly I said, "If people think I'm a fool or stupid, so much the better for me. Because when I'm ready to show them otherwise, the element of surprise works to my advantage. Just like it did here today. So, go ahead, tell people I'm stupid. I like that way. It keeps me at the advantage when I need it."

He didn't say another word. But, a hint of respect came into his eyes as he wished me a good night and left.

I wasn't one of the managers who lost their job during that particular restructuring.

Which goes to my point of, you have to know who you are. Truly are. And all else comes from that knowing. In order to be authentic, you must know your strengths, but more importantly know your weaknesses so you can partner with people who can boost them and compliment you.

Thanks for this great post today.

Amy Sedgwick said...

Lovely Jamie! I'd love to hear more about "Authentic Professionalism" next time we get together.

Dia said...

what a great idea! When I began teaching Reiki workshops, I invited a harpist (2nd Degree) to co-facilitate, as she was so good at 'holding space.'

I am fascinated to read about HOOPING!

I just began teaching Tai Chi/Qigong again, & enjoy various dance movement forms - this sounds so FUN!!! I found the newscast on hilarious - the ancors 'twirling' along with Christabel!! & there was a con. mid April here in Oregon - how have I missed this revival??
Thanks for an inspiring post

Allison said...

You gave us such a wealth of information & brainstorming.

I am in the process of making a collage of all the elements that contribute to professionalism in 'my world' & enjoying every minute of it.

Thank you again Jamie!

KathrynAntyr said...

Brilliant. It is so cool how I find posts just at the right time. I haven't been by your site in a week or so and this morning I jumped on just for a moment before getting ready for the day. Today is a different sort of day for I'm giving a presentation to a group of people who are traveling from the other New England states. I've been asked to present a design concept for a campaign in November. As a rule I dress pretty casually with a little funk. This morning I was thinking "oh gee, what will I wear?" You see the expectation is that I dress "professionally." I work for a conservative place. I think I'll mull it all over my morning coffee. I'm likely going to strike a balance. I look forward to learning more about your authentic professionalism.

Suzie the Foodie said...

What a timely and fantastic post Jamie. These are very good questions. I love that you are so conscious to help us wake up and break the patterns of shoulds within a professional context. To have no mold. To be ourselves organically and find our personal style. Fascinating! And yes, what a cool group of women.

Brandi said...

jamie, I would love to hear more about this process! It's something I'm working on now-how to present myself professionally, and still be the rocker chic that I am.

for me, it's important to be casual and friendly (because I am) and still be responsible and timely about handling transactions, responding to emails, etc. Also, language is a big thing for me, I can be a curser but I won't do it on my blog or in a professional setting (even though when I do photo shoots, they can be pretty laid back). Also honesty. Wow, I'm coming up with my list just with your question!!!

Tori said...

Do you want to play along? I've tagged you for a '6 Things That Make Me Happy' meme.

megg said...

Yes, yes, yes, this FEELS right to me as a question, as a thing, as a post. I want to go back and read it again before I ponder your questions - Ooh, I feel like you have brought me back into the right brain again!!

(P.S. Hi!)

Caroline said...

How interesting!

I've been off-line a lot because I'm in the process of getting myself back into work as a Health Kinesiologist and one of the things I've determined this time is to be appropriately business focused. And definitely professional.

(An HKer spends their time balancing people to enable them to cope with all sorts of stresses from thoughts and emotions to allergens and pollutants - I had to smile when I discovered you were taking a balance break round the same time I was finding out what hoops I had to jump through to be allowed to practice again!)

solsticedreamer~laoi gaul~williams said...

ohhh thinks makes me think of when i worked for social services~there were always those who 'power dressed' you know, smart, corporate style and they were always the ones who wanted to climb the social work ladder. they always made me feel slightly inferior as i would roll into work dressed like a 'skater' girl. they always made me feel 'wrong'.