Being professional – pt. 1

A simple question

Agile Coach: How do you define “professional”? What is a professional?

P: Erm… I don’t know.

Agile Coach: Then how can you know if you are one?

P: (Embarassed silence. Then) Let me think about it and I’ll have the answer by next week. Is that ok for you?

Agile Coach: Yes, that would be very professional of you.

What is the acceptance test for “a professional”? How can we recognise one? What are the essential characteristics of a professional?

Acceptance criteria #1: A professional takes responsibility

If I see it, I own it: I’m responsible for resolving issues

If we see the world as it really is, and not as we want to see it, we can’t fail to see problems. A problem is the difference between the way the world is and the way we want to see it.

Responsibility is the way we respond to a problem. Responsibility isn’t given; it’s taken. Taking responsibility means we make the choice to do something about the problem. Responsibility means taking action to bring the world a step closer to how we want to see it.

No one else is going to solve my problems for me.

I can do it: I’m responsible for my work and my skills

If I take responsibility for doing something then I’m responsible for doing it well. To do it well, I’m responsible for ensuring that I have the necessary skills or enlist help from people with the right skills. I’m also responsible for my learning and growth.

No one else is going to manage my life and career for me.

We made this: I’m responsible for the results of the team

We succeed and fail as teams. It’s no good if my part of the work is done, but the whole isn’t done. If I see a problem with teamwork, I’m responsible for solving it. I expect and trust my fellow team members to take responsibility.

No one else is going to solve our problems for us.

Where does it stop? I take responsibility one level up

How far do I need to go? I can’t be responsible for the whole world. A good rule of thumb is to look “one level up”, go one level higher than the level I normally work at. For example, if I’m a programmer I will take responsibility for my code *and* for the code that my team produces. If I see a problem with team code, I’m responsible for solving it.

No one else is going to determine how far I need to take responsibility.

But it takes more than that to be a professional

Watch this space.