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Working with a Chief Executive last year, he was frustrated that his staff were not following basic practices of timesheets, project reporting and being disciplined. It was hard to get consistent information from them on the various IT projects that were running.

Now it was not as if they were inexperienced staff. They were not. Theye senior managerement were very experienced, and all knew teh benefits of not being disciplined and, of ccourse, they knew how to manage projects well. They were all Prince trained.

So what was the problem?

Well first the language. Be professional implies what? That they are being amateur at the moment. Now frankly that is likley to annoy a lot of people. You are saying I am being amateurish!

This was easy to fix. I suggested that we use the expression, “demonstrate our professionalism”.

Now this communicates quite a different message. It assumes professionalism. It is just that the professionalism is not being demonstrated. Now ask yourself the difference between
a) proving you are not an amateur, and
b) simply providing evidence of professionalism.

These are very different. So we used this phrase “demonstrate our professionalism” in the learning and growth perspective of their organisational balanced scorecard. Clearly it communicated a better message than the one that was communicated previously. One that allowed people to step up to the mark, rather than feel deeply unappreciated.

Have a careful listen to the tone of the messages you are sending out. What assumptions do they make? Do they assume professionalism that is merely undemonstrated? Or do they insult and demotivate?