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Professionalism as a practice, By Ngozi Bell


Reality demonstrates time and again that people tend to treat you the way they perceive you

If you come across as serious or professional or time conscious, you will notice that over time, people will return the same “tone” in engaging you. If on the other hand, you are casual, or flexible, or unreliable, people will tend to treat you or the things that concern you in commensurate fashion. Some will outrightly avoid you in areas they deem important.

Is there an advantage to professionality or can we always get by without it, especially if there is some familiarity there? 

This paper angles only in the direction that in any business, formal or professional environment, regardless of familiarity, we must make professionalism the only practice. The suggestion is to take this on as a firm rule without exceptions. Practise this loyally and always because the benefits and outcomes guarantee at least one thing, that your mode of engagement will always be judged as, done well.

Professionalism as a practice!

If you treat someone as common, they will typically reciprocate the sentiment. If you treat someone professionally, they will reciprocate the sentiment. 

When things are done professionally, they get an air of seriousness, priority and robustness. Serial entrepreneurs generate several “currencies” they can spend in subsequent endeavours and be accorded the benefit of the doubt. The “currencies” include trust and experience. The truth is professionalism also has currencies, one of such is importance and another is value.

People like to believe their time is accorded to things that have importance, value, longevity, meaning, and worth doing. Knowing this, should drive the way you engage people. 

Perfection according to Emeka!

I remember when a friend of mine Emeka was pushing me on a letter I was composing as an invitation to a summit I was involved with. At a point, I felt his push and expectations were over the top, unwarranted for the scope of my letter.  I am pretty confident that had I stopped where I wanted to, I would have had the same response, the same outcome, because there was enough in what I had already written to attract the attention I needed. I soldiered on enduring his input till we arrived at perfection.  Later, when I thought about it, I realised the lesson behind his persistence. One of the impressive aspects about the whole engagement, was the attention to detail he encouraged. The goal was not so much about me being able to close on that engagement, but that I would leave an indelible imagery of excellence, thoroughness, and mutual importance with the intended recipient(s). It was necessary, that every aspect of what I wrote reverberated with the story that what I was saying was important, the way I was saying it was important and the personality I portrayed was important and that the person I was saying all of it to was also important. 

Important does not mean self-conceit!

Important does not in any way equal egoistic and should not exude pomposity, superiority or raging self-conceit. It does not permit a bombastic display of self-importance. On the contrary, important conveys that what I am trying to engage you on, is substantive, making it worthy of your time.  Importance conveys that I have taken into consideration, the weightier things as reasons for the engagement. For example, the things that you care about, are expert on or like to do represent what I have considered material to the engagement.

Important does mean important!

This perspective thereby places the emphasis of importance on the person you are inviting. It conspicuously demonstrates the effort to ensure that what fueled the invitation or the desire to engage that person is in concert to the particulars of what that person can contribute and simultaneously gain from participation. This is where the difference is made because the effect is akin to a peroration of commendation on excellence. 

You will get the best attention, one profuse with reciprocated interest, replete with desire to demonstrate worthiness and even when due to unforeseen circumstances, the time cannot be availed, you will encounter, the receiver’s lavish effort to keep the relationship warm and open. What invariably happens is that when you come calling again, you would be received warmly as known and noted. This is how and where long-term outcomes of ascribing importance really shine. 

Important does mean important and Dr. Kingsley Moghalu knows this! Kingsley Moghalu is a consummate professional in every setting. He has mastered the measured response that it inherently manifests. He engages from a zone that exudes consistency. In his engagements he wields a balanced convergence of formality and familiarity, regardless of environment. This creates an elevation that ensures that he is recognised, respected and a magnet for important encounters. Dr. Moghalu warmly but effortlessly symbolises importance, redeeming what is probably years of practised professionality.

Professionality is the antidote that eliminates the perils of the Personality Groove!

When professionality is the practice, the formal is important and the important is formal. It gives you the initiator or inviter/ engager the air of importance that sets you up on the right kind of pedestal for engagement. It demystifies the engagement in a good way so much so that, there is no longer a personality groove mired in sentiments and stymied by sympathies. Essentially, there is no emotion on whether that person accepts your invitation or not or chooses to engage with you or not. When this is so, you have successfully invoked the antidote to the perils of the personality Groove, which can be accompanied with   uncomfortable aftereffects.

Professionality hands you an office!

Professionality brings with it an office to which you can stand from. You essentially translate out of a common space, so your demands, requests are in professional capacity. Consequently, any response, riposte, or rejoinder the person makes, is then assumed rendered out of their professional capacity and office. Their decision may no longer be construed as their personal decision, which sometimes can have uncomfortable circumstances around it. Having an office to lean on, hands you a predictable positive outlook regardless of the specific outcome. This is a big benefit, you just created two precious assets of importance and value, currencies you can spend at a different time.

Unintentional Consequence of Expectation!

The benefit of avoiding the personality groove is that you also simultaneously eliminate the unintentional consequence of expectations which invariably accompanies the personality groove. 

When professionalism is chosen, it avoids that unintentional consequence of someone having an expectation of another person, based solely on the personal knowledge of that person. The who is asking, or the requester assumes the largest role, regardless of what is being asked, the schedule for when it is required and if the person being requested stands to gain anything or even find mutual benefit. It eliminates the fundamental need for the requester to be acutely aware of the interests of the requested and absolves the requester from any wastage of the resourcefulness of the person they have made a request of. This perception usually results in an unuttered predictable negative outlook regardless of the specific outcome, which is usually a decline.

Personality as a Bonus!

To be clear, there remains plenty of value to the contributory role of the personality of the requester. Tastefully invoking personality, does not negate good outcomes in any way, instead, it enhances it. So it does not diminish the value of one person knowing the other person well enough to leverage some gravitas by spending some of their “assets” represented as a familiarity currency which personal relationships provide. Leveraging personality appropriately, does not negate professionalism. It however, gives the other person the ability to make a sound decision. A sound decision invariably yields a sound engagement. 

If someone responds to an invitation, they find value in and simultaneously have personal familiarity with the invitee, specific outcomes and longer-term outlooks are so much better and worthier. When this equilibrium is attained, the invited when they participate, are prepared, excited, want to make you proud. In addition, they come with the added benefit of a professional engagement and come with their A game. They are determined that people including you, see them as professional, that people observe that your personal connection is reliable, stellar and the weightiest choice all along. They want to look good and make you (their personal connection) look good. It becomes a win-win. This type of outcome in turn enhances and celebrates the personal relationships involved, thereby demonstrating personality as a bonus.

Dangers of the Personality cult!

Leaping from the preceding section, the opposite is also possible. When personality looms very large and yields a response that is largely ascribed to the personality of the requester, the dangers of a personality cult show up. Some examples a personality cult yield could be:

The requested views the engagement from the lenses of a debt owed – Thus, the response from the invited might be accompanied by fear, apprehension, trepidation or just the opportunity to pay back. 

The requested has tremendous respect for you (the requester) – Thus, they will come with the dominant concern being to not let you down versus being concerned to give a best performance. You, become the key focus.

The requested has little to no regard or respect for you they don’t respect you (the requester) – Thus, they will come with a disputatious, dismissive and sometimes demeaning attitude. They might display an expectation of mediocrity as they try to reckon with the worthiness of the engagement or event. They will most likely see their participation as doing you a personal favor.

Call to action! Call to Professionalism!

When you seek to engage the participation of others in any activity that you deem important enough to work hard on resist the urge to make the process common or casual just because of your familiarity with those you are targeting. 

Try to think positively about doing things well and presenting invitation to participate in a way to make your invited feel the engagement would be worth their participation.

Put your event or engagement on the right pedestal, put yourself on the right pedestal, put your contacts and invitees on the right pedestal. Set things up so that those invited to engage look up to it, making it important and weighty to all. 

The outputs that ensue will be effective because you have planned with elevation. We know that solutions and great outcomes come from an ascended place beyond where issues exist. Ascension gives better perspective and better views. 

Note that all of this is strictly business – Happy engaging professionally always! 

About Ngozi Bell

Inspiration, Hard Work, Innovation. These three foundational elements anchor Ngozi’s core belief that manifesting the extraordinary is always within reach. Inspired by her mother A.C.Obikwere, a scientist and author, she learned the privilege of living at the edge of important encounters and dedicating herself to robust and perpetual learning. Ngozi’s background is a combination of Physics, Engineering, Venture Capital/Private Equity, regulations, and business where she has managed over $1B in cumulative revenue. Ngozi is a speaker, storyteller, and writer on a diverse set of topics including AI, iDLT, ML, Signal Processing, iOT, women, entrepreneurship and more. She contributes regularly to VOA, has been a TEDx speaker and is published on tech and non-tech platforms. She is a champion of STEM, women, youth, art and the Africa we must engage. Ngozi is an adjunct professor of Physics and management with work

experience in Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and North America. She is a founder of a number of a number of enterprises and host of the podcast Stem, Stocks and Stews (https://anchor.fm/stemstocksstews-podcast).

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