Three Ways to Maintain your Professionalism (When You Feel Like Losing It)

I recently had an experience that tested my professionalism and questioned my greatness, at least it could have. I was at an important event and I had promised my client that the feedback forms that I handed out painstakingly to every one of the hundreds of people in that room, I would collate and get that feedback to them. Not only that, but on the feedback forms, we ask individuals if they would like us to get back to them and, specifically, what services they would they like to know or get more information about.

I had left the room to go to my book table and chat with the attendees. By the time I came back in, not 20 minutes later the entire ballroom was cleared away. Not a scrap of paper, not a table linen, nothing left.

How can you maintain yourself as a professional when you have a big mishap? How can you stand in that place of your greatness even when you’re really stressed?

When we don’t stand in that place of our own integrity and our greatness, what happens is, you don’t live your brand. For those of you who are working in organizations, you may not think a brand is that important but let me assure you that who you are, what people think of you when you’re not there or how people describe you, that’s your brand and you need to maintain it. Consider this – we don’t like ourselves later when we react in a way that isn’t kind or that is not a reflection of the real us; we beat ourselves up about it and perhaps lose sleep over it. People may see us differently, be less likely to recommend us, and we may have fewer opportunities.

In this story, the service staff was working as hard as they could. Perhaps they had a mandate to get that room turned around in 15 minutes or less. Far be it for me to yell at them and make their job miserable.

The positives and benefit of having an experience like this are, it really tests you as if you truly are who you say you are. If you put on a confident, professional, respectful air, are you this way even when things get tough? People are watching. Case in point: I had no idea that one of the sponsors actually came back into the room while I was speaking with the staff. They saw how I spoke calmly and respectfully yet assertively with staff about the importance of finding the missing paperwork so I could fulfill my commitment to the client. Without me seeing they were there, I reinforced my message on recognizing greatness; imagine if I had ranted, raved and yelled just after I spent an hour teaching folks how to recognize the greatness all around them. Instead, the sponsor saw that I care about my clients enough to stay late to get that paperwork, I do what say I’m going to do, and I can recognize greatness even when it’s a tough scenario.

Here are a couple of things I strongly suggest you consider the next time you are really stretched professionally and feeling it would be so easy to just… freak out.

  1. Ask Yourself: Is it really that important?

It was important to me, that I explained to the individuals who had done such a diligent job of cleaning that room, was why it was important to get the paperwork back. Instead of, “get me those forms,” and “how could you do this?” I shared that I had a commitment to keep and if we had to go back to the two hundred participants it would make my client look bad. I could have yelled and ranted and made such a nuisance of myself that they would try to find them to make me be quiet, but instead, one staff member really got why it was so important, and rallied her colleagues to go find the missing paperwork. When not all was recovered, I shared the why with the supervisor, and she made sure the rest was found.

If you’re the one handling the situation where someone else is upset, can you help them ground him or herself in why it is so important? It’s easier to deal with someone out of control when you’re both on the same page about why this is important. If it’s you, consider: Why does this bother me so much? Why is this so important? When you’re clear on your why, you get clearer on the most appropriate path forward.

  1. Remember: To err is human

Remember that the other person in front of you or in that context who has created that stressful environment is a human being. Things are going to mess up. There are going to be miscommunications, misunderstandings, missteps, it’s just normal (as a matter of fact, I’m writing a book about how failure is so commonplace, it’s your mindset and the context that matters…but more on that later). If you expect that there’s going to be tension, stress, and problems from time to time, then it is not as big a deal when it happens. It’s not a personality flaw, laziness or incompetence, necessarily (and let’s face it, we often jump to this conclusion); it’s just human nature for mistakes to happen. Unless it’s a traumatic situation, accept it and move on to finding a solution.

  1. Practice: A calm approach

Ask yourself, if you will be able to live with yourself behaving in the way you want to behave at this moment? When you’re stressed, your reptilian brain is the one that’s running the show, as opposed to your higher order prefrontal lobe that can reason and solution-find. When you remain calm, you’re actually more resourceful. If you let yourself blow your stack, it takes a while for the cortisol (your stress hormone) to stop flowing through your brain. As much as possible, you want to stop that cortisol rush in the first place. And in the process, you are better able to tap into your greatness as opposed to operating from a place of deficits.

If that seems tough, consider this: what if someone caught the situation on tape. Would you be comfortable with how you handled it if your family, kids, parents, employer or prospective client watched? What if it went viral (as some of these freakouts have). Would you be embarrassed? Or, if your calm reaction were caught in a very frustrating situation, would you be proud of that? Be the hero in your own life!

I hope you found these suggestions helpful because, we all have situations that don’t go very well on a day-to-day basis and it is okay, but you can still rock your greatness in those situations too.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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