Authenticity vs Professionalism

I was listening to the Tim Ferriss show yesterday on a road trip to Wagga and he was interviewing Seth Godin (link) and they mentioned in passing they would both prefer a surgeon who is professional not authentic. This tickled me a bit because the lads described it as follows: (this is the surgeon talking) “I don’t feel motivated to finish this surgery, so we’ll just leave it while I lie down” or words to that effect. I found this very amusing because in my career I am encountering this more often with the younger people. So I thought it worth penning this short note to those young ‘uns in the hope that the message gets through and we can maybe help people get back on the same track.

It’s fine to be authentic about your feelings and motivations. Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s important to have some self awareness. But it’s wildly inappropriate and unnecessary at work. In the instances I’ve worked with younger people they don’t seem to have a link in their brains between what proper work activities are and what non-work activities are. I’ve had feedback from kids saying “you don’t understand and I don’t feel like this is a good fit so I’ll go elsewhere.” News for you kid – every employer wants professionalism. We want you to turn up in time, be ready to work and engage with the job. You are being paid to do this. Your personal feelings should remain private during this time or discussed in an appropriate setting. Outside of that, it’s time to work and get the job done.

I have the most respect for people who under adverse personal conditions are able to buckle down and be professional in their work, setting aside whatever is going on to get the job done. I have much less respect for people who carry on about their feelings and blah blah while the job isn’t finished. I get it – things can be hard, conditions unpleasant or you’re tired. Look at what our grandparents acted: they got on with the required job without fuss or personal concern. I can still see my grandfather heading out to work on the farm with the flu and feeling completely awful. There’s a lesson in that stoicism.

I think the difference between these two states of being is half the problem in the world right now. Look at the authentic politicians in power for example. We certainly hear direct from Trump his thoughts, with any filter at all apparently. Does this mean his activities are professional? Even if they are at some complex level I don’t understand then wouldn’t we all appreciate a bit more overt professionalism? Coming back to the Australian government and I think a bit of professional wouldn’t hurt. Some outcomes for the people instead of inter party bickering and leadership spills would be great.

I’m no angel here though – I’m as guilty as anyone at times and this post is a reminder to myself to be stoic and get down to the business at hand. When there is work to be done – get to it.

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