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There are ways to organise oneself better. It is important to prioritise your work according to importance and urgency.


























Professionalism is usually hindered if an individual is unable to learn from mistakes, lacks the basic social skills, is resistant to new or different ideas, has poor accountability and lacks initiative




In order to be constantly effective, one has to be a high-energy professional.

The Power of Professionalism*

by Prem Kamath

he word “professionalism?evokes images of managers, of leaders. Professionalism makes itself obvious. For example, when we think of music, Zubin Mehta immediately comes to mind. So does Tiger Woods when we think of sports. In fact, the manner in which Tiger Woods recently congratulated the new winner, was the sign of a true professional. In other words, there was professionalism even in the way he lost. Even our dabbawalas are truly professional, a fine example of supply chain management and the proud subject of a Harvard Business Review. The power of professionalism in dabbawalas ensures that nobody’s tiffins get mixed up, that they are delivered on time at the office every single working day of the year.

All professionals have certain traits such as strong character, a high level of personal capability, focus on results, good interpersonal skills and, above all, the willingness to change. All these traits are backed by effectiveness, which is a result of qualifications, skills, competencies, efficiency, integrity and attitude. These form the bedrock of professionalism.

In order to be constantly effective, one has to be a high-energy professional. Professionals with high-energy are always assertive, focused, aware, positive and balanced. To be assertive, it is important to move fast and have the capacity to get your work done speedily. In order to be focused, one has to be fit and healthy. To be aware, one has to be productive. To be positive, one has to be result-oriented and to be balanced one needs to empathise with people.

Set objectives which are “SMART Plus? SMART objectives are:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achiever

  • Relevant

  • Time bound

  • +ive outlook

Take a public speaker, for instance. It is always easy for a speaker to talk with some aid or notes in hand. The challenge is when he/she has to speak extempore. This is where the ability to bring about a certain level of order in his/her thinking comes in. Thus the speaker is setting an objective that is “SMART Plus?

Set priorities

There are ways to organise oneself better. It is important to prioritise your work according to importance and urgency. When there is high pressure of time and you are going to accrue high benefits from the work, your work should get top priority. However, if there is high time pressure, but your work is going to accrue low or virtually zero benefits, your priority should be urgent but of low importance. When there is no time pressure with zero accruing benefits, your priority should obviously be absolutely low. When there is no time pressure with high benefits, consider your work as important, but not urgent.


 *A talk delivered during Administrative Professionals Week 2003 organised by the Indian Association of Secretaries and Administrative Professionals. Prem Kamath is Head, Management Resources India, Hindustan Lever Limited.

There is also the Pareto Principle to keep in mind in order to realise the power of professionalism. According to Pareto, 80 per cent of the results are achieved in 20 per cent of the time. Although Pareto has taken the 80:20 rule, in other cases it can vary from 70:30 or 75:25, etc.

Professionalism is usually hindered if an individual is unable to learn from mistakes, lacks the basic social skills, is resistant to new or different ideas, has poor accountability and lacks initiative. According to Thomas Kilman, it is important to aim for a win-win situation in handling conflicts. Depending on the conflict, you can increase or reduce your level of cooperation and assertiveness. When you reduce both assertiveness and cooperation, you totally avoid a particular issue or conflict. When you reduce assertiveness but increase cooperation you become more accommodating. When you increase assertiveness but reduce cooperation, you become competitive and when you increase assertiveness as well as cooperation you are collaborating, depending on the conflict. Somewhere in the middle there lies the big “C? ____ compromise.

In today’s hectic life, one has to strike a work-life balance. Chart out your work objectives, at the same time keep in mind your relationship with your family and friends. Know how you can be competent at work. But also remember your other interests and hobbies. Be fit and healthy, but at the same time think of your financial resources. You will notice that at times your expectations are too high. The following matrimonial ad, published in The Indian Express, explains this better:

“ALLIANCE invited for Pune-based multimillionaire Maharashtrian Hindu, independent widower, 39, 175 cms, handsome, well educated, enterprising, sober, non-smoker, good-natured, versatile, talented, fond of music, sports, fine arts, general reading, modern dignified living style, extensively travelled India, world, owning and controlling multifarious enterprises, holding positions in numerous social, educational, commercial, international institutions ____ from fair, beautiful, slim, tall, well-educated, hospitable, kind, versatile, sophisticated, good-natured, dignified, cool-tempered girl from cultured well-to-do family. Willing to share household, business responsibilities and participate in social life. No bars ____ but without encumbrances. Communicate full particulars, address, telephones to Box No. 6200-C, Indian Express, Madras-2 AI/MDS/W-3993/84?/font>

Useful tips

Here are a few tips (you may call them sermons) to help increase the level of professionalism:

  • Your character is your destiny.

  • Talk slowly but think quickly.

  • Silence is sometimes the best answer.

  • Sharing knowledge is a way to achieve immortality.

  • Don’t judge people by their relatives. That’s very unprofessional.

  • Never laugh at anyone’s dreams.

  • When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.

  • Smile as you pick up the phone, the caller will “see?it in your voice.

  • Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.

  • Remember that great love and great achievement involve great risk.

Here are a couple of quotes from two professional mountaineers.

When W.E. Mallory was asked why he climbed mountains, he replied: “Because they are the When Edmund Hillary was asked how he conquers the mountain, he answered: “By first conquering myself.?The question is: how willing are we to conquer ourselves to conquer that mountain.


Some tongue-in-cheek truths:

  • I love deadlines, especially the “whoosh?sound they make as they go flying by.

  • The more crap you put up with, the more crap you are going to get.

  • If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.

  • Don’t become irreplaceable because if you cannot be replaced, you cannot be promoted.

  • Only the mediocre are at their best all the time.

  • When you don’t know what to do, walk fast and look worried.

  • When everything is coming your way, you are in the wrong lane.

  • Bring ideas in and entertain them royally for one of them may be the king.

  • Don’t be slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter.

A few home truths:

  • Thomas Arnold: “The difference between one person and another is not mere ability ____ it is energy.?/font>

  • Henry Ford: “Enthusiasm is at the heart of all progress; with it there is accomplishment, without it there are only alibis.?/font>

  • Abraham Lincoln: “You can’t escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.?/font>

  • Woodrow Wilson: “Every great person in this world has a touch of idealism.?/font>

  • Mark Twain: “When in doubt, tell the truth.?/font>

  • Benjamin Disraeli: “Time is precious but truth is even more precious.?/font>

  • Albert Einstein: “Try not to become a person of success but rather a person of value.?/font>

  • Issac Newton: “People forget how fast you did a job ?they remember how well you did it.?/font>

The Last Word:

  • Aristotle: “To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved.?/font>

The TUFF-minded Professional:

  • Thinks big, dreams big and has a vision.

  • Understands challenges correctly, judges people accurately and plans his actions accordingly.

  • Focuses. Has drive, reviews progress, avoids obstacles.

  • Finishes all jobs. Has a high level of persistence, is goal-oriented and inspires others.

A professional is a team player. Remember the word “GRIPS? He has a GRIP over things.

He knows his Goals.
He understands his Roles.
He is good at Interactions.
He follows Processes.
He has Style.

There are three levels of professionalism.





When you’re positive,
and mature»»?

You become proactive  in your career planning »»?

You start seeking advancedtraining opportunities.

When you’re
committed to the
organisation »»?/font>

You enhance your professional  work ethics »»?

Start sharing skills with your team and customers. 

When you’re clear
about your 
job profile »»?

You prioritise your work »»?/font>

Aligning your job becomes one of your organisational goals.

When your job
has diversity »»?

You seek training or cross-training  opportunities »»?

You start responding to a diverse audience.

When you
achieve work-life
balance »»?/font>


You directly come  to the third level of professionalism.  You enhance critical  thinking skills.

Work ethics.



It is important to note that when a person is at the first level of professionalism he takes care of implementation of strategies thought out by a professional who is usually at the third level. The decision-maker at the third level of professionalism feels his decisions, which are often based on intuition and experience.

The power of professionalism brings to the workplace every day:

  • The commitment to build skills/competencies.

  • The urge to deliver strong job performance.

  • Living and breathing ethical standards.