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Understanding Professionalism and Developing Professional Skill Sets

Long time ago, I read a series of novels by Peter O’Donnell which had a team, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin, that ran a crime network and then retired.

Long time ago, I read a series of novels by Peter O’Donnell which had a team, Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin, that ran a crime network and then retired. This was the time of the Cold War and getting into the Iron Countries was next to impossible, and you were monitored constantly by the secret police of that country. The two protagonists used to pose as buyers of second hand books and visit all these countries regularly, each year, just to create an innocuous profile and allay the fears of the secret police, in case they needed to criminally operate in the country some time later.

They did this boring and tedious thing, for no short term gain, because they were consummate professionals and the payoff could be huge in the long run.

Although a bad example of professionalism, it underlined the concept very well to me.

I am not advocating an intensity that borders on the fanatical. However, I am suggesting that we should understand what our profession is about, and what determines professional success and train ourselves to acquire the traits, skills and mindset necessary. After all, we will be paid for our professionalism and it behooves us to provide the best value for money. It makes self-marketing sense.

Management skills are of 4 types:

  1. Conceptual Skills: Mental ability to analyse and diagnose complex problems
  2. Interpersonal skills: Ability to work with, understand and motivate people, both individually and in groups
  3. Technical Skills: Ability to apply specialised knowledge and skills
  4. Political Skills: Ability to enhance one’s positions and build a power base

It is imperative that we understand, given our goals, what skills are required to do a professional job, based on the above classification. We need to analyse if we possess these at an adequate level and if not, create a plan for learning about these skills and then practicing them till we have the right level of expertise.

A portion of time in any Top MBA college needs to be set aside each day towards identifying and subsequently honing these skills. We cannot read a book and be a professional unless we practice it till it is second nature.

A part of this pertains to professional conduct. Although an organizational culture plays a large part in defining condonable conduct, a large portion can and should be learnt early on. The ability to meet deadlines, a sense of urgency, behaving appropriately and ethically is skills and qualities that need to be learnt, especially if a lot of unlearning is required. What better place to start than a campus which allows this experimentationScience Articles, without the risk of getting fired?


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Prof. Chandra Kant, is an alumnus of IIM Calcutta and currently, a senior professor at Indus Business Academy, a top MBA college in India. He teaches, change management, business leadership and Self Management.

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