Blog: Characteristics of a Professional – Take Responsibility For Your Actions

On May 9, 2013 I posted a blog about the difference between a job, a career, and a profession. You can read that blog post here: Since then, I have made several presentations where I have spoken about being a professional, and what it means to be a professional. I have turned these speeches into a series of blogs about the characteristics of a professional that will run over the next few weeks.

What does it mean to be a professional? While different people will come up with different traits that they think a professional should have, I hope that my list of the characteristics of a professional will be a cause for thought about the way we all behave and what we look for in people we interact with as signs that we are dealing with a professional.

The 10 characteristics are not being presented any particular order; I do not think that any of them are more or less important than the others. The characteristics that I will discuss in the upcoming weeks are:

  • Take responsibility for your actions
  • Participate in community learning
  • Duty to others
  • Be part of the solution
  • Be patient
  • Look ahead. See more than today.
  • Make certain that a victory is a positive victory
  • Practice what you preach
  • Be somebody else
  • Remember the era we live and communicate in

Take responsibility for your actions

I think that this is something that is missing in the world of business today. There are two sides to taking responsibility. The first side is when we do something right and well, we should be able to take the credit and be proud of our work without boasting or bragging. The second side is a bit more challenging. When we do something poorly, or incorrectly, or forget to do something, we should admit to it and take responsibility for it. And then, just as importantly as admitting our mistake, we should do everything that we can to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

One of the ways that I take responsibility for my companies is by attaching my name to it. The names of almost all of my companies all start with HOCK. If someone in my company makes a mistake, then I am responsible for that. I have always believed that when you make a mistake, the best thing to say is, “I’m sorry, but I made a mistake. I did not do what I said I would. I apologize and this is what I am going to do to make it right.” Then, just do it without any excuses and without passing the blame.

Somewhat connected to the idea of taking responsibility is that I wish more people would be willing to say, “I don’t know.” If someone asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, or asks you to do something you don’t know how to do, just be upfront and say, “I don’t know.” But, you need to take responsibility for your not knowing and go one step further. You could say, “I do not know how to do that, but I would really appreciate if you could show me.” Or, “I do not know how to do that yet. Can you tell me where I can learn?” Making something up is self-serving and possibly insulting to the other person, and only delays the inevitable of the person finding out you do not know.

Whether it is in the form of the name of your company or just “owning” your work with your signature, take responsibility for what you know what you do, both positive and negative. Not only that, but you should also take responsibility for what you do not know, and find out how you can learn it. The world is full of people who want to share their expertise with you, and the exchange of knowledge is how we all grow as professionals.

Brian Hock, CMA, CIA
HOCK international