‘Professionally Unprofessional’

There is an ever increasing change in businesses. They’re becoming more aware of the needs of their teams and also in their understanding, from a branding perspective, that the people they hire collaboratively form, and add to, their company brand.

This is changing the way people are making hires. It no longer means that hard skills required for the role are the main criteria: they are looking for well-rounded people who they like and want to work with, possess the ability to do the job, as well as advocate for the brand and who amplify the company brand from within.

It’s actually quite beautiful when it works out. Instead of people fitting into the company culture at work, they’re forming part of the culture as an extension of their own. I think the difference between the ‘then and now’ is that there were business corporate structures that people had to fit into — now, the people they hire have the same vision from the start, and are naturally attracted to working with the company, and together are forming these new structures.

It appears that companies which are likely to join this people focussed movement are most often start-ups or those which have grown from an entrepreneurial vision featured throughout the company from conception. I believe what makes these companies stand out from the rest is their ability to be ‘professionally unprofessional’.

When someone described Virgin as an ‘unprofessional professional organisation’, Richard Branson said that for his money it was just about the best backhanded compliment anyone in business could ever receive (Business Stripped Bare, Page 28)

But what does this term actually mean and why does it have such positive effect on the people who come into contact with it?

The typical definition of unprofessional, according to yourdictionary.com is someone or something that is not in keeping with the standards expected in a specific position. I believe this to mean the previously expected rigid corporate structures.

I don’t think that being ‘professionally unprofessional’ means to throw these rules out entirely, but rather to create a vision that’s not borrowed from the past. I believe it means to have the freedom to think critically about whether those legalistic rules are still benefitting the company and some leeway is created.

Company structure is thus more transient. People are working from home and meeting online to work together, meaning a company is not limited to drawing from talent in one country but that their teams can function closely together with employees spread across the globe. It means to be real and authentic and draw from people’s strengths within the team, not based solely on their job title, but by their ability to add value by doing what they do well — whether it’s in their job description or not. This allows people to grow and learn how to do new things without feeling threatened that their colleague is going to take their place at work.

‘It doesn’t allow room for disrespect, recklessness or laziness, to be badly presented or poorly spoken’.

In fact is means that soft skills and the ability to form strong work relationships is more important than it used to be. It even transforms the way people understand leadership — from the now widely understood boss mentality to the successful millennial leader as part of the group identity, chosen by the group to collaborate together with a joint vision. The success comes from the strength and authenticity of the relationships.

Millennial leadership fish concept

I love how Jack Delosa puts it in his book:

‘When the professionals encourage others to follow their lead, unprofessionals are busy creating more leaders that amplify their message’, ‘While professionals are competing, unprofessionals are forming partnerships that see their brand travel further’.
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