What does it mean to be “professional”?

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business-894846_1280When I started out training many, many years ago, I remember being expected to be “professional”.  Back then, that meant being suited and booted, leading by example by demonstrating the company values and always towing the company line.  It usually meant taking quite a formal approach whilst delivering slick presentations.  But is that what being a “professional trainer” means now?

A few years ago, I remember meeting a women (she was to be a new colleague actually) who delivered face-to-face training in her trainers.  I was horrified!  When we chatted about it afterwards, she explained that being in her trainers made her feel more relaxed.  She moved more freely and more easily around the room and it changed the energy of the session both for her and her learners.  She felt it gave them a more positive experience and not once had anyone ever queried why she was wearing her trainers.

I tried it a number of months later, working for a different organisations, and I saw exactly what she meant.  It was far easier for me to raise the energy level in the room becasue of the way I moved.

Fast forward another few years and things have moved on even further.  This week I attended a brilliant webinar.  It was really informative and engaging.  It was fun to be part of and I couldn’t scribble things down fast enough I learnt so much from it.

The trainer clearly knew his stuff.

But he was also running the webinar from his home office.  With his toddler son running about in the background.  and he made no attempt to hide those facts – in fact he said it from the get-go.  He also shared that this was the first time he’d run this particular webinar so to stick with him if he jumped around a bit.

Did those things make me thing any less of his ability to do his job?  Did I think of him as being less professional than he should have been?  Absolutely not!

He was honest, transparent, knowledgeable, credible and wholly passionate about what he was doing. These are the things that make you professional.  Not the clothes your wearing or the smoothness of your presentation or the state-of-the-art graphics that you’ve spent ages developing in your slide deck.

Focus on those qualities when you are delivering learning and you’ll always come out on top.

What do you think?  Do you agree that the definition of professionalism is changing?  If not, do you think it should be?  Share your thoughts below.

Until next time, happy learning.




Founder of Zostera Ltd and The Trainers CPD Club. I've worked in L&D for over 16 years across both the public and private sectors.

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