Corporate Enthusiasm vs Professionalism – Which one would you choose?

If your business could encompass and live by one corporate behavior, which one would it be – Enthusiasm or Professionalism?

One can acknowledge that a business has the ability to embrace more than one corporate social and behavioral identity, but at the same time also appreciate that there must be a focus…so I ask you, if you had the choice between your staff being the ultimate professionals or have an enthusiasm and passion to succeed which one would you choose?

I recently had this conversation with a colleague of mine and you can deduce from the fact that I am writing this that we both had differing views.

professionalismWe work in the business finance sector and my initial thoughts were that, especially when dealing with organisations and senior management, professionalism is first and foremost. When trying to communicate something complicated and fundamental to someones business its imperative to convey confidence in yourself and your company.

Having been brought from the graduate level up in banking I have see this approach being taken throughout my career. I was fortunate to be promoted to management at an early stage in my career but noticed that a few of my clients did double take me at initial meeting, wondering how someone so young could possibly have a grasp on their financial circumstances and requirements. I could extrapolate that this is the same in many industries and cultures and not limited to my own circumstances. As my experience grew, so did my confidence and I think that it came from a basic understanding, from my perspective, to ensure that I came across as a professional and capable individual…a mindset that the bank was keen to encourage and support.

There were a number of graduates taken in on or around the same time as me, however over recent years I have noticed that there is a lack of middle managers in the banking sector between the 30-40 age bracket. There is an abundance over 40 and a growing number at the very early stages of their career but a definitive gap in the middle tier. The economic circumstances witnessed since 2008 across the world have most definitely had a bearing on the situation but I wonder if it is also not to do with a misguided approach to talent management? Not taking a risk on people who don’t quite fit the status quo or mistakenly reducing the more entrepreneurial behaviors within us all in favour of other more commonly recognised management traits.

enthusiasm-300x200My colleague was very much from the enthusiasm and entrepreneurial camp. A business should look to encourage its younger talent to express themselves while taking “acceptable risk” (within reason and under supervision). Given the right opportunities, a talented individual would show all of the attributes that would demonstrate future success that they would perhaps not get working in a credit averse and consummate professional culture.

I believe that there is room for both sets of behaviors in business and both have their benefits. But I wonder if the later, enthusiasm and entrepreneurial, mindset has a better chance of longevity. Aside from the innovation and self-sufficient culture beginning to show prominance in today’s culture there are also other hints of what I am talking about taking place. I previously wrote about a concept from Kjell Nordstrom called “Phantom Firm of the Future”. In it he examines ‘What do companies need to look like to succeed in the future?’ To explain he described some key traits they must have;

      • Need to be lean. If the structure of an organisation is too large, then it cannot adapt to changing circumstances. Look at how HP has divested in PC’s and is now focussing on 3-4 key core areas.
      • It needs to be Tribal – share knowledge, share values, form teams, use collective resources. “Hire for attitude, train for skill”
      • It needs to have an open network. Do you think that Apple could have come up with 500,000 apps for their devices in the space of just a few years? No, what they did was create an environment that allowed third parties to create apps for them and a space to offer them out to others!.
      • It should be nodal, a series of departments that can communicate and interchange to suit the work required. He used the internet as a prime example, lots of nodes with vast amounts of information all interlinked so that others can tap into their skills/experiences/knowledge quickly and effectively. “Siemens does not know what Siemens knows.” Firms have too many silos that do not communicate.
      • Need to be non-hierarchical. The business should be heterarchical. Companies are great at top to bottom or bottom to up communication and direction, but not so great at sharing across departments. Need to be more lateral.
      • Everything is temporary. No permanent structures, everything is projects based and flexible.

In light of the above, I would certainly say that hiring and encouraging passionate, driven individuals will generate success a lot more than instilling a culture of professionalism in your business. Interesting, Kjell uses McKinsey & Co as an example of a company which is well on its way to being a firm of the future. I would add that Mckinsey certainly appears to have a remit in covering off both sides of the coin and will be hunting high and low for people who have both sets of traits but enthusiasm might just be the deciding factor over the coming years.

Which trait do you think is more common place/important in individuals and is it possible to promote both in people and your business?


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