Monday, June 4, 2012

Top three differences between old professional behavior and new professional behavior

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Social media blogger and author Allison Fine recently wrote an article in the Havard Business Review discussing the difference between an old professional and a new professional.

Are you an old professional or new professional?
Through a series of examples she conveys the point that old professionals are those who operate by ‘corporate’ rules of conduct. New professionals, or those engaged in the social media world, are connected; literally. They more openly wear their professional hearts on their sleeves and feel connected on a more personal level. They share hobbies and interests with others in the course of their work.  Fine asserts that corporations need to be like new professionals to succeed; shedding the corporate veil and opening up to the world.

While I agree with some points, I tend to believe that a proper mixture of old professionalism and new professionalism is needed to succeed. I also believe businesses do need to embrace social media but, not without some level of planning and oversight. 

I present to you the top three differences between old professional and new professional behavior and some thoughts as to why I feel a mixture of behaviors is the way to go:

  1. Guarded and closed off versus open and emotional
    Old professionals operate by a different set of standards when it comes to the public release of company information. They tend to close the blinds and curtains until a carefully formulated message is ready for public release, if at all.  New professionals want to get information out in real time. Yes, the opportunity to make public mistakes increases but it makes your company more ‘human’ and easier to engage with.

    The new approach is risky because it only takes one mistake to relegate you to the front pages of the social media realm for all the wrong reasons. I am one of the thought that designated, trusted individuals should be responsible for speaking on the company’s behalf in social media and that executive oversight is a good idea.

  2. Public mistakes aren’t acceptable versus being free to make mistakes and apologizing
    Public mistakes are the enemy of the old professional and are a direct result of that guarded, closed off persona. Time and time again we’ve heard reports of companies and celebrities putting out sensitive information or doing something outside the realm of reason. Oddly enough, many of these mishaps occur in the social media world.

    Everyone, old and new professionals alike, make mistakes. What’s really important that you don’t make too many of the same mistakes and view them as an opportunity to learn.

  3. I have to have all the answers versus I’ll get back to you
    In the old professional world, when a question is asked you are expected to have an answer and to be on top of all goings on.

    I am more new professional when it comes to this attribute. I tell my teams and colleagues it is acceptable to say, ‘I don’t know but I will find out and get back to you’ and that one cannot possibly succeed by holing up and working without communicating with the team.
In a sense, I am agreeing that we do need to be more transparent and accessible to the world outside of ourselves, however, one need be careful about the way they present themselves publicly.

There is indeed a divide as to what makes a person or company professional, what is considered acceptable and that it is likely somewhat generational. Fine argues that social media makes professionals and companies more human, in that they are more ‘honest, open, fallible, funny, and connected.’ Ultimately she says companies need to embrace the new professional approach to be effective.

I tend to assert the point that many pros, old and new, who are firmly entrenched in social media and use it for work and play, have a diminished ability to separate their front-stage persona from their backstage-selves.

All-too-often, the exact characteristics that are positives for the new professional are joined together with a feeling that it’s ok to be the ‘real you’ in all environments. Spouting off opinions without thinking (ala personal social media) could possibly alienate you, your company and those who support it by being too ‘real.’

The old professional is likely the real face you should have on in most instances because it is important to show respect, restraint, and patience. That’s not to say that being completely old school is the right way to go either. I suggest that companies need to find the right balance between openness and planning to be truly effective.