Does being a professional require a serious tone at all times and an absence of humor? Does anyone really believe this level of professional formality is conducive to getting anything done?
I’ve noticed throughout my career, the truly accomplished, confident and educated candidates and clients are in short- Great people to work with. Great people to have difficult conversations with. Great people to do amazing, hard and meaningful work with.
A few weeks ago I spoke to five references regarding a C-level placement. The tone of formality, the seriousness each one insisted on inflicting into each conversation was painful. These people had zero professional rapport. When one of the board members, the last one I spoke with, asked why we never worked with that particular hospital, I was brutally honest. Because every conversation we’ve ever had with that organization regarding a prospective search was bordering on a punitive conversation. Something that reminded me of a childhood reprimand from my Midwestern Grandmother or Sister Rosalie my second grade teacher. Every person at that organization that we’ve ever been in contact with was serious, mildly self righteous and what a team building consultant might consider “ineffectual.”
The movie Margin Call, based on the final 36 hour collapse of Lehman Brothers (pre-bankruptcy), has a great leadership lesson to echo this observation. Jeremy Irons play the CEO. At a 3am emergency board meeting, he asks someone to tell him what’s going on. He doesn’t yell, he doesn’t’ scream or raise his voice. The CEO asks the analyst to simply talk to him like a child– Just tell him what’s going on. And, he get gets the truth.
How much of what we need to hear is lost because we from the moment we formulate words the other party is bristling, defensive or just offended? Why are so many people so pissed off in so many conversations?
And, does anyone really believe this 1950’s parental communication style is effective in the workplace? Especially in healthcare where the emphasis on customer service is at an all-time high?
As a recruiter and as a business owner, I’m thankful for every good conversation. Even when the topics are difficult and the information not terribly positive. I’m grateful and appreciative when I have the opportunity to have great conversations with people who can communicate with integrity, a respectful directness and humor when needed.
I’m going to work a little harder this week with every conversation. The past several days has given me some rewarding experiences. Those conversations have made for great water cooler chats and dinner table conversations. This week, I hope to give the people I’m lucky enough to talk to, a meaningful conversation worthy of the same.
We can be serious. We can be professional. However, we can’t be great or successful if we keep taking ourselves so seriously and believe others should do the same.
(And, if you haven’t watched the movie Margin Call- At least watch the clip).