Tony Adam

Entrepreneur, Marketer, Aspiring Polymath


Professionalism: Let's have a toast for the douchebags

December 28, 2010 10

One of my favorite quotes I try to remember every day is by Nas. In the song “Favor for a Favor” he recites “Favor, for a favor, that’s how we do business.” This is pretty much how people should operate. Now, I am not saying we should be literally counting the favors, but, at the end of the day, if someone helps you out, you shouldn’t let it go unnoticed. Most people might see this post as tangential at best, if so, feel free to move on. But, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, so I figured, why not make it a 2011 resolution.

Why it’s important to show professionalism

The truth is, most of us are really good at showing a sense of professionalism. We make it a priority to build quality relationships and leverage those relationships for partnerships in the hopes of closing business development opportunities.

There are those on the other hand who do not understand what acting in a professional manner means. Doing things like showing up to a networking event or conference just to get drunk, attempt to hook up, or posture/show off is not going to win you points. We don’t want to hear how fat your wallet is or see you sloppily walking through the crowd. We’re there to learn, meet knew people, or to find opportunities…and sometimes all of the above. If you are trying to hook up or get drunk, go to a club, not a networking event.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep

A problem many of us face is we want to make people happy, but, rather than promising something you can’t commit to or follow through on, the best thing to do is walk away. There is no reason to commit to something you can’t follow through on and having someone “grin fuck you,” when talking to them just to keep a conversation going, is extremely annoying. I’ve witnessed many people make commitments who had no way of following through and seen people I know who will agree to do something, but, they never see things through.

I run into situations where friends ask if I could refer them business because they are looking for more clients, but, I usually won’t refer someone unless I trust the person will follow through. I rarely make these types of introductions anymore unless I have worked with or respect someone greatly. I am really cautious about this because I don’t want people to lose respect for me because I made the introduction.

Recently though, I had someone ask me a few times, so I referred them to a small client with what I thought was a small project. But, as you can guess, this person didn’t have much follow through, and the client was unhappy with their performance. Unfortunately my credibility took a small hit because I made the introduction, but, the person I introduced, theirs is shot. They probably won’t get business from the client, a recommendation, and introduction to others from them. While we are still friends and hang out, they will never get a recommendation from me again because of a failure to execute.

The last thing you want to be known as is someone who has no follow through at all, people won’t trust you, and even worse, people won’t respect you. Credibility and respect is something that is earned and we should all work VERY hard to attain and maintain it.

Having respect for someones time

This is something that really hits home for me because I enjoy spending a lot of time helping people I’ve met with marketing and product advice to making introductions. I love educating others and being a mentor to the people who have asked for assistance. It’s one of the reasons I love to speak at industry events and conferences, because, while I have a tremendous amount to learn, I like sharing the knowledge I have learned through my experiences.

But, what happens when you get someone who wants to “pick your brain?” Nicole Jordan’s post about the topic has been one of my favorites, because she sums it up best when she says “Creative ideas and connections are the real currency in this digital economy.” Many of us have spent a great deal of time building these connections and knowledge, and they are extremely valuable. We are also extremely passionate about the things we do, so, when we have coffee or lunch with someone and chat about their company, as Nicole points out, “doling out advice is no big thing”, and I could chat for hours on end about the topics I am passionate about and not realize it. But, if I feel I am being used, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth!

I have become a little more reluctant about allowing others to “pick my brain” because I don’t want to feel used, in my opinion, it is possibly one of the worst feelings in the world. People don’t really respect and value the time and passion we have about our work. Remember, earlier I mentioned “favor for a favor, that’s how we do business?” Before you ask someone – “Can I pick your brain?” – think to yourself, “how can I return the favor?”. Buying someone a cup of coffee is not enough, the time someone spends with you to talk through creative ideas and make intros to their connections is definitely worth more than a few dollars.

Don’t be “that guy”…or girl

Don’t make promises you can’t keep and follow through on the promises you do commit to. In today’s digital economy if you show some professionalism and value someones time more than you value your own, you will earn their respect. I guarantee they will want to spend even more time with you and help you out that much more.

There are 10 comments

  • Todd Mintz says:

    An awesome post that puts into words what many of us think…

    • tonyadam says:

      Todd, that's precisely the reason I had to get it out there, I've been sitting on it for a bit…but…it must be said before people start making 2011 resolutions!

  • Anthony Verre says:


    Great post that puts the all-important secondary minutiae at center stage. When you think of someone: client, a business partner, or even co-workers, these traits run an extremely close 2nd to the first things you think about that person. For some, this might be the first things they think about.

    Is this *really* professionalism? Sure. But I think it goes a bit deeper than that, it's simply being a decent human being. We all think people won't understand if you can do something for them, like you're turning your back on them, but your friends, your long-time partners, and even acquaintances, will understand if you're too busy or have too much swirling around you. They'll understand, eventually. Meanwhile, life goes on. If you act the way that you'd want people to act toward you, you'll never go wrong.

    • tonyadam says:

      Anthony, I think you are absolutely right in that it's deeper than professionalism and in fact, rather just being a "decent" human being. It's so important to remember that being a good person and treating others the way you want to be treated is so important.

      At the same time though, professionalism comes in when it comes to follow through and commitments…you can be a decent human being and great person but have absolutely no follow through (trust me, I have a few friends like this)…which is fine, but, might as well just focus on being a good person and stop trying to commit to things or attempt to be included/important.

  • Streko says:

    Should I have not let you pick my brain last week? :-p

  • @JadedTLC says:

    I was raised that you should always be "fair" and yet have found that many times other people are out for themselves. I don't understand this concept because being fair earns you respect and somehow many people are being promoted although no one respects them.

    • tonyadam says:

      Promotions don't really bother me because it usually is the big company politics that affect it…those people are rarely successful outside of that environment. But, to your point it is true, people that are fair and good people are often overlooked…kind of like the saying "nice guys finish last"

  • A very clear revisit to the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would be done by" or simply, treat others as you would wish to be treated by them.

    Perhaps the limitation under which so many of those appearing before us as "Unprofessional" and "disrespectful" is simply that they have never developed social graces, awareness and/or any social skills because their sole interaction with others in life beyond HS has been only via Facebook, twitter or some other virtual meeting ground added to which they also have a perverse sense of unwarranted entitlement to get what they want when they want it regardless of impact.

    Whatever the reason for their lack of social skills and incapacity for demonstrating any level of respect and appreciation for others, may I commend you Tony for putting this issue out to the web for discussion and consideration: Sadly though, it may well take far more than this to achieve the desired change in behaviour of those amongst who are so boorish, even painfully, embarrassingly unpleasant, in manner and attitude towards others that we have neither desire to do business with them nor inclination to ever encourage them in their attempts to do business by referring them to anyone other than perhaps to a guidance counselor.

  • Hey Tony,
    A cool article (loving the hip hop quotes, Kayne would be proud of the title)
    Couldn't agree more with all your points, the one that sounds out for me from 2010 is can I pick your brains or can you RT this link for me = not cool.

  • Vlad says:

    Best title to an article that I've seen in a while. Gave me a good laugh this morning. 🙂 Thanks Tony.

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