Forget Professionalism, Think Clarity

If you’d like to be part of making organisations better for everyone, work toward clarity.

By Sam Robinson

It’s obvious what “professionalism” means, isn’t it?

  • It’s about how someone looks: shiny shoes, collared shirt, pants.
  • It’s about someone’s behaviour: please, thank you, my apologies.
  • It’s about someone’s competence: a high degree of skill, qualifications, memberships.
  • It’s about someone’s reputation: a known expert in the field.
  • It’s about someone’s level of dedication: my word is my bond.

In other words, it’s not at all obvious.

And seeing as it could mean at least 6 different things, why do we still insist on using it?

One of the many good things about my work is that I get to understand lots of different organisations. Energy producers, IT companies, law firms, coal mines, port authorities, religious institutions. All organisations are different and have their challenges as well as things that are improving, going well, and about which people are justifiably proud. 

What’s the common theme among the success of all these organisations? In one word:


When people know what they are expected to do and why. When they have meaningful conversations that share common context and purpose. When they speak up when things are going well.

And the common theme where things seem like they’re going backwards? In one word:


I’m not sure what the expectations are. I’m constantly getting blindsided by feedback that doesn’t make sense. We know what we’re doing but they’ve got no idea.  

If you’d like to be part of making organisations better for everyone, work toward clarity. I don’t mean your own clarity or just telling people what you mean. I mean listening, inquiring, reflecting, and then saying what you mean – no more, no less.

You can start by dropping the word professionalism.

At LKS Quaero, we support our clients to set and communicate effective expectations at work. For more information, visit us at or follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook.