A very Good Afternoon to you!

I am pleased to be able to attend your closing exercise and share in this important occasion with you. The Tourism Product Development Company understands the importance of protocol and professionalism and today’s graduation signifies their utmost faith that you are ready to stand up and be counted as some of their best. For most of this week you spent some time at King’s House, a place where “Protocol & Professional Etiquette” matters most in Jamaica.

Here we receive Ambassadors and Heads of States, one misstep in protocol could result in national embarrassment or international disaster. I hope that your training assumed even greater significance because of your time here.

This afternoon I have been asked to share with you some thoughts on professionalism, the concept of professional etiquette and their impact on    successful organizations.

Let us begin by asking what is professionalism? The dictionary defines professionalism as: “the aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.” When you consider this definition you may then ask yourself the question, “What are the qualities that characterize a Protocol Officer?”

An organization may have articulable expectations you must uphold in your profession but each of you may have your own ideas of how to execute these expectations. You see, professionalism is relative and in part, based on individual taste.

For example, a company may dictate that professionalism requires all male employees to wear a suit and tie. Given that mandate, “Worker James” may decide to go out and only purchase black or blue suits to maintain his professionalism at work whereas, “Worker Johnny” may feel quite comfortable buying black, blue, purple or even polka dot suits.Of course my example is contrived but sadly similar things happen every day throughout the world. Fortunately we can avoid becoming “Worker Johnny” by ensuring we understand 1) the aims or goals of our profession and 2) the qualities needed to achieve these goals.

We cannot answer these questions isolated and on our own, however. As professionals you are partners with your organizations and together you must maintain a uniform or standard air of professionalism. To do this you must understand the organization’s mission and the impact it desires to have on the people it serves. If each of you sitting before me can answer these four questions, a very uniform understanding of professionalism and professional etiquette should begin to emerge and be shared by you all:

1.  What are the aims and goals of my profession?

2.  What qualities do I possess or need to possess to achieve these goals?

3.  What is the mission of the organization I have partnered with?

4.  What impact do “we” [the union of professional and organization] desire to have on the people we serve?

For starters you may already have determined

  • · a level of competency is required

    o The basic know how to perform your day to day functions.

    · A measure of thoughtfulness and preparedness

    o Not only knowing what is required of you but anticipating foreseeable problems and understanding the unexpected can happen and having some idea of what you may do. You can never forget Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!”

    · Diligence

    o Giving the proper attention and care to whatever you are tasked with- Nurse making a medical error.

    · And Communication

    o Ensuring it is honest and informed

    o Ensuring that it’s the right person getting the information

    o Story of nurse communicating information re pregnancy test.

I look at your bright faces and it becomes ever so clear that you, all of you, will be the faces, the hands and feet of your organization.

An organization is itself an entity but it is not the buildings, the offices or even the name by which it is called. It begins and ends with you the people, the service you perform and how effectively and passionately you perform it. The people you serve, your customers or patrons do not interact with the buildings or its fixtures. They interact with you; and what they remember about their experience, that is, the quality of your professionalism, will determine their disposition towards the organization by which you are employed.

Believe it or not, your co-workers are likewise affected. Your lateral relationships – between your peers; and your vertical relationships – between your supervisors or subordinates are strengthened or weakened by your professional etiquette.

(Watch the movie “Finding Private Ryan”)

Disrespect, gossip, rumor mongering, back talking and the like all lend themselves to a detestable and unenjoyable work experience. No one thrives in such an environment and these negative traits affect how you deal with the people who are meant to benefit from your professionalism.

Seinfield Show – what happened the morning after at the workplace?

Professional etiquette requires you to maintain your professionalism in even the worst of situations, one writer (Virginia Cary Hudson) puts it this way, “Etiquette is what you are doing and saying when people are looking and listening. What you are thinking is your business.”

(Remember the Oliver Show – where the person in the queue was given the clerk a hard time)

The person you are working with may not make you feel great but that does not prevent you from being kind, courteous and respectful. It isn’t easy, if it were, anyone could do your job and no one is ever truly rewarded for doing something easy. An individual is not born with etiquette. Rather, it is a form of behavior that has to be either consciously learned and studied, or observed and imbibed or adopted.

Employees who demonstrate professional etiquette at the workplace are respectful, courteous, considerate and are team players as well as team builders.  They have integrity and a positive work attitude; they are trustworthy and productive.

Mentoring is the duty of a professional (Nurses eat their young).

In one of my former professions, I recall getting a rather disturbing report from a lady about a brilliant and much respected staff member who had “purchased” a dog from her….except that he had not paid for it, despite repeated promises. She trusted him…he betrayed that trust.   About a year later, and perhaps out of sheer frustration, the lady discovered where he worked and ended up at my office door.  She made it very clear that she would not be leaving my office until she received “her money”.   To cut a long story short, I did my investigations, confirmed the veracity of the report, and arranged for the payment to be deducted from the staff member’s salary.  Of course, this was with his reluctant, but signed permission.

Were I unable to resolve the situation, the integrity of the institution would have been called into question in the mind of the lady who brought the complaint and the minds of those with whom she would have shared her unfortunate experience.

In this day and age of “branding” where companies and organizations are trying to portray and maintain a certain image to their customers or clientele, your professionalism will determine whether the organization for which you work will be known as

1) a great provider of a particular service and

2) a great place to work.

Should your professional ethics not be in sync with the ethos of the organization for which you work – do the honourable thing and quit rather than undermine the organization.

Finally, I want to talk a little about ethics – the moral principles that governs a person’s behavior. Simply put, ethics is what allows an individual to reach the ceiling of their professionalism, it drives your professionalism to its peak. Whereas professionalism or professional etiquette asks the question “what is required”, ethics demands more than just the bare minimum. For “Worker Johnny”, all that mattered was that he wore a suit. That was the minimum requirement, but had he asked the questions, “Will my suit be too busy?  Will it be distracting?

Will it take away from the role I am trying to perform?” he may have come to the conclusion that though he would meet the professional requirements of wearing a suit it might harm his professionalism.

You see, ethics is what makes you do your best even when it isn’t required of you. We see its impact from time to time – companies in competition with one another go the extra mile to win your business but what happens once they have beaten the competition and there are no more rivals?What happens when you the consumer have nowhere else to go; do you still get the red carpet treatment? Good ethics is what makes you an excellent professional, keeps you striving for your best and helps you maintain it once you’ve achieved it.

Jamaica and the world will be a better place when professionals are guided by ethical values.

My friends, I hope that what I have shared has helped you see that your success as an individual and your career trajectory – how far you can climb, depends heavily on your professionalism. The more professional you perform in your interactions with your clients/customers will determine how the organization you work for will be viewed by everyone. Simply put, your success and the success of the company you work for depends on you.

Participants, I trust that the experience over the last four days has served you well. Please use the knowledge you have gained and the relationships you have established to help you in your personal growth and development.

Together, with each one giving of their best, we can make Vision 2030 a reality:  the place to live, work, raise families and do business.

In closing, I want to commend the Tourism Product Development Company for their foresight in recognizing the value to our country of this type of training.  May God give you the strength and the necessary resources to continue this work till courteous and respectful interaction among our people become the norm.

May God bless you all!

I thank you.