I’ve learned a lot in the last two years about what it means to be professional. Here are some of the things I’ve learned; I hope you can learn them without having to be the fool I am! Please note that I’m not smart enough to actually apply these rules a lot of the time.
Feel free to beat them over my head.
- Praise in Public, Blame in Private
Networked communities, especially those like Silicon Valley, are incredibly small. Word gets around if people don’t like you – bad news travels ten times faster than good. So don’t make enemies, even if your vigilante sense of justice tells you it would be worth it to publicly humiliate XYZ because what they did was *so* *bad*. Give people dignity, even when you fire them or lay them off.On the brighter side, always give praise publicly and loudly. Where you may have contributed to a project with another person, overemphasize the wonderful work that they did and brush only hastily over your contributions. Good work can speak for itself.
- Blame Yourself Publicly
This has been the most difficult rule to internalize – if something goes wrong that you had any part of in any way, assume as much blame as you can, while being specific about what you did wrong and how it caused the problem. Be public and contrite about what happened. Explain what you’re doing to keep it from happening again. And never, ever fingerpoint. If you blame yourself in detail before anyone else can, then people will tend to respect your upstanding nature. It will be hard for others to talk behind your back of your misdeeds if you’ve already broadcast them.
- Communicate Bad News in a Timely Fashion
This has also been difficult to internalize – if a project is behind schedule or if something has gone wrong, let all appropriate parties know about it right away. Don’t hope for time to smooth things over or wish for the issue to be ignored. Let all affected parties know immediately and in great detail what has gone wrong.
- Assume the Best of People
If someone has seemingly dones something wrong, but it’s possible that it was not malicious, assume that it was not and let them explain themselves under an umbrella of assumed innocence. People tend to live up to expectations both bad and good. Don’t participate in lynch mobs, but try to objectively hear out both sides.
- Don’t Curse
It may sound obvious, but a lot of executives don’t stick with this one. Expletives make people subtly uncomfortable. Avoiding the use of curses will make you seem more polished and refined. No matter how strongly you feel about an issue, hold your tongue before it comes to using a page from George Carlin’s book.