Force for Good:
Professional Work Ethic
By Peter Amsterdam
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If we are to be successful in our mission of reaching the world, as well as in our networking and collaboration with others, professionalism has a role to play.
Professionalism and ethical standards are a foundation for building credibility and relationships of trust with people.
Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary defines professionalism as “the skill, competence, or character expected of a member of a highly trained profession” and “professional character, spirits, or method.” Professionalism in our practices and methods, skill, and competence are important qualities for networking and collaborating with others. Taking professionalism to the next level can require an investment of time, effort, and a willingness to learn, expand our horizons, and develop our skills.
Professionalism in its true sense means doing everything your hand finds to do to the best of your ability.1 It means having a desire to excel, to not just do the minimum or halfway jobs. Professionalism means having a good work ethic‚ and that translates into not being content to just have a so-so approach to [your mission work], but rather committing to reach your personal best.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy2
In taking on the responsibility of a legal entity of some kind, adopting professional business practices is crucial, as well as striving to ensure that the management of these entities is above reproach. In many cases, it is wise to seek legal advice from a local lawyer, accountant, or government entity in opening such associations. Ongoing assistance may also be needed for the entity’s accounting and in ensuring that the foundation’s practices are in keeping with all the requirements associated with such activities and that you comply with local business laws, labor laws, etc.
I touched on this topic a few years ago:
When you move into the realm of collaboration, you have to put aside any unprofessional, disorganized, or “fly by the seat of your pants” modus operandi. Everyone makes mistakes and no one is perfect, but the world doesn’t operate on the premise of “unconditional love,” where you’ll be loved and forgiven and given another chance no matter what you do or how badly you mess up. If you’re unreliable or embarrass your contacts, or cause them to be seen in an unfavorable light due to a lack of professionalism and planning on your part, it’s unlikely that they will be eager to collaborate with you again.
Most people have had to work very hard to climb the ladder of success. They’ve generally gotten where they are through dedication, study, hard work, sacrifice, and a tremendous amount of self-discipline and focus on their career. They will expect nothing less from you.
A good work ethic is hugely important to successful people. It’s not a personality trait, though it comes easier to some people than others. Good work ethic is a quality that you learn and hone, just like self-discipline. If you’re going to enter into collaboration, you’ll want to take an honest, hard look at your work ethic and see if it will withstand the scrutiny of someone who holds himself to good work ethic principles and expects the same of those he works with.
Having a good work ethic is part of our testimony as the Lord’s representatives, and it’s also part of love. Some people need to see love manifested through your hard work, integrity, concern for them and their interests, and willingness to go the extra mile when necessary.3
In order to properly carry out many, if not most, projects or programs and to meet the expectations of the people involved, it generally takes a lot of advance preparation, thought, prayer, and research—an investment of focused time. If you are working to increase your networking with others and to build your public profile, you may also find that the expectations for charitable works, programs, seminars, etc., are high. It may take some work to first of all find out what the expectations are, and then invest the time in advance of the event, project, or program, to prepare and to ensure that the activity will meet professional expectations. This is also an important part of integrity, in delivering what we promise and meeting the expectations, and exceeding them when possible.
Advance preparation is a major facet of delivering a good product or service. Generally speaking, it takes a fair bit of planning to develop a program or to pull off an event, and to take the time to ensure that it is well thought through and will deliver what is needed. It could also be beneficial to take a course, to research how the experts do it, to go to seminars by people or organizations that specialize in the type of projects that you are involved in to learn from them, and to avail yourself of any resources you can to receive further training in your area of expertise and to become more professional.
We’re not a worldly business or company. But we’ve learned, and we continue to learn, how to apply some of the principles that make a business or a company work and be successful. We’ve learned that if we’re going to make God’s work, God’s company, successful, then we are going to have to be professional about doing so.
A big part of being professional is being organized. This translates into good management, efficient scheduling, proactive planning, self-discipline, having sound plans, working within an effective structure‚ and more.
The world is different today than it was in the past. Technology is booming. Expectations have risen. People are running “to and fro”—as the Bible predicted would happen in the time of the end.4 In order to keep up with the people the Lord wants us to share His truth with, and even to meet them in the first place, we have to be working efficiently and working smart ourselves.
We need to be organized both in what we do and how we do it. Efficiency, of which organization is a huge part, is in vogue today, and we need to keep up with the times in order to be professional in our service for the Lord. If you’re organized, you’ll think ahead, you’ll plan ahead, you’ll schedule ahead.
People in today’s world aren’t even going to be interested in what we have to offer if it doesn’t come professionally packaged, and if it isn’t delivered to them by people who they feel that they can trust, who they respect, and who have a mission and a goal and a plan.
We’ve talked about the qualities needed to become a force for good, such as honesty, integrity, transparency, credibility, and reliability. Another key ingredient to building relations with others that reflect these qualities is what is referred to in the business world as “customer service” or “customer relations.” This is an area that many of us probably have room to grow in developing more professionalism. It is a concept that can serve us well in our mission works, outreach and follow-up, networking, and collaborating with others.
There are a number of ways in which good customer relations can be applied to our mission work, whether it’s in observing punctuality, responding promptly to e-mails, being attentive to people’s queries or complaints, handling our responsibilities in collaboration or networking events professionally and diligently, delivering on our commitments and promises to people, or being organized and efficient in our communications with people.
In our “business” of reaching people with Jesus’ love in tangible ways that will touch their lives, good customer relations can translate into “customers” who see genuine concern and integrity in our attentiveness and responsiveness to them. It can serve as a tangible example of the Gospel we share and of God’s love and care for them.
In tune with the times
Lastly, another key element of professional work ethic is keeping in step with the times, so to speak. Yesterday’s professionalism may well be inadequate today. It behooves us to strive to stay current regarding standards of service and quality, and to do our best to reach those. Of course, as a faith-based community performing volunteer work, the expectations will not be the same as for a corporation or a company that profits from its services. Nevertheless, even in the realm of churches and religious groups, as well as nonprofits and volunteer organizations, there will likely be country-specific expectations for professional standards that are relevant to your mission works and relationship-building.
Times change. That’s true of every profession and walk of life. The world is not static, and the needs of those in the world are also not static. If you’re a professional, you’ll stay fresh and open to new ideas, new ways of reaching people, new products, new needs or vacuums that can be filled.5
Originally published January 2011. Adapted and republished June 2013.
Read by Simon Peterson.
1 Ecclesiastes 9:10.
2 Originally published February 2008.
3 Originally published August 2009.
4 Daniel 12:4.
5 Originally published February 2008.