Professional: Message from the Morning Man by Kojo Yankson

Professional: Message from the Morning Man
by Kojo Yankson
18th April 2016
A businessman travelled to Singapore on business. He came out of Changi Airport, got straight into a neat little Hyundai i40 taxi cab, and told the driver where he was going. After about ten minutes, the driver arrived at the destination, circled around the block and parked neatly in front of the address. The cab meter read $11, but to the businessman’s surprise, the driver only took $10.
“But your meter reads $11, man. Why are you taking just $10?” asked the bewildered passenger.
The driver turned in his seat and looked over his shoulder at the businessman. “Sir, I am a taxi driver. My job is to know the city and get you to your destination. I missed the last turn and had to circle the block to get you here. If I hadn’t, made that mistake, the meter would have read $10 by the time we got here. So why should you pay for my incompetence?”
The business man was awestruck. “I’ve got to tell you – that is the most amazing demonstration of professionalism I’ve ever seen. Is everyone in Singapore like you?”
“The driver laughed and said, “This is a great country full of great people. I was the first one you met. If I don’t show you my best, I would be letting my country down.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “What an honest guy! Such integrity. God bless him”. Right? Yeah. Now, I wonder: if this businessman had landed at Kotoka and climbed into a Ghanaian taxi, what are the chances he would have had the same experience? Isn’t he more likely to find himself in a dirty, poorly maintained cab with a talkative driver who will break every single rule in the Highway Code, while deliberately driving the long way round, so can charge more?
How about you? You’re going to meet a number of people today in the course of your duties. If at the end of the day, someone were to ask them to rate your professionalism, how high would you score? For making them wait in a queue, for being rude, for telling them it’s not your responsibility, for raising your voice at them, for giving preferential treatment to the one who came in the nicer car, for telling them to give you “something small” before doing what you’re already being paid to do, for not caring enough to show the absolute best version of yourself to every single person you meet today, how would they rate your professionalism?
Many of us have reported meter faults to the ECG only for them to tell us that due to a fault with THEIR equipment, WE owe them money. They put us through the inconvenience by running a faulty system, but they expect us to pay regardless. Is that professionalism?
How many times have you been to hospital only to be told you have to pay for a new card because they can’t find the records they made when you registered the last time? Is that professionalism?
Mechanics who give back your car with more faults than you had when they took it, builders who delay your projects with their mistakes and still make you pay for the time they spent doing it wrong, lecturers who use fifty-year-old methods to teach hundred-year-old information, workers who come to work late every day and still take a full month’s wage – which of these are professionals?
You know, being a professional is a concept we often misunderstand. We often imagine that there are certain occupations or careers that qualify one to be a professional. But the truth is very different. A professional is someone who puts their absolute best into whatever job they do. A professional is someone who carries out their job with an unwavering discipline. A professional follows the rules no matter the situation. And a professional will NEVER make you pay for their incompetence.
My friends, Ghana is a great country with its fair share of great people, but are you one of them? If someone were to judge our nation by their encounter with you today, what impression would they take away? It’s a question I think we should ask ourselves every morning. Shall we start today?
My name is Kojo Yankson, and professionalism is not about what job you do – it’s about how you do it.