By: Andrew Thompson

Professionals embody practices and behaviors that set them apart.


I recently read THE CHECKLIST MANIFESTO by Dr. Atul Gawande. I have a history in aviation, so I was familiar with checklists and intrigued by the book’s title. Dr. Gawande, a general and endocrine surgeon in Boston, related the checklist concept to medicine and several other professions. Regardless of profession, checklists amplify good behaviors and minimize preventable human errors.


 “We need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on  experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have, but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies. And there is such a strategy—though it will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity, maybe even crazy to those of us who have spent years carefully developing ever more advanced skills and technologies. It is a checklist” 




Prompted by the book, I wrote “The Professional’s Checklist” as a means to track my progress in matters of consequence. Like Dr. Gawande’s quote, I wanted to take advantage of the knowledge I already have—and to account for my human inadequacies.


I compiled a set of behaviors and practices that make a measurable impact on performance.


Applying them regularly (daily, weekly, monthly), will lead to a state of harmonious rhythm.


The checklist below is intended to be a starting point.  Modify accordingly, and apply it to your situation.  Check the items off as you go.  Repeat at a sensible interval.  Have Fun!


Applying them regularly (daily, weekly, monthly), will lead to a state of harmonious rhythm


The Professional’s Checklist

  • Show up early.
  • Prepare.  Don’t get caught off guard.
  • Perform within the context of natural and inherent strengths
  •  Be honest. Honesty is more valuable than people think.

Honesty is more valuable than people think

  • Enhance competence. Competency is a fundamental of professional execution.
  • Develop great Situational Awareness (“S.A.”)
  • Be ready for the steep ascent of the professional pyramid.
  • Anticipate sudden life changes. View them as growth opportunities.
  • Employ the team in accordance with its capabilities. Challenge teammates to reach beyond their grasp.

Challenge teammates to reach beyond their grasp

  • Become skilled in human affairs.
  • Move seamlessly between situations.
  • Sense patterns, trends and underlying connections. Distill and synthesize insights.
  • Make bold declarations about values.
  • Pay attention to, but don’t become overwhelmed by details.
  • Do not dramatize. Make factual, well-considered assertions.

Make factual, well-considered assertions

  • Keep a vigilant watch. “The wolf is always at the door.”
  • Create “saves” (like a great relief-pitcher) when the situation is doubtful.
  • Prioritize: Have to do, Should do, Like to do, Delegate, Not do
  • Value people more than machines and technology (see Special Operations (SOF) Truths).
  • Develop an innate sense of time.
  • Know there is never enough time to mentor and invest in other people. Do it anyway.
  • Measure the right things, for the right reasons. People like to know if they are winning or losing.

People like to know if they are winning or losing

  • Say no. The fine art of disappointing people is a difficult, but essential practice.
  • Know when to throw away the playbook.
  • Take notes.
  •  Give credit to the team in the wake of victory.
  • Accept responsibility in a loss.
  • Make other people better.

Make other people better

  • Read
  • Smile

Author - Andrew Thompson

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