Are technically competent professionals who work long, hard hours "true" professionals, seeking superior quality in their work and striving to provide the best service possible to their clients? Or are they "cruisers" adhering to standards, but performing below their full potential, lacking the inspiration for the extra level of intensity that creates superb work?
Professional firms are forever trying to get their people to act like professionals -- to do the right things. Though their various incentives may create employee compliance, these don't often encourage excellence. Taking issue with such methods, David Maister, the world's premier consultant to professional service firms, vigorously challenges professionals to examine this essential, yet under-addressed question: What is true professionalism? Essentially, Maister argues, it is a personal commitment to self-betterment and a professional dedication to provide the best and most efficient service to clients. In clear, pragmatic terms, he convincingly advocates the "power of principles" -- the most effective tools management can use to inspire excellence in individual performance. His core principles spring from good, sound logic: Believe passionately in what you do, never compromise your standards and values, and care about your clients. Do all of these because they are the ethical things to do and because they are the primary road to commercial success.
In this candid treasury of practical wisdom, Maister expounds some eternal truths about the individual professional, the firm, and the client. He explains how to achieve true professionalism at both the micro and macro levels by answering many key but toughquestions, including these: How do you develop a personal career strategy? How does a firm track the profitability of individual assignments? Can and should you guarantee your client's satisfaction? Looking first at the individual, Maister dares those good corporate citizens who "do their duty" to discover what they truly love to do, and then to align their real-world actions with their true values -- and he tells them why a continual investment must be made in getting better. Turning to the firm, he focuses on what he calls its "instability" and offers advice on how to invest in skill-building. He explains why extra time invested in supervising reaps large financial benefits, and why excellence in client satisfaction should be an enforced standard. A brief example of the clear thinking and sound advice to be found in this handbook: Stress on maximizing billable hours may seem profitable, but instead it encourages employees to be inefficient, it loses the customer's trust and confidence, and eventually it hurts the firm's reputation and profit margin.
The bottom line, according to the author? Act like a true professional and the money will follow.