In a rapidly evolving business landscape, professionalism is more than just a buzzword—it’s an ethos, a benchmark, and a commitment. To help shed light on the elusive qualities of true professionalism, Data Symphony’s consulting division takes inspiration from David H. Maister’s seminal work, “True Professionalism.”
Maister, an esteemed authority on managing professional service firms, offers a compelling exploration of the concept of professionalism. He argues that it goes beyond surface-level expectations—it is an attitude, a code of conduct, and a way of life.
According to Maister, true professionals are those who have the courage to accept responsibility for their actions, who willingly make personal sacrifices for others’ benefit, and who consistently uphold high standards of quality. Simply put, “the core of professionalism is the pursuit of excellence.”
Contrary to the common practice of feigning professionalism, Maister contends that genuine professionals fully embody their roles—they are committed, enthusiastic, and empathetic. Unlike those who merely put on a professional façade, authentic professionals have an inherent sense of duty that drives their actions.
One of Maister’s key insights is his understanding of the professional-client relationship. He suggests that a true professional is more than just a problem-solver; they are trusted advisors who are sincerely invested in their clients’ interests. This level of engagement requires a combination of high competence, absolute integrity, and deep empathy.
Maister provides a detailed portrayal of great secretaries, who, in many ways, embody the essence of a professional. These traits, he argues, are universal and applicable to all professionals, irrespective of their field. Great secretaries, and by extension, great professionals:
1. Take pride in their work and show a personal commitment to quality.
2. Reach out for responsibility and take charge willingly.
3. Anticipate needs and proactively take action.
4. Go above and beyond their assigned roles to get the job done.
5. Are involved and versatile, not just confined to their assigned roles.
6. Continually seek to ease the lives of those they serve.
7. Are eager to learn about the business of those they serve.
8. Listen attentively to the needs of those they serve.
9. Learn to understand and think like those they serve.
10. Are team players, contributing positively to the workplace environment.
11. Are trusted with confidences, upholding integrity and trustworthiness.
12. Are open to constructive critiques and continuously seek to improve.
As Maister brilliantly summarises, “Great secretaries care.” This sentiment encapsulates the core essence of true professionalism—a deep-seated care for one’s work, one’s clients, and one’s contribution to the wider team and organization.
The connection Maister makes between these qualities and all professionals is critical. This list doesn’t just delineate the defining characteristics of great secretaries—it offers a blueprint for great consultants, lawyers, and other professionals. It is, in fact, a robust definition of what it means to be a professional.
One of the most impactful arguments Maister makes is the link between personal satisfaction and professionalism. He suggests that when professionals infuse their work with integrity and strive for excellence, they attain personal fulfilment. This satisfaction stems from the intrinsic joy of performing top-quality work and making a positive impact on others’ lives.
Maister’s mantra, “The noble path does win, but only if you are prepared to make the investment to act professionally over a long period of time,” captures his philosophy. True professionalism is not a sprint—it’s a marathon that requires sustained investment in terms of time, effort, and dedication.
Maister’s rigorous standards may seem daunting, but they serve to spark crucial discourse around the meaning of professionalism. His emphasis on self-sacrifice and unwavering dedication prompts us to reassess the delicate balance between professional commitment and personal well-being.
In conclusion, David Maister’s “True Professionalism” serves as an invaluable guide for anyone aspiring to embrace professionalism. At Data Symphony, we resonate with Maister’s values – true professionalism is about a steadfast commitment to excellence. As we navigate a world where form often takes precedence over substance, we strive to cultivate a culture that values authenticity, integrity, and excellence above all else.