From the Author
A: The book's message is that professionalism matters--often more than anyother factor--in creating a competitive advantage for individuals and,collectively, for the organizations of which they are part.
Q: Why this book, and why now?
A: It's a book that attempts to rise above the noise, reminding people ofthe mind-sets that made America great, and provides people and theirorganizations a substantive approach of enhancing their success. Many have an innate sense that things in the country are a little 'off, that we've strayed from the 'tried-and-true' principles that have served usso well. Trust has never been lower or cynicism higher. This book notonly holds up a mirror to the errors of our ways but provides a path(and hope) in correcting them. There's been a lot writtenrecently about 'why' trust is so important but far less on 'how' tocultivate it. Professional ideals, by default, build trust. And ifyou believe, as I do, that trust is the foundation for both individualand organizational success, then the timing for a renaissance inprofessional ideals couldn't be more important.
Q: But don't most organizations consider themselves 'professional' ?
A. Most do. But when you look deeper, you find an incompleteunderstanding of what it really means to be a professional--let alone how that translates to the greater organization. David Maister, thepreeminent consultant to the professional services sector, observed, "Irarely meet individual professionals who believe their firm, as aninstitution, is built on such [professional] principles."
Thetrouble is the central role of professionalism has not been fullyappreciated or understood well by leaders--whether in or out of theprofessional services sector. Of course there's a great irony here,when one considers the current emphasis on professional development.
With competition being so fierce, organizations are increasingly unable tohide their blemishes. The big problems facing today's organizations areonly addressed in a sustainable way when honest-to-goodnessprofessionals roll up their sleeves and tackle them. This requirescandor, genuine collaboration, and trust. Just as important are theexciting new (but complex) opportunities presenting themselves to thesesame organizations. The Power of Professionalism helps shore-up one'sunderstanding of what it means to be a trusted professional and focusesthat potential on an organization's biggest problems and opportunities.
Q. How is this book different than, say, David Maister's writing on the 'true professional' ?
A. It's significantly different in a number of important ways. David wasan amazing writer as well as a remarkable consultant. In many ways, Istand on his shoulders. Where David's work centered on the professional services world, my emphasis is on the role of professionalism inorganizations in general. I'm attempting to add to the work that Davidand others did, not detract from it.
My work will broaden theway people think of other professionals and how professionals viewthemselves. In the book we make the case that professionals are worthyindividuals, not worthy professions. Said another way, age doesn't make you an adult anymore than an occupation makes you a professional. Ibelieve that what defines professionals isn't what they do but how theydo it. Technical competency gets you in the game, but it's the minimumrequirement when weighing whether someone is a professional or not. Professionalism is characterized by the capabilities, choices, and behaviors thatreveal an individual to be a professional. In other words, being aprofessional is an equal opportunity aspiration--each of us controls theoutcome. That's the point really...it's about being something (aprofessional). It's about having the mind-set of a trustedprofessional. It's not about merely about emulating certain desirablebehaviors, while avoiding others. We're trying to raise people's sights by focusing on the being, less so on the doing. In the end, it'spersonal. It's an inner commitment. It's about standing forsomething. When one 'shows up' as a professional, behaviors typicallytake care of themselves.
Q. So it's the mind-sets that drive behaviors, right?
A. Yes. You might think of a mind-set as 'an attitude with purpose'. Atrusted professional's behavior is natural--it's not dependent on havingto emulate a certain set of pre-determined behaviors found in theso-called 'success literature'; the types of behaviors that often findtheir way into best practices, competency models, and the like.
Q. Tell us about the mind-sets.
A. Given that professionalism can transcend vocations, one's education, or one's title, we wanted to better understand the commonality of thoughtthat trusted professionals shared. Simply put, we wanted to understandtheir mind-sets--how they see the world. We found seven--they're outlinedin Part Two of the book.
Q. Of the seven mind-sets, which of the seven resonate most for you?
A. Mind-Set Two--Professionals Realize (and Act Like) They're Part ofSomething Bigger Than Themselves. Typically Mind-Set Two is an Achilles heel for most organizations.
Q. What are you hoping people will take away from this book?
A. The problems you and I hear about, the ones that are personallyexacerbating and organizationally debilitating, are largely remediedwhen people show up as professionals would. So I'm hoping we helpcreate a new generation of even 'better professionals'. We'llknow that we're achieving more of that when people start viewingthemselves as a professional who happens to be a vice president, who has earned an MBA, or who holds a prestigious license--not the other wayaround.
From the Inside Flap
When some Wall Street traders are willing to run the nation's economy off a cliff to make a killing... When only 17 percent of employees believe that their leaders have their organization's best interests at heart... When only 18 percent of Americans trust lawyers completely... When the Google search "Has U.S. business lost its way?" yields 159 million hits...