I appreciate how, in a single, brief post, Maister imparts career advice that covers:
- how to be trusted by your employer (partners, colleagues, etc);
- how to build a loyal and appreciative customer-base;
- why sincerity must underlie your service mentality; and
- what commitment really means
Consider his post entitled You Gotta Serve Someone wherein he discusses core beliefs and pure service mentality.
Part of why a vast majority of partners don't delegate or cross-sell others' work is because this mentality is lacking:
Whenever a superior, a customer or client gives you something to work on, you have their affairs, their reputation and their future in your hands. If you mess up, the embarrassment you will feel is nothing compared to the mess you will land them in. You are being trusted with someone else's baby. Deserve it. Being good is important, being trusted is essential.
What can you do to increase others' trust in you? Maister addresses this:
It can be difficult to accept the "server" mentality. Dale Carnegie once wrote that "You'll have more fun and success by helping other people achieve their goals than you will by focusing on your own goals."
When I first read that, as a college student in England, I was shocked. It sounded like communism, or at a minimum, a self-sacrificing religious principle. However, as I progressed through the real world, I realized Carnegie was right. His principle is actually the vary (sic) core of exchange capitalism: I will give you what you want if you give me what I want.
To make this work, you must be sincere in trying to help the other party. It's not just a bargaining process ("You give me this, and I'll give you that, and then we'll go our separate ways.") Human beings don't work like that. We look for relationships, even in minor transactions.
'Bare minimum' work doesn't instill value. Value comes from genuinely WANTING to better someone's situation or result. He explains:
If I hire somebody to do something for me (clean my house, handle my divorce, do my taxes, diagnose and cure my ailments), I don't want them to focus only on the bare minimum of fulfilling the contractual terms. If they do, I'm going to focus on paying them the bare minimum - and no-one's going to be happy.
What I'm looking for is someone who wants to help me, and will deal with whatever arises. Such a person will get paid well, hired again, and promoted, and referred to others. If I hire you, never forget you're there to serve me. If you're not willing to do that, I don't want you.
Are you committed?
Another key attitude is commitment. Commitment is not numbers of hours you work, the sales you generate or the rates you charge.
It means placing other people - the client and your colleagues - first in your professional life. Commitment means attention to details, not because you might get caught, but because you want to provide the best product or service available and you relish the opportunity to step up and take on responsibility.
It's the paradox of professionalism: the more you put yourself first, the less people want to work with you and the less of life's rewards you get. The more you focus on serving others, the more they want to be with you and give you what you want.
People (bosses, colleagues, clients, subordinates) can spot immediately those who bring a truly professional attitude to work, and reward those who do.
I'd like to say I agree with these last two paragraphs. They sound great, but they aren't entirely true.
I do sometimes see self-serving people get ahead in life. And sometimes I see firms reward those who aren't as deserving as others who are overlooked. Life IS unfair sometimes. Thankfully, such situations are the exception and not the rule.
Overall, David's advice is spot on. The real stars in firms, those who progress and build strong practices, often aren't "marketer types" -- they are service types. Throughout their careers, these stars get more business from in-house peers, outside referral sources, and client word-of-mouth. Almost entirely because of attitude. (The rest is skill, of course.)
Remember, skill without good attitude is worth far less than great attitude with marginal skill.
And David has nailed the elements of the sort of attitudes that make this success happen. So, now we know. The choice is ours.