**Excellence in Professional Practice: Part 1 (of who knows…)**

I am huge fan of Tom Peters the co-author with Bob Waterman of In Search of Excellence and numerous other books, one of which, the PSF 50, deals with professional service firms.

He is a great list maker; I am not.

But, given the breadth of the subject, and hence the reason why I don’t yet know how many parts there will be to this series, I have decided to go with a short, almost list style, series of blog posts on Excellence in Professional Practice.

To say that this is a monumental task is an understatement; but, absent some meaningful, contemporary debate, I am not sure how Professional Practice can otherwise expect to change its guise from a rather wooden, predictable paradigm to something that resembles modern(ish) day commerce.

Excellence is not gobbledygook!

It is:

  • Action biased;
  • Unrelenting;
  • Real;
  • Measurable;
  • Vocal;
  • Deliverable;
  • A key component of Professional Practice;
  • Exciting;
  • Fun;
  • Stimulating;
  • Visceral;
  • Dynamic;
  • Is a life-long journey;
  • Fights the status quo;
  • Puts people first;
  • Cuts to the chase; and
  • Doesn’t accept 2nd best!

Of course, professional practice is subject to enormous regulation, competitive pressures, dwindling markets, a (often) disillusioned clientele and motivation issues amongst its workforce, but none of these are reasons to ignore Excellence.

Excellence begets Excellence begets a sustainable, profitable Practice.

If I were asked where Excellence could make the biggest impression in the shortest period of time then my answer would be unequivocal: INVEST IN YOUR PEOPLE – NOW!

Let’s cut the talk about being the best employer in professional practice – not that there is anything wrong with trying to get recognised in a National list – and just focus, for the moment, on the basics:

  1. Get used to saying Thank You/You Matter/We Value Your Massive Effort/Thank you for Going Without [??????];
  2. Over communicate with everyone; ignorance just breeds frustration and resentment;
  3. Make sure people know what is expected of them; forget the smoke and mirror technique;
  4. Stop managing your people by looking in the rear view mirror as to what may have worked previously. Look forward and be inventive;
  5. Start building trust between everyone from the office junior to the most senior person;
  6. Get used to criticism: What do they say: “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen”. If you can’t stand criticism then how are you going to get an honest or serious appraisal of what is working or more likely in the beginning what is failing;
  7. Reward failure! Yes you heard me. Stop looking for success in everything. Of course, make it clear what success looks like but reinforce that it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all;
  8. As Tom Peters says: “Boring begets Boring”. Stoping recruiting people that all look and sound the same;
  9. Be clear what leadership means; treat people with dignity and respect and remember that your motivation for doing what you do is not the same as everyone else;
  10. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to an issue;
  11. If you have some foible don’t mask it with a more disdainful one. If you need to ask for some coaching then do;
  12. Talk straight;
  13. Allign your values with those of the firm by all means but don’t think that to keep the troops in line you have to act like an automaton. For pity’s sake you are not in front-line politics. I am not suggesting that you look to rehearse your turf war out in the open but individualism is to be encouraged;
  14. Spend some proper money on training people;
  15. Put your people first. If they suceed then so will the firm. Simple.

{Interim} Conclusion

Assuming that you recognise the importance of Excellence, it is important that the mantra of the firm embodies the key components of Excellence, as you see them.

My suggestion is that at the very least you have a set of guiding beliefs that underpin an Excellent Professional Practice. Perhaps this could be sewn into the firm’s business cards. Excellence can just mean that you offer a bullet proof guarantee – one that perhaps states that if the client is not completely satisfied with the job that you offer the option of [… and you decide what works for you].

Kick start programme

  1. First thing today take one project that has to be completed this month, put your new Excellence glasses on and decide how you will now approach it;
  2. Look at the people issues above and take 2/3 of these and start working with some key people, give yourself 21 days by doing one small thing differently and see if it makes a measurable difference;
  3. Ask your clients what sort of guaratee they would like to see built in to your invoicing structure if your service delivery is not Excellent.

If you want to discuss any of the issues raised then please feel to email me on juliansummerhayes@gmail.com.

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