Adamson Advisory

What Do You Want To Be Famous For?

When I am coaching managing partners, I often go to some of the lessons I learned from David Maister. If you don’t know of David Maister, I urge you to visit his website and read his bio and some of his articles.

Until his retirement in 2009, David Maister was widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading authorities on the management of professional service firms (such as law, accounting, and consulting firms, and companies providing engineering, advertising and executive search services).

For three decades he advised the top firms in these professions, around the world, covering all strategic and managerial issues.

He is the author of the bestselling books:

  • Managing the Professional Service Firm (1993),
  • True Professionalism (1997),
  • The Trusted Advisor (2000),
  • Practice What You Preach (2001),
  • First Among Equals (2002),
  • Strategy and the Fat Smoker (2008).

At my firm, we gave True Professionalism to every new accounting graduate and asked them to read the first two chapters right away and the rest at their leisure.

Maister would often talk about, “What do you want to be famous for? What’s going to make you distinctive?” He had a great story about how he was asked that question when he was a new professor at Harvard. Of course, he was stumped at first but his mentor asked him to think about it and respond in a few days. He more or less blundered into professional service firms and the rest is history.

As you work with your partners, to coach them to more success, try asking them what they want to be famous for.

Here are some David Maister examples:

What Do You Want To Be Famous For?

(What’s going to make you distinctive?)

Intellectual thought leader in a particular service area

Industry expert

Superior client counseling skills

Special abilities in practice development

Special ability to work with certain types of clients (such as, entrepreneurs, high net worth individuals, etc.)

Superior ability to transfer skills to others

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