Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High Achievement Culture

Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create a High Achievement Culture

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by David H. Maister

Firms that are perceived by their employees to actually practice what they preach are more financially successful than their competitors, says consultant David H. Maister, based on a worldwide survey of 139 offices in 29 professional service firms in 15 countries in 15 different lines of business.

Maister asked the simple question: Are employee attitudes


Firms that are perceived by their employees to actually practice what they preach are more financially successful than their competitors, says consultant David H. Maister, based on a worldwide survey of 139 offices in 29 professional service firms in 15 countries in 15 different lines of business.

Maister asked the simple question: Are employee attitudes correlated with financial success? The answer, he found, was "an unequivocal 'Yes!'" Further, the author shows that high levels of employee commitment and dedication "cause(yes, cause) a demonstrable, measurable improvement in financial performance." Maister proves that if your firm doesn't promote enthusiasm and high morale in your employees, your firm will make less money.

So, how can you create a culture in your firm that promotes growth and superior financial returns? Maister discovered that the most successful firms surveyed excelled by doing well on things to which most, if not all, firms pay only lip service: commitment to clients, teamwork, high standards, employee development, and other familiar topics. However, what distinguishes the best from the rest is that the best live up to their own standards.

Digging deeper by conducting in-depth interviews with managers and employees of the firms he surveyed, Maister has found that the key to success is not the systems of the firm, but the character and skills of the individual manager. He explores in detail the central role of the manager (what he or she must be, must do, and must require of others). The reader will find specific action recommendations from the managers and employees of these "superstar" businesses on how to build an energized workplace, enforce standards of excellence, develop people, and have fun — all as powerful profit improvement tactics.

Practice What You Preach can help any manager increase firm growth and profitability, and will provide proof to firm executives that great financial rewards come from living up to the high standards that most businesses advocate, but few achieve.

Editorial Reviews
Instead of being a supportive team, most companies resemble hoards of greedy Survivor contestants, energetic ego-trippers eager to cut temporary alliances for their own future gain. Management consultant David H. Maister knows that any enterprise that rewards superstars rather than effective mentors is planting seeds for its own destruction. Basing his findings on data drawn from thousands of interviews, he explains how firms that respond to nine key "people" issues can help determine their success. An emphatic message, detailed and carefully reasoned.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Maister, a professional service consultant, surveyed 6,500 employees at 50 worldwide companies to evaluate the relationship between company financial performance and employee satisfaction and loyalty. He found a direct and dramatic correlation. Here, he offers detailed commentary from CEOs, managers and staffers, and analysis of the survey results. Bosses in all kinds of companies will benefit from his solid advice, which should be required reading for executives and upper level managers. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
A financial advisor conducts detailed interviews with managers and employees to determine the connection between employee attitudes and a firm's financial success, finding that high levels of employee commitment and dedication actually cause a demonstrable, measurable improvement in financial performance. He then explains how managers can create a culture in a firm that promotes growth and superior financial returns by rigorously holding themselves up to the highest company standards. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From the Publisher
James M. Kouzes Co-author of The Leadership Challenge This is a straight-talking, data-based, and energy-infused work of uncompromising scholarship and incomparable practicality.

Lawrence A. Weinbach Chairman and CEO, Unisys Corporation A great "how to succeed" manual for organizations in any field. Maister confirms that success is not about programs and policies but is about the honesty, integrity, and courage of the leader.

Michael Albrecht, Jr. Global Executive, IBM David Maister has, with compelling evidence, blown away the mysteries as to what makes a high-performance team. He offers great insights and definitive actions.

Robert R. Garland National Managing Partner of Assurance and Advisory Services, Deloitte & Touche David Maister has done it again! He has written yet another insight-filled book that will facilitate your growth as a business leader and manager.

Product Details

Free Press
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6.06(w) x 8.86(h) x 0.94(d)

Read an Excerpt

How to Use This Book

The book is written for the practicing manager. I have tried to write the text in plain language, and defer all statistical language and presentation to the appendices. Those who wish to investigate the supporting data in depth can look there. However, if you choose, you should be able to read straight through the book without referring to the appendices.

Whatever contribution this book makes lies less in innovative conclusions than in the fact that I have tried to present new evidence to support important, but perhaps familiar, conclusions. (Hence the book's title: the message is not to preach new things, but to practice what most managers and firms already preach.)

Accordingly, the book is built around the evidence, quantitative and anecdotal, that I obtained. It unfolds slowly, presenting the results of analyses one at a time, building up from the simplest to the most complex. Similarly, rather than open the book with the major lessons learned from the case studies as a whole, I invite you to read each of the case studies one at a time, and experience them as I did, with (I hope) growing cumulative impact. The summary is deferred until the latter portion of the book.

For those who do wish to get the book's main conclusions right away, there's a relatively simple way to do it. Skim chapter 1 then jump straight to chapter 7 (The Predictive Package); chapter 9 (The Path to Performance); and Chapters 20 to 23 (Lessons). These chapters summarize the most important statistical and case study evidence in the their most essential form.

However, the story is richer than those chapters alone, and I hope that most readers will come with me as I recreate the journey of discovery that this research took me on.

Keep an eye out for lessons in the evidence that I may have failed to stress! While I will provide summaries and tell you what I think the lessons of the evidence are, you may want to keep a yellow highlighter pen handy to mark the lessons you deem to be the most important.

Copyright © 2001 by David H. Maister

Meet the Author

David H. Maister, one of the world's leading authorities on the management of professional service firms, is the author of several successful books, including Managing the Professional Service Firm, True Professionalism, and Practice What You Preach, and coauthor of The Trusted Advisor.

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Practice What You Preach 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Almost everyone will agree that professional firms must provide great service and terrific relationships to their clients. Some firms will provide these attributes at the expense of their own employees and others will not. Practice What You Preach establishes a quantified relationship to higher profitability in one publicly held marketing communications firm between those offices that nurtured their staffs as much as their clients. What made the difference? The attitudes and practices of the managers in the higher profit offices accounted for almost all of the variation. General Schwartzkopf once said that you should ¿be the leader you want to have.¿ That¿s the essence of the message of this book for achieving higher profitability. To make more money in pofessional offices, select and encourage leaders who will set high standards, serve as a good example, police the culture to improve it, and enable people to learn and make progress. Few works about management and leadership have the superb quantifications involved in this book. The foundation comes in 5589 individual responses (to about 10,000 questionnaires distributed) in 139 offices of 29 firms owned by the same public company. Each office was characterized by four profit tests to establish a profit index. Then differences in employee survey responses were tested against the profit index. Taken in many different cuts, Mr. Maister tells you which questions best correlated statistically with higher profit index numbers for an office. Each key observation is supported by a case example of one office that did well in this dimension. First, he relates what the head of the office said about the office¿s success and culture. Then he provides a composite interview with the people who work in the office. By comparing the two sets of responses, he then points out the key intersections. It¿s a fine way of making statistics come to life. He goes on to use more sophisticated statistical methods to establish which factors together are most significant, and how these factors appear to interact on one another. I was impressed by the quality and thoroughness of this work. He goes on to drill down to find even more nuances. For example, testing how the youngest employees feel about their work, compensation, and opportunities is the acid test of how well you are doing. As you would expect, cultures usually work better in smaller offices where communication is less likely to become diffused. The book ends with long lists of practices that seemed to have helped. If you want to know what to do, you should pay the most attention to the summary lessons in chapters 20-25. If you have trouble following all of the statistical analysis early on, just skip back to those sections. Then go back and read the case studies. At that point, you may be ready for the statistical chapters. The only weakness in the study¿s design is that it failed to include a comparable set of surveys with clients of the offices. That would have made the richness of the conclusions greater and the persuasive value of the work higher. How can you set high standards that delight clients and make everyone want to exceed those standards while enabling them to do so? You will find many excellent ideas in this impressive book. Be the professional service firm you would like to hire! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution