Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What are the required attributes or skills of an excellent professional?

"What are the required attributes or skills of an excellent professional?". That was the question I was asked for a recent research study. "Give me some guidance or categories to guide my thinking", was my response. The five aspects are below; what would your responses be?
  1. the technical background
  2. the educational qualification or the Breadth of knowledge
  3. the essential character of the leader
  4. the management ability
  5. the interpersonal relationship

If you don't have the time for a long winded response, feel free to add a single click to the short poll.

Here is what I responded, quickly and without much deep thought (which may mean they represent more or less truth than 'marketing'):

1st, the technical background

Technical background appears to be most important early in the career of a professional and can get a person a foot in the door of a company of interest. It is after getting in that the other attributes really take over (though #5 is essential to getting in as well).

2nd, the educational qualification or the Breadth of knowledge

I hold more importance around the relevant experience and adaptability of the person than their educational qualifications. In the US at least, there is a trend to making the minimum requirement for any senior position an MBA. I believe that this represents HR laziness, or the lack of an organization's ability to spot real talent, since 'MBA required' is an easy filter to a minimal level of capability. A breadth of knowledge is essential, since a person will not be focused on a single task or category of work, especially as they progress beyond their starting point in a company. It is also more appealing to customers to work with a well rounded individual

3rd, the essential character of the leader

There are only a handful of great leaders in my opinion. Most CEOs seem to lack the interpersonal skills or even traditional leadership skills people around them have come to expect. In the US, if the compensation (salary + potential big bonus) is right, people put up with CEOs that typically say one thing and do another. I'm not a fan of many of the CEOs I have had to work with, and the others were not successful in that particular company (though may have been successful in others).

4th, the management ability

Below CEO level, management ability for me suggests that the person is focused, and communicates clearly and honestly about the company's goals and their own goals. For me, great managers have often been great mentors -- people who have really shaped my progress in a company, and helped me through gentle guidance to be better and do better. True, personal, honest mentoring, rather than the formulaic approach that some companies try and approach (you must check in with your mentor once per month for coffee) is invaluable.

5th, the interpersonal relationship

This of course is what makes or breaks a professional. Close bonds with your peers (both in your department and beyond) is essential in any profession that requires management through influence rather than 'chain of command'. For example, a product manager role requires personal relationships to be formed with every department in a business - sales, marketing, customer services, manufacturing or R&D, etc, etc, since the product manager has no resources, but must persuade people to do specific work based on their own needs, rather than as a manager telling them to do it. Without interpersonal skills, a product manager will fail, since nobody will help and nothing will get done outside of the employees defined tasks to move the products forward. For most people, it is the people they work with that make the job exciting and interesting. Without interpersonal relationships, that is impossible.

A post from the Improving It blog

To implement workflow and process automation in your business today, visit

Coming soon... Download the podcast of this blog post

No comments: