What does this mean for your professional services firm and more important for yourself as an individual?

Dan Pink introduced the case that mastery, autonomy and purpose are the key drivers for business performance. What does this mean for professional service organizations whose value creation is deeply rooted in the combined knowledge and expertise of its people?

Mastery—the desire to get better and better at something that matter

I’ve recently been exploring the importance of differentiation, especially when it comes to skills and the impact this has on the value of service delivery. Differentiation is tightly woven into our ability to provide something better; better than our competitors, better than we could do before, better so that we can raise the bar and outperform previous benchmarks. Mastery contributes to service differentiation, especially in the professional services industry, where business financial success lies in the firm’s ability to win contracts, gain trust and provide value for its customers.

Over the years many of my customers have asked “Tell me something that I don’t already know.” Customers are looking for insights. Insights are not merely nuggets of understanding; rather, insights are the basis for choiceful decision making. They are the building blocks we use to change outcomes and forge a path forward. Mastery in a particular field, affords the ability to guide a customer on how to approach a problem, provide a solution that they would not otherwise be able realize or even imagine themselves.

Here at TeamFit, I am part of a team that is devoted to providing skill insights. Insights that are actionable and will make a different to people’s careers and the success of their business. This is meaningful because understanding the skills that I already have and knowing the skills that I need to learn will help me develop a better plan for personal growth and eventual mastery.

I’ve also found that my learning is influenced by those around me. Throughout my life, I’ve had many teachers; these are the masters to whom I turn for advice. Then, there are the role models; people whose careers I want to follow—even mimic. It would be great to be able to easily identify the best role models, the people whose footsteps I could follow. Even better, what if we could share the journey towards mastery with a team of people so that you could help each other? True mastery is being able to pass on our knowledge to others, to lift others up so that they can reach farther based on a foundation built together.

Autonomy—the urge to direct our own lives

Our professional careers are an integral part of our identities. To live a fulfilled life it is important to find the ‘work that is play.’ I have been fortunate to be able to do this. My friend and valued advisor, Chuck Hamilton, shares the following advice, “Being able to find a patch where you really want to play in” should be a defining factor in shaping the choices one makes about one’s career. Chuck ran the Advanced Learning team at IBM and was the leader for Global Mentoring, Social Learning and Smart Play Program. The world he chooses to live in, and is passionate about, and thrives in, lies at the intersection of learning, people and technology with a particular emphasis on organizational effectiveness, sharing and change. See Chuck’s Ted Talk on the Future of Work. I collected a few of key observations from Chuck that I would like to share:

  • We need to be able to reinvent ourselves, as the job descriptions of the future have not yet been defined and it will be up to us to author those descriptions.
  • We all need to be entrepreneurs.
  • To be good at predicting the future, you have to make it your own. Our future is ours to shape.

Many of the CEO’s at the professional services firms that I’ve interviewed have shared that they are actively looking for ways to support the alignment of people’s aspirations with the goals of their companies. This is something that all of us at TeamFit promote. Companies need to embrace and support individual autonomy to get performance and to create value. We see many examples of company’s enabling self-selection of teams.

One great example is the case study shared by Spotify. The unit of organization at Spotify the ‘squad.’ Squads are similar to Scrum teams and are designed to feel like a mini-start-up. Sticking to a singular mission, squads can become real experts in a particular subject. Spotify measures the performance of its squads consistently and constantly. Metrics help Spotify realize their slogan, “Think it, build it, ship it, tweak it.” What I love best is that squads are encouraged to spend roughly 10% of their time on “hack days.” During hack days, people have the autonomy do whatever they choose and are given the freedom to try out new ideas with the mandate to deliver. Autonomy can be a powerful force that drives ownership, responsibility and accountability. Spotify’s valuation in 2016 reached $8B and Business Insider speculates that it could get to 100 million users and a $53B valuation by 2020!

Purpose—the yearning to do what we do in service of something larger than ourselves

I often ask myself, “What the legacy I will leave?” As we work towards the launch of TeamFit V2, I’m working very closely with our product development and design team. In our last session, we reinforced for each other several message—messages that we all know we must abide by:

  • Providing exceptional user experience is front and center. It is the beacon that guides all of our decisions. It is never about us; it is always about our users.
  • Every engagement, touch, interaction is an opportunity to show our character. As such, what is the gift that we would like to bestow on our users? How do we make our customers feel? About us, about themselves? What value does our gift provide?

I was having a conversation with a colleague, trying to unwrap the value we create and why our customers would turn to us. By committing to our software, customers invest in us. By investing in us, they are trusting us. We are becoming insiders, privy to knowledge not available to others. It is this joint experience working together which allows us to build and achieve purpose together. People are willing to share detailed information about their skills, skill gaps and differentiation so that we can help them make better choices. We take this trust very seriously.

The intersection of mastery, autonomy and purpose is where performance takes off and where high value is created.


What is your purpose?
What are the skills and capabilities that you need?
Who can you follow, lead and walk with to get there?

Let us help you discover the answers. Watch for TeamFit V.2.

The picture above is that of our team celebrating a milestone and showing gratitude for a gift received from a customer.