Are they just born that way, or is there a careful strategy at play that can be learned and emulated? These were some of the questions asked by The Results Consultancy, whose research report, Becoming The Go-To Professional, has just been published.
The research involved a series of interviews with senior professionals in the accounting, legal, consulting, real estate and financial services sectors. They were recognised by their clients and peers as the 'go-to' professional in their field and reflected a range of personality types, with differing styles of doing business.
The research revealed four common denominators - which together make up the DNA of a 'go-to' professional:
Network - the approach 'go-to' professionals adopt when managing their network
Persona - the professional profile and 'brand' they cultivate for themselves
Practice - the role and specialism they build their career on
Relationships - their attitude to developing relationships with clients, contacts and colleagues
Whether it was their external network of contacts, clients and work referrers, or their internal colleagues, 'go-to' professionals all recognised the vital importance of building alliances and trusted relationships with those in a position to influence. This was not undertaken in a self-serving manner - it was done with a genuine interest to be of help to others.
Most interviewees acknowledged that their professional persona needed to be cultivated. In particular, they suggested that success comes not just from what you do, but the way you do it.
The ability to be calm, even in the face of mounting pressure or provocation, was as vital when interacting with colleagues as it was with clients, the survey revealed. In addition, being 'nice' appeared to bring better results than being smart and consequently 'go-to' professionals carefully managed their contribution to meetings, opting for quality over quantity every time. They also placed great emphasis on the ability to listen - a skill that helped them spot opportunities and forge relationships more easily.
'Go-to' professionals were clear about their own strengths and weaknesses and many had found a specialism that fitted. Some had gone on to become a subject-matter expert in their field, were skilled at presenting and had gained media profile. In doing so, though, they recognised that it is not just what you know, it is how you communicate it that makes the difference.
Be it internal relationships within their firm or those with clients and contacts outside, 'go-to' professionals emphasised the need to understand the other person's agenda. This required them to read and respond to different personality styles. Many had a service mindset and preferred the phone or meetings over email to create more meaningful dialogue with contacts.
The good news about this research is that it reveals factors and approaches that can definitely be analysed and, to an extent, copied. The trick for any budding 'go-to' is to apply these to their own situation to set themselves apart from the mass of other professionals.
Readers of HR Magazine can obtain a complimentary electronic copy of the 'Becoming the Go-To Professional' research report by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
At The Results Consultancy, Steven Pearce is a board-level coach and John Timperley (pictured) is managing director