Greetings from North Carolina, USA. I work at a large financial services institution. Having no business background, Manager Tools was a true godsend for me. Implementing the techniques I learned, my team achieved superior performance! Thanks, M&M!

I've actually just made a strategic retreat on the Management front. I moved from our Risk Management division into the Legal Department. The available position I took does not currently have "management" responsibilities, but I see a faster track to higher levels in this new area. Hope to be back in Management soon, in Legal.

That leads me to my special interest: managing licensed professionals - like attorneys and doctors. I know the same basic concepts apply, but there is a special challenge to managing people who believe that (a) they are smarter than everyone else and (b) they don't need a manager to tell them what to do. Challenges addressed by David Maister in his books, for example.

Do you manage licensed professionals? It would be great to have some fellow Manager Tools managers who are in this situation to help each other.

I've joined LinkedIn for some on-line networking (as a tool, in addition to my "live" networking). Here's my public profile: [url][/url]. Link in, especially if your interested in the topic of managing licensed professionals. Send me an email, and I'll invite you: [email protected]

Thanks, community! Especially Mark and Mike. Can't you sense the world of management getting better?

rthibode's picture

Welcome to MT, Brent!

I share your interest in managing professionals.

One lesson I've heard over and over is that credibility is the way to open the door with professionals. You need to be one of them first, then they might listen to what you have to say. This sounds impractical in your case unless you happen to be a lawyer already. What other ways might you demonstrate your credibility to a group of lawyers?


bpeters's picture


Fortunately (I think?), I am a lawyer already, so I don't have that obstacle to overcome.

Perhaps with professionals more that others, a manager should focus on gaining the "consent of the governed." Participation that is voluntary by the team member seems likely to be more effective.

One approach I like is a series of conversations about the values a manager can add to the team. Even the most independent professional is likely to see some value in team management. Gaining group consensus on the manager role can provide a foundation for implementation.

So, what value can a manager add to a group of professionals?

jhack's picture

I manage software developers. Credibility is important to them, too, and they can see through a poser in an instant. And they don't like being told "what to do."

Show them how you add value. Let them know the specifics of how you handle administrative, interpersonal, and political issues which allow them to focus on their tasks. The projects they work on, the customers they visit, etc, are all presented in terms of where they want to go in their careers (or where they want to stay!). O3's are critical in aligning my communications with their proclivities.

Fundamentally, you are serving them by making them more effective and efficient. They'll see that. Some of the more arrogant may be hard to deal with, but that would be true in any case.

Hope this helps.


rwwh's picture
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I think managing professionals is more common than many people think. On the other hand, this may mean that my definition of the term is more wide than it should be. Do you really think there is a large difference between "licensed" professionals and just plain self-conscious highly educated and/or highly experienced people?

I am manager of an R&D department in a instrument manufacturing industry. ALL of my direct reports have specialized in different fields from mine. Most of them have academic degrees.

bpeters's picture

Is there a large difference? Perhaps not. Actually, my experience is limited outside of the licensed professional area.

One argument in favor of difference comes from history. Attorneys, doctors, and accountants have been recognized as "professionals" for hundreds of years. Long before there were modern organizations, these were recognized professions. And again historically, members of these professions have typically practiced independently (or in very small partnerships). These historical factors, indoctrinated into the professional during her training, may make her less likely to accept "management" in our modern sense?

jhack's picture

What's important is the challenge:
...they are smarter than everyone else and ...they don't need a manager to tell them what to do [/quote]
In a sense, it doesn't matter what they think. Are they performing efficiently, with professionalism? A great thing about the "trinity" of one-on-one's, feedback and coaching is that the manager isn't distracted. The way forward is what matters.

Maybe you could share specific actions you found effective in dealing with skilled, strong-willed folks?