Educate October 2017

Book Review: The Professional: Defining the New Standard of Excellence at Work

Written By: Sharon Brown, Prospect strategy analyst, University of Florida Office of Advancement

Integrity is a key theme in The Professional. It’s one of Bagchi’s three qualities that define a true professional: the ability to behave with integrity at all times.

What does it mean to be a professional? Books and articles about leadership abound, but the topic of professionalism isn’t as trendy. And yet, it’s a quality we often refer to, most of the time in a complaint. Who hasn’t grumbled to a friend about someone who didn’t act professionally? In his inspired 2011 book “The Professional: Defining the New Standard of Excellence at Work,” Subroto Bagchi meticulously defines and encourages professionalism for the greater good.

Bagchi is the co-founder of Mindtree, a tech company with local ties. Raised in India in a home with no electricity or running water, he went on to achieve a life of success as a prominent businessman, entrepreneur and author. In The Professional, he writes with authority and his voice is like that of a kind yet slightly stern professor. Throughout the book, he maintains the belief that professionalism applies to everyone, no matter their occupation or position.

The Professional is divided into seven parts, and each of the 60 chapters is just 2-5 pages long. Bagchi calls it a workbook, and it lends itself to browsing. He uses the power of storytelling to illustrate his points. He is unmistakably a person who spends time observing, thinking and contemplating.

Integrity is a key theme in The Professional. It’s the subject of the first of the book’s seven parts. It’s one of Bagchi’s three qualities that define a true professional: the ability to behave with integrity at all times. He also describes Mindtree’s integrity book, an online account of real internal instances of breaches of trust or values along with the company’s response. That’s next-level integrity.

I appreciated The Professional because it reinforced beliefs I’ve developed over time and introduced me to new ideas and ways of thinking. Depending on where you are in your career, different chapters will grab you.

Part 5 — Managing Complexity — was one of my favorite sections. It’s all about the mind, and Bagchi is a well-read student of the subject. He lectures on different types of intelligence, levels of knowledge and the five minds of the future. He is definitely a future-oriented person.

Reviewing and Reflecting was one of the more Zen chapters. Bagchi advises readers to be self-observant, believing that it is a path for moving forward. “Watch yourself at work,” he writes. “Self-observant people do not suffer from illusions.”

By observing our daily actions, we will learn more about ourselves and become both player and coach. Deep stuff.

He also advises readers that they should never lose touch with their work. For example, the vice president of sales should continue to make a cold call every now and then. The manager of a restaurant should take reservations and greet people occasionally. Taking care of the fundamentals keeps the connection to purpose strong.

Bagchi is a questioner. He uses the “ask five consecutive whys” strategy and writes about asking pertinent questions and listening intently. Interestingly, he explains his belief that the primary role of a leader is to ask critical questions rather than give answers. He also cites former GE CEO Jack Welch’s five questions about the professionals on his team. I wasn’t familiar with them, and they’re good:

1) Is he real?

2) Does she see around corners?

3) Who is around him?

4) Does he get back on the horse?

5) Is she pro-business?

I could go on, but why not explore The Professional on your own? You’ll come away educated and motivated to polish your professional self.


SHARON BROWN is a Prospect Strategy Analyst with the University of Florida Office of Advancement. A graduate of UF’s College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, she is happy to have found a career that marries reading, writing and being curious. She and her husband, also a CLAS alum, live in Gainesville.

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