Professional Services Organizations of All Research Paper

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Indeed, Weiss describes the process as "ironic" and notes that, "The incentives to put clients first underplay the more subtle logic behind encouraging knowledge sharing in the first place: firms that effectively collect and connect what they know will better serve their clients" (1999, p. 62). The benefits that can accrue to professional services firms that achieve this level of knowledge sharing among their practitioners are wide ranging and can contribute to the firm's performance and profitability. By developing the networks, procedures and routines that are needed to deliver efficient services, professional services firms can take advantage of individual expertise in a modern administrative fashion. In this regard, Weiss advises that, "Clients typically want customized services, but they do not want to pay professional services firms to 'reinvent the wheel.' Professional service firms can develop competitive advantages when they provide higher quality services that are delivered more efficiently than their competition" (1999, p. 62). In order to achieve this desirable combination of professional talent and administrative efficiency, a corporate culture must be in place that values knowledge sharing behaviors that can be encouraged through intrinsic motivational techniques. For instance, Weiss (1999) notes that to achieve this combination, professional services firm must develop the mechanisms whereby the accumulated tacit knowledge of the firm can be applied in meaningful ways.

Some of the ways the professional services firms can develop this optimal combination include the following:

1. Introduce incentives that value collection and connection activities and evaluate professionals on these activities in performance reviews;

2. Institute practices of assessing partners and senior-level professionals on their success in creating knowledge sharing opportunities in the teams they lead;

3. Encouraging or requiring team debriefs at the end of projects so that professionals can share what they learn;

4. Undertake activities that facilitate knowledge sharing, including encouraging senior-level professionals to become knowledge brokers; and,

5. Aligning incentives with knowledge sharing goals (Weiss, 1999, p. 62).

Although it is reasonable to assume that all professionals in an organization that uses their training and skills receive some level of intrinsic motivation from the work they perform because this is precisely what they studied and trained for; however, it is also reasonable to suggest that in any professional organizational setting, there are various types of work assignments that are available that may be more suited to some individuals than others, making the need to link individual with work type an important part of the intrinsic motivational equation. This does not necessarily mean that people need to find their work "fun" (after all, that is why they call it "work"), but it does mean that some people simply enjoy some types of work more than others. Some ways that leaders can better link the type of work that is performed with individuals who will receive the maximum intrinsic motivation from the work in professional services organizations include the following:

1. Make it a priority but keep it simple. The CEO and senior leaders need to believe it, talk it, and walk it.

2. Link talent to business strategies. Show the connection in multiple compelling ways.

3. Develop disciplined systems for assessment. Require leaders to know their people's talents and conduct regular reviews (e.g., quarterly updates) as well as an annual deep dive.

4. Use the data. Integrate talent assessments and organizational needs back into internal search or recruitment, retention and motivation programs, professional and leadership development programs, performance management, and workforce planning (Vosburgh, 2007, p. 12).

In many professional services organizations, there are some common intrinsic motivational methods that are practiced that provide some useful insights into the environments that are involved and the outcomes that have been achieved. For example, peer review is used by many law firms as a means of quality control that is intended to both protect the firm, to assure continuity and quality in the level of services provided to clients as well as a framework in which to provide motivation for up-and-coming firm members (Sternberg & Horvath, 1999). As a result, some professional services organizations, such as law firms, use mentorship programs to help motivate younger staff members become more proficient and "learn the ropes" in ways that contribute to their sense of competence and self-determination (Sternberg & Horvath, 1999). Of course, some mentors are better than others in providing these services and savvy aspirants try to navigate the system to their advantage. For instance, Sternberg and Horvath add that, "Associates understand the limitations of the environment, and struggle in their early years of practice to work with the partners who are the better mentors. They also try to be given the assignments that will afford them the best opportunity for learning with a minimal risk of serious failure" (1999, p. 18).

Likewise, a growing number of professional services organizations have also developed standardized training programs to help groom their talent for expanded roles in the future in ways that contribute to their sense of competence and self-determination (Vosburgh, 2007). Grooming the current cadre of leaders in the professions just makes good business sense because every organization will need this type of continuity for future success (Vosburgh, 2007). Some of the factors that have been shown to promote intrinsic motivation include those described in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Factors that Promote Intrinsic Motivation and Their Uses



Guidelines for Promoting Intrinsic Motivation


People are best motivated when they are working toward personally meaningful goals whose attainment requires activity at a continuously optimal (intermediate) level of difficulty.

1. Set personally meaningful goals.

2. Make attainment of goals probable but uncertain.

3. Give ongoing performance feedback.

4. Relate goals to self-esteem.


Something in the physical environment attracts the learner's attention or there is an optimal level of discrepancy between present knowledge or skills and what these could be if the learner engaged in some activity.

1. Stimulate sensory curiosity by making abrupt changes that will be perceived by the senses.

2. Stimulate cognitive curiosity by making a person wonder about something (i.e., stimulate the learner's interest).


People have a basic tendency to want to control what happens to them (this is the fundamental "self-determination" aspect of intrinsic motivation).

1. Make clear the cause-and-effect relationships between what students are doing and things that happen in real life.

2. Enable the learners to believe that their work will lead to powerful effects.

3. Allow learners to freely choose what they want to learn and how they will learn it.


Learners use mental images of things and situations that are not actually present to stimulate their behavior.

1. Make a game out of learning.

2. Help learners imagine themselves using the learned information in real- life settings.

3. Make the fantasies intrinsic rather than extrinsic.


Learners feel satisfaction by comparing their performance favorably to that of others.

1. Competition occurs naturally as well as artificially.

2. Competition is more important for some people than for others.

3. People who lose at competition often suffer more than the winners profit.

4. Competition sometimes reduces the urge to be helpful to other learners.


Learners feel satisfaction by helping others achieve their goals.

1. Cooperation occurs naturally as well as artificially.

2. Cooperation is more important for some people than for others.

3. Cooperation is a useful real-life skill.

4. Cooperation requires and develops interpersonal skills.


Learners feel satisfaction when others recognize and appreciate their accomplishments.

1. Recognition requires that the process or product or some other result of the learning activity be visible.

2. Recognition differs from competition in that it does not involve a comparison with the performance of someone else.

Source: Vockell, 2001, para. 2

Transformational Leadership Methods for Professional Services Organizations

The concept of transformational leadership is attributed to the British political scientist J.M. Burns which describes organizational managers who are more concerned with the nature of the ends or goals of an organization than in the means that are used to achieve them. From Burns's perspective, transformational leadership is an important component in achieving organizational goals, in sustaining values and the organization focused on a common direction (Statt, 1999). In recent years, transformational leadership has assumed increasing prominence in the organizational behavior literature (Wright & Pandey, 2010). According to Wright and Pandey (2010), transformational leadership can be distinguished from leadership that is reward-based by the "transformation" that takes place among followers. Transformational leaders are able to guide and motivate their followers to higher levels of individual effort by "transforming their followers by raising their awareness of the importance of organizational outcomes thereby activating their higher order needs and inducing them to transcend their own self-interest for the sake of the organization" (Wright & Pandey, 2010, p. 76).

Although all professional services organizations are unique and there are no "one-size-fits-all" approaches available, transformational leadership techniques can be generally used to motivate staff in a professional services organization in the following ways:


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