I am willing to bet that when you left home for the first time to attend college, take a job, or join the military, your parents did not tell you what to do. They simply said, “BE GOOD”. This is what my parents said to me and it is what my wife and I said to our children when they left home. It is universal and timeless advice. It is simple, and it is fully understood and appreciated by those whom it is imparted. It does not need to be explained. Such is the advice offered in this book.
None of the qualities or underlining behaviors shared in this book are secrets or revelations; you will recognize most of them. They do not require detailed explanations. Their beauty is their universal truth and simplicity. It is the way in which the author has assembled and condensed them into easily digestible pieces of timeless wisdom which make this book an indispensable blueprint for career success. Indeed; I would argue these qualities and behaviors are not limited to career success. They are immutable guideposts for life success.
Qualities are qualities by any other name, but do you know which specific habits and behaviors determine whether you are endowed with a quality? Which ones are most important for professional development and career advancement? How do you know if others recognize them in you when you have acquired them? These questions are answered in this book.
O’Donnell also offers practical, contemporary strategies and tips for both acquiring the qualities and practicing the behaviors. The vignettes drawn from his personal and professional experiences reinforce their value. His examples are vivid and real, not mere platitudes, because they show how entire careers are made or ruined. In all these ways O’Donnell has advanced the reader’s understanding of what it means to be a true professional.
The subject of professionalism has been a big part of my life’s work. Allow me to briefly take you back to when it all started for me. In 1964 I was just beginning my career and I made two life changing observations:
First, I was meeting and working with some very successful people. Most of them at the time were fraternity men. Among others, they included Presidents of colleges and universities, industrial companies, financial centers and banks. They were U.S. Senators and Representatives, Governors, military generals and Admirals, railroad presidents, lawyers, doctors, and other highly-regarded leaders. They had all reached the top of their professions.
Secondly, they all shared great commonality in their personal and professional lives. Almost universal were their traits that I had a “checklist” which I followed in evaluating their commonality! My intent was to “be like” these people to the extent possible and just perhaps, I too would be successful. Others must determine if I succeeded or failed; however, others, like you, may want to consider the possibility these observations can help you become more successful than you might otherwise become.
When I accepted the job as Executive Director of a national leadership and educational non-profit, the organization had 52 chapters and 18,925 members. When I retired, the organization had 141 chapters and 69,624 members. The assets of the organization grew 3,000%. Much of this growth and success I attribute to recruiting a top-notch staff, attracting an exceptional board and volunteers at all levels of the organization, and grooming future professionals to one day accept the mantle of leadership.
Over the course of my career I hired and supervised more than 200 staff, most of them recent college graduates who needed to become professionals quickly, if the organization was to achieve its mission. Thus, I taught them the professional qualities and behaviors I observed in successful people — and that I, myself, tried to practice each day. I led countless workshops for our members and volunteers on the benefits of professionalism. Tens of thousands of people have been exposed to these teachings. Many of them went on to have very successful careers.
The author, Michael O’Donnell, is one of those professionals. I am proud to call him a protégé. I was delighted that he wanted to build on my work and teachings. He took to heart the lessons. He acquired the qualities. He practiced the behaviors. He started with very little in life and worked every day to better himself. He rose to the top of his profession and made meaningful contributions to his community.
Mike has taken these simple, essential behaviors, and made them accessible to all, regardless of profession, without being preachy or judgmental. Through a stream of consciousness, a continuity of subject, and with down-to-earth examples to follow, he guides the reader through both practical and emotional maps which light the path to success in life. He is an able storyteller and standard-bearer for the professional principles I lived by and believe in so passionately. He has lived both successes and failures. He has taken all the world has challenged him with, or attempted to discourage and distract him with, and emerged a true professional. He has perhaps learned the most important lesson of what it means to be a true professional: there are no shortcuts.
So, Mike and I and all the successful people I studied and taught can be your mentors if you so choose. The qualities and behaviors that made us who we are, are all embodied within these pages. It is up to you to act on them. The teachings herein represent a series of simple, small acts, that add up to big results. Mother Teresa said, “There are no great acts, only small acts of great love.” To paraphrase that sentiment, there are no great behaviors, only simple behaviors of great professionals, practiced consistently.
You may be wondering, do these qualities and behaviors apply to my generation? Do they speak to my future? Are they relevant today, or will they be relevant in the years to come? Do the internet, mobile devices or online virtual relationships negate the need or importance for any of the qualities and the underlining behaviors championed in this book? I would argue the answer is no. If anything, they are more important than ever because no one can hide any more or cover up their bad behaviors. Everything about one is easily discovered. A professional reputation is more important than ever before.
As the title of this book promises, there are certain qualities and behaviors which are universal and timeless. They determine whether others will hire, promote, invest in and associate with you. They will be just as relevant 100 years from now as they are today and as they were 100 years ago. Learn them. Embody them. Practice them. And then hand them down to the next generation.
To your success and prosperity,
Durward W. Owen
Certified Association Executive (retired)