What I Learned From David Maister


I read my first David Maister piece in the 90’s. And I was hooked. He was savvy, practical and unafraid to confront thorny issues inside professional service firms.

Recently, David announced his retirement after 30 years serving the consulting, legal and advisory professions. His has been an important voice, a man unafraid to challenge conventional thinking and a giving mentor to many. In his honor, here are the top 3 things I learned from David Maister.

Have the courage to care. It’s the only true inspiration for the discipline you need to invest regularly in your clients, your colleagues and your career. Develop your relationships with clients because you genuinely care what happens to them. Build an expertise because it intrigues you. Mentor a junior associate (or even a senior one) because you are excited by the possibilities. Many advisors learn to check their passion at the door in search of billable hours. Don’t do it!

Be a dynamo. You’ve got a choice. You can be a cruiser, which means doing high-quality work you are good at.  Most highly competent professionals cruise at some point. But if you’re not learning something new, you will eventually become obsolete. Instead, be a dynamo. Act as though you’re still in the middle of an exciting career. Have a personal plan to grow your practice in new ways that excite you. Refer the highly repetitive work you can do in your sleep so you can move on to more exciting challenges.

Live your values. Stand for something that matters. Those words you write about mission and values need to mean something—and sometimes living up to them isn’t easy. You might have to say no to a lucrative assignment or ask a rainmaker to leave, or stop doing business with an alliance partner. But you do it anyway, because your values matter deeply.

So, thank you David Maister. May you enjoy a long, fulfilling retirement secure in the knowledge that you have helped so many of us be better at what we do. Anyone else care to share their favorite Maisterisms?


  • david

    Thanks, Rochelle! It's wonderful to know that you've affected someone, and always gratifying to hear it. Good luck on your journey.

  • Joe

    Rochelle I had not heard of David, thanks for sharing the info. What a great reminder of the difference between a consultant and a culture changer!

  • Wayne Cerullo

    Thanks for sharing Maister's work – I don't read many of these books but somehow his ended up in my hands and I actually read it — because it was good! I also agree with your distillation of big points!

  • Rochelle Moulton

    It's hard to sum up a master in a few paragraphs! But I am continually reminded of the importance of integrity to our profession–one of his core teachings. I admire David Maister for not backing down from his principles–and hopefully inspiring many others to do the same.

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