Is it time to rethink the role of a “Manager” in professional services?

Is it time to rethink the role of a “Manager” in professional services?

One thing the last year has highlighted for so many of our clients is the critical contribution of effective management, a role which we often see is taken for granted, with people just expected to naturally ‘step-up’ and manage teams.

We wrote about this in an article some years ago, however the last year has really shone a light on the importance of the role, and for some has widened the cracks that were already there in firms who hadn’t invested in developing their managers.

Never has a managers role been more difficult, or more important, and it’s no surprise that developing people’s skills and capabilities in this area is top of the priority list for many firms in 2021.

With working from home currently the new normal, and the relationship between employer and employee being almost completely digitalised, has the role of the traditional manager changed?

On the hand we would argue not – the role remains pivotal because management is about maximising individual and collective performance, and all the skills great programmes teach will continue to include topics such as:

  • Communication
  • Goal setting and performance standards
  • Feedback and difficult conversations
  • Personal effectiveness and organisation
  • Motivation
  • Managing change
  • Commerciality

However I think the greatest impact we have seen this year is the human one – and this has demanded a different skill, which doesn’t come naturally for some managers. With a lot of fear and uncertainty, empathy has been needed by the bucket load with line managers having to provide even more support, especially to those colleagues who have been struggling.

We’ve seen a real change and focus across the following areas:

Trust – people are learning to work remotely with much less oversight and supervision, control has to some extent given way to trust.

Connection – teams seem to know each other better and have more consistent contact. Virtual meetings from home have given managers a window in to their teams lives outside of the office, prompting more understanding and support. With good listening and communication skills, managers have an opportunity to make a huge difference to their teams.

Well-being – the pandemic has brought mental health and wellbeing to the to the top of many firm’s agendas. Resilience is becoming just as important to firm’s strategic thinking as cost and efficiency. Firms are revisiting how they are supporting the mental health and wellbeing of their workforce and line managers have a critical role to play here.

Agile working – Professional service firms are renowned for their often traditionalist approaches, however the events of the last year have shown how fast firms can adapt. It has demonstrated, much to some people’s surprise, that firms can move faster and act in more agile ways than they first thought. Again managers have an important role to play in continuing to embrace the pace and scale of workplace innovation and find simpler, faster and less expensive ways to operate.


COVID-19 has been a catalyst to reinvent the future of work and create opportunities for firms to look at things differently. One thing that will be critical to continued future success is their ability to recognise and proactively equip teams with not just physical resources, but skills, mindsets, behaviours and values needed – you can find out more about our management and leadership programmes here.

If you would like to talk to one of our team about any of your challenges, we would love to help – get in touch at or call 0333 7722 061 .