Just because leaders and managers in professional services firms might have professional qualifications, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are naturally good leaders or managers of people!

Leading & Managing in Professional Service Firms

Leading and managing a professional services firm is rewarding, although it comes with its challenges and industry pressures.  High levels of competition, regulatory standards and compliance, sometimes stressful and pressurised work environments, skills shortages and increasingly challenges around staff retention.

Professional services firms like never before are forced to adapt quickly to fast-changing competitive pressures, to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors, to offer niche and specialised services, and importantly drive efficiency and productivity by embracing new technology.  Gone are the days when they can simply wait for the phone to ring and are now having to invest heavily in finding and retaining clients and cannot bank on historic loyalties.

How do you succeed despite these pressures?

It is all about the people. That is a cliché but in this case it is true! Professional services firm sell their services and these services are delivered by their most valuable resource – their highly skilled and experienced people. This includes those that:

  • lead the firm
  • the qualified fee earners who generate the income; and
  • all those that support the fee earners and the firm.

A team effort where success demands high-performance.

Qualifications and skills don’t automatically make for a successful team

As the demands of regulatory compliance and professional standards continue to rise, so does the demand for high-level technical skills and qualifications that are needed to maintain those high standards and to achieve commercial success.

But, although those that typically lead and manage professional firms are technically accomplished and knowledgeable, their professional qualifications do not prepare them well for leading and managing people. They also find themselves (although they are often reluctant to accept the fact!) without the skills and knowledge needed to navigate:

  • the increasingly complex pressures of managing people and performance – delagating, motivating, empowering and engaging
  • delivering consistently high standards and meeting deadlines
  • implementing new systems and processes and adapting to changes in legislation and best practice
  • continue to maintain their chargeability/utilisation rate and generate budgeted income

Broad responsibilities indeed, likely to challenge the most accomplished leader and manager!

The symptoms of a shortage of leadership & management skills, knowledge and experience

Having worked for all of my career within professional services, I have all too often witnessed the symptoms of the shortage of skills and knowledge I refer to.  Symptoms include:

  • Underperformance within organisations, teams and individuals. Low productivity and efficiency.
  • High staff turnover and problems of recruiting the right people.
  • Missed deadlines, complaints and regulatory pressures.
  • Poor utilisation and recovery rates from time spent by fee earners.
  • Poor communication, internal conflict (visible or not), low morale and team spirit.
  • A narrow focus on personal goals rather than shared firm-wide goals – it’s everyone for themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that organisations that are facing these symptoms cannot be profitable.  But, what I am saying is that they risk squandering potential and only achieving a relatively poor return on investment.  Also, many of those that work within the organisation find their work and role less than satisfying (hence high staff turnover) and lack the determination and commitment to make the necessary changes to improve results.

So, what is the answer?

An investment in skills and capabilities that are focused on people and not just the delivery of technical services.

“Leaders must create the conditions that make high-performance possible.  They cannot delegate this responsibility to others.”

Although this seems obvious, often resources are still focused on technical skills and qualifications.  In many ways, this is cultural (it is the way it has always been). But, it also highlights the commercial pressures and high costs of recruiting and maintaining a professionally qualified skill base. Having invested so much for a team member to qualify, it is then seen as difficult to invest further in their learning & development (both in terms of non-chargeable time and cost).

But there is ample evidence that an investment in leadership & management development leads to improved performance, motivation, engagement, and commitment.  Therefore, a leap of faith isn’t needed here! Invest and success will follow.

Soft Skills for Leaders & Managers
How can Lunesdale help?

Ultimately, Lunesdale will help both the firm and those that lead and manage it, reach their full potential and therefore consistently deliver high performance and positive results.  We can help with each of the following steps directly or by supporting those in the organisation already championing learning & development:

  • Helping our clients create and implement a learning & development strategy for leaders and managers (and aspiring managers). This can include identifying gaps in skills and competencies as well as establishing goals and objectives.
  • Put in place the processes that are needed to promote learning & development and then measure the results. If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it as Peter Drucker wisely said.
  • Align individual learning goals with the goals of the firm to secure all-important buy-in.
  • Create content and learning materials that are focused on the firm’s strategy. There is nothing generic about what we do!
  • Deliver bespoke training, executive coaching and mentoring to unlock and build on the existing potential within teams and individuals.
  • Help create a culture of learning and development that will maintain high standards, commercial and competitive success, and allow the firm to adapt quickly to the inevitable changes that are just around the corner!

And, we have a demonstratable track record of delivering high-quality, strategically focused leadership & management development processes within professional services firms. Not only that, we are seasoned professionals, appropriately qualified and experienced, that have successfully delivered professional services for over 25 years.  So, trust in the experts!

Call Jonathan Timmis on 07961 674535 or email [email protected] if you would like to find out more about our services focused on the needs of Professional Services firms and other regulated businesses.