What if your mentor forgot to mention a few important details about management?
I am a naturally curious person. Some years ago, I was promoted from senior consultant to professional services manager. I'd always had the good fortune of working around and learning from people smarter than me. My initial understanding of professional services management came from mentoring by the vice presidents and directors I'd worked with over the years. I am fortunate to be currently working with one of the three most influential mentors in my career. Still, I continue to wonder if I might be missing something that would help me be a more productive consulting manager.
In the course of answering that question, I talked with hundreds of current senior consultants, professional services managers and executives. I read all the books on Professional Services management. I attended webinars, joined a couple professional societies, and attended events in person. The last question I asked everyone I met was always the same: "How did you learn to manage a professional services organization?"
The answer I heard most consistently was that people learned through coaching or mentoring from the previous professional services manager. This is surprising, considering that a 2014 industry survey of over 250 professional services firms showed that professional services managers earn an average of $25,000 more per year than their senior consultants. They also travel approximately half as often. That is a substantial quality of life improvement based primarily on mentoring and coaching, rather than formal training or review of published literature.
However, my experience is limited to those people I've met, and that’s not enough to find out conclusively how people learn to manage a professional services organization.
As a result, I am conducting a formal survey. The survey covers a small amount of demographic data—participants’ roles, how they learned to manage a professional services organization, and how many years they've been doing so. Current professional services consultants, managers, and executives can participate in the survey. There are twenty knowledge questions, drawn from a pool of over two hundred, organized around the eight areas of a professional services firm. This is to determine roughly how well each participant knows the topic; an exhaustive study would be possible, but also exhausting. This survey should only take about ten minutes for participants to complete.
I will summarize the resulting data in a report and email it to participants as soon as it is finished. I will collect data through October 2015, with the intent to release the report shortly after. To reduce data duplication, I will be verifying email addresses, so if you are not comfortable registering from your work address, use your personal email address instead. If you’re a current professional services manager, you can encourage your direct reports to participate.