CMI’s CMgr of the Year relives six months of transformation

Tuesday 15 December 2020
In a discussion with CMI’s CEO Ann Francke, Manisha Mistry CMgr explained how Covid-19 accelerated positive, digital transformation at Rolls-Royce

Manisha Mistry didn’t know whether she should put herself forward for the Chartered Manager of the Year. “I wasn't sure it would be a winning submission,” says the head of digital culture at Rolls Royce. “But in going through the steps, it helped me to understand that what I had achieved was quite phenomenal with the support of others – and why wouldn't I submit it?”

Manisha did end up becoming the 2020 winner, but things have changed since. Her win was announced at the height of the pandemic, in the middle of the first lockdown. In the months since, the digital transformation of Rolls-Royce has continued as the business adapted to working restrictions. In a conversation with CMI’s CEO Ann Francke, Manisha explained how Covid-19 has influenced transformation at the organisation.

Virtual flattens hierarchies

First, she talked about the general challenges and benefits of working during Covid-19. “Everyone's focused on the need to get the technology working; the human side has been probably less apparent. Now we're seeing some of that come through,” Manisha explains. “I think the benefits for those that have been able to adapt have been fantastic.”

Manisha feels that the pandemic has created a flatter stage for people to work together, removing some of the organisational bureaucracy that managers and leaders often have to deal with on a daily basis.

This is true at Rolls-Royce, where virtual is now the norm for most teams. Physical environments are only necessary when there’s a genuine need to meet face-to-face. “A lot of our processes in the way that we manage are also being adjusted to cater for that. Which is fantastic because you open yourself to much more diversity in who you have, how it works and what you gain as a result of it.”

Speak up about wellbeing

Ann Francke asked Manisha how she has looked after her team’s – and her own – wellbeing over the past few months. Transparency is critical, Manisha says; employees need to be open when they’re not having a good day, instead of bottling it up. At Rolls-Royce, managers make sure that they’re available through a number of platforms to ensure that team members feel comfortable sharing. Manisha also encourages her team to take regular breaks.

“How do you seek others’ help, as well as allow others to seek your help? That's the key piece, making sure that you see it as a human business changing, not just a corporate setting that needs to be different,” Manisha says.

Enter the agile age

Do you feel that Covid-19 and the challenges of making so many decisions quickly and virtually has resulted in greater agility, Ann asked. Definitely, says Manisha. The tricky thing is making sure that it sticks once the pandemic ends and offices open back up again. Will Manisha be lobbying to ensure that the benefits of virtual working lasts?

“Absolutely. I don't think we have a choice anyway. These are changes we would have had to make,” Manisha says. “This has allowed us to accelerate that – and it would be detrimental to take certain steps back. But that said, I think an assessment does need to be made: what have we lost, if anything, as a result of moving in this direction?”

When discussing Manisha’s achievements as a Chartered Manager, she spoke about how broad the CMI qualifications were in developing management skills. “Whether you're a manager or not, you use the skills that you gain from being Chartered everywhere.”

Ann asked what advice she might have for others thinking of nominating themselves for Chartered Manager of the Year? Manisha had four pieces of advice:

1.It’s never too early to start writing

Write your achievements in a document that you can keep going back to, adding and refining as you go. “I found that by doing it over a couple of weeks, it developed my thinking and allowed me to recognise what I had personally achieved, which is what the Chartered Manager of the Year Awards is about.”

2. Seek the views of others

“That includes your don't know what you don't know. You haven't seen it in yourself, but others will have. There's something about it that makes it richer and gives you an acknowledgement of your own growth.”

3. Think of it as a piece of history 

“It’s something that you can refer to and be proud of. It will come through in the words you use, the way you tell that story… capture a moment in time to make it inspirational because you'll use it.”

4. Keep to a word count 

By keeping to a strict word count, you will keep to the point and help you to make your argument more coherently. “Are you answering what's being asked and are you doing it succinctly? Because if you can do those two things, you've nailed it.”


Here are all the reasons why you should apply to CMI’s Chartered Manager of the Year Awards 2021. Already decided you’re going to apply? Enter the awards here!

You can watch Ann and Manisha’s conversation in full here.

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