Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Hard Driver Versus Non-Confrontational

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” – George Orwell

I have observed that CPA firms, over a period of many years, seem to develop cultures that encourage almost opposite behaviors.

As you probably know, I have been working in the CPA profession long enough to observe how changes in leadership drives culture.

I entered the profession when the Silent Generation was still in control. Traditionalists, known as the Silent Generation (because children of this generation were expected to be seen and not heard) were born during the mid-1920s to 1945. There are some (age over 72) still active in the profession but most have now retired.

The traditional era managing partner was a hard driver. He (and almost always it was a he) believed you make your own way through hard work which included long, grueling hours. Promotions and advancement was the result of tenure and proven productivity. They did not listen to the opinions of their staff before making decisions – it never occurred to them.

I observed that when this type of managing partner finally retired, the next generation (baby boomers) made a fairly significant swing towards not being hard on people. They avoided confrontation of any kind. They didn’t want to be the tyrant-type leader they had observed. Yet, they still believed that hard-work was the foundation of their culture.

Over time, baby boomers have mellowed and have realized that if you want to retain top talent you have to be flexible and willing to listen to the desires and needs of your employees.

Because they are still very non-confrontational they do not address situations that need to be addressed. Many retain employees that should have been out placed years ago. If one person complains about a new policy or procedure they almost panic and react too quickly. Some, to me, appear almost skittish.

I always suggest that you don’t want your CPA firm to be a sweat-shop culture nor do you want it to be a country club culture. Where do you fit?

  • "World War II brought the Greatest Generation together. Vietnam tore the Baby Boomers apart."
  • Jim Webb

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