Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Millennials – Don’t Overreact

10352910_10152827659781535_751124781211827779_nI do talk about Millennials quite a bit. Especially, because accounting firms hire a lot of new college graduates as entry-level staffers.

Currently, the new college graduates are called Millennials because they were born from 1980 onward. That means many of them in your accounting firm are in their early 30s.

I think the biggest deal about Millennials inside accounting firms is that they are so much more savvy about technology and the social media world most of us live in these days.

I really like millennials and when I was working everyday inside a growing firm, the interns were special to me – honest, hardworking, intelligent. Wait! Doesn’t that describe almost every accountant and others who work inside CPA firms, no matter what their age? Yes, Millennials are regular people, too and we sometimes overreact in trying to figure them out.

One tidbit I read several years ago was from a Baby Boomer: Millennials want the same thing we wanted as we entered the workforce, they just have the guts to ask for it.

If your CPA firm is hiring (and every firm I talk to is hiring right now), read the article and watch this very informative (and short) video from Fast Company. 

If you are managing Millennials, my advice:  Chill-out, they are regular people, too. Talk to them like adults.

Additional note, my firm took-off on a progressive and ambitious growth path when the founder retired and a 32-year old was named managing partner.

Photo credit: Lumsden McCormick

  • Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.
  • Herbert Hoover

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

Reminder About CPACA Succession Survey

CPA_LogoThis week, things at your firm just might be a little less hectic than they have been in recent weeks.

Back in September, I invited firms to respond to a survey that is being conducted to determine how partners in CPA firms view their firm’s ability to address the succession of their partners primarily as they approach retirement.

Because of the fall tax due dates, we are offering extended time to complete the survey. Thanks so much to those of you who have already completed the survey and for all others, now you have more time! The survey will now close on October 31.

The survey consists of 15 short, simple statements to which respondents will enter their level of agreement. It should take no more than 10 minutes to complete. We will be releasing our findings in the form of an article that will include ideas and practical advice your firm can apply. All survey participants who supply us with contact information will receive a copy of the article as well as access to interviews we are doing with CPA firm leaders and emerging leaders.

Here is a link to where you can complete the survey.

 

  • For fast-acting relief, try slowing down.
  • Lily Tomlin

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

It’s Bigger Than Engaging Your People

Okay, so you know I love quotations. I am not a purest about them…. I realize there are many mis-quotes out there or pure quotes attributed to the wrong person. That doesn’t bother me a great deal. If I find a few words that inspire me, make the think or even cause me to take action – that’s good enough for me. Some even inspire me to write a blog post for people working at CPA firms!

“Love life. Engage in it. Give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.” – – Maya Angelou

In my work with accountants (CPAs), I often find that to them… work is life. They truly love their work. They can be completely absorbed and captivated by a tax issue. They can become obsessed with the organization, planning and carrying-out of an audit.

Of course, I am speaking in generalities. They love their work with a passion. But, do they love life with a passion? Many enjoy amazing monetary pay-back for their efforts and passion for work. But is that engaging in life? I know many who never take all of their vacation time. Many who never read fiction or biographies for enjoyment. They are too busy.

I have been consistent in my message to accountants about engaging their people. People like to work for people they like. People come to like people they know.

How involved are you, as a CPA firm leader and role model, with the people who work for you and your firm?

Succession planning, strategic planning, practice growth, partner unity – and even more issues facing CPA firm leaders could be solved if leaders were more engaged with their people and their peers.

People (the best talent) would stay with firms and become owners in the future if they felt engaged with leaders who demonstrate that they are engaged in life.

  • If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
  • Maya Angelou

Monday, October 20th, 2014

The Chairman of PwC – Insight On Engaging The Millennials

Bob Moritz, the Chairman of PwC, in an article via Harvard Business Review, talks about how the firm has changed and what they must now do to engage (and retain) their young, Millennial workforce.

I have been attempting to help CPAs better understand Millennials for almost a decade and I believe that many CPA firm leaders have embraced proven trends in hiring and keeping top talent (which are Millennials and many of them female).

I think you will find Moritz’s comments very interesting – I know most of you keep an eye on what the Big Four are doing.

Some tidbits from Mr Moritz follow…. but please read the entire article here.

  • Things have definitely changed in the three decades I have been with the firm.
  • Bigger bonuses and promotions went to those who sacrificed more of their personal lives, whereas our current HR policies primarily reward quality and value the work and life needs of every person.
  • Millennials are vocal and extremely globally oriented – they know and care much more about what’s going on all over the world than I did at their age.
  • PwC’s Millennials don’t only demand to know the organization’s purpose – its reason for being – but are prepared to leave the firm if that purpose doesn’t align with their own values.

PwC studied their Millennials and have made significant changes in their HR practices. PwC Boomers accepted the notion of making partner as the reward and justification for years of long hours in service to clients. But their current studies revealed that the allure of someday becoming partner is no longer enough to spark high levels of engagement.

Again, follow the link and read the article – it is very interesting and informative.

 

  • I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.
  • Mother Teresa

Friday, October 17th, 2014

We All Know Some Unpleasant Women

I recently read an HBR blog that examined why some women negotiate better than others.

Women who do negotiate well and become successful (and equally paid as men) usually are tagged as “too pushy.” If you have been in the business world for a few years, I imagine you have observed this first-hand or even experienced it yourself.

It seems, according to the research, that women who succeed in challenging careers have a personality trait by which they regard their two “selves” – their professional identity and their gender identity – not as in conflict but as fundamentally compatible.

One bit of information in the article intrigued me and helped me to realize that I have actually observed it with successful women leaders – – –

…one of the most successful women in Silicon Valley, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, endorses findings by Mary Sue Coleman that women who get ahead are “relentlessly pleasant”.

Along the way in my many years working in public accounting, I have observed that aggressive, demanding men are often admired and that aggressive, demanding women are not.

I even received advice that disappointed me but at the time, but learned it was very true.

A very high-profile, author and consultant to professional service firms told me, face-to-face (when I inquired as to how to continue and improve upon being a non-CPA leader inside my firm) “You will never be their equal or have respect for your leadership skills because you are not a CPA.”

Another very successful, high-profile consultant to CPA firms (a male who facilitated a partner retreat for us) counseled me off and on as I progressed. He told me, “Partners hate to take orders from women.” I think this one can be translated to mean – men hate to take orders from women.

I pretty much ignored this kind of advice and kept on being “relentlessly pleasant” — most of the time, with an occasional relapse.

As I progressed in my career over many years, I found more success if I simply took the advice of my mother: “You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar.

  • I always prefer to believe the best of everybody, it saves so much trouble.
  • Rudyard Kipling

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Productivity Hack of the Week

Fast-Company-Logo“To help you work smarter instead of harder, we’re hitting you with a productivity hack each Friday. Check out our hacks here.” – – this is from Fast Company.

If you are confused by the word hack, used in this context, learn more here.

I thought the Productivity Hack Of The Week for October 10, 2014 just might interest many accountants working in public accounting. You know…. the place where in most firms you track every single minute of your day! (Except for the very progressive firms where they have embraced the value pricing model.) Of course, whether you are tracking time or not – you can end up wasting a lot of time browsing the web.

Taking a Facebook break or reading a few blogs that you follow everyday (and find helpful… hopefully like mine), can still be good for you and also be productive, within limits. It is still very clear that there is only so much time you can spend with these browsing activities.

That is why, when I read about how to track how much time you waste, I thought it would certainly pique your interest.

There is an app that runs in the background while you work on your computer or smartphone that tracks each second you spend on applications and websites and gives you weekly reports and data based on your activity.

Then there is another app that helps you, after you have decided how much time you want to cut back (a productivity extension for Google Chrome) that allows you to restrict the amount of time you can spend on time-wasting websites. If you lack self-control completely and need to put yourself on a productivity lock down, you can block specific sites completely using Chrome.

All this is interesting. I need to dig a little deeper and see if it could benefit me. I know that I get sucked into reading a post and following a link, then another link and end up reading, reading, reading….. which is good for my knowledge and expertise but I often have other more important priorities!

As mentioned above, Fast Company provides a productivity hack every week – read them here.

  • Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.
  • Stephen King

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Just Another Due Date

IMG_4340I guess you could call it the last major tax return due date of the year for certified public accountants.

Most business people are well aware that March 15th is the tax due date for corporate tax returns, April 15th is the due date for individual income tax returns. The filing of corporate returns can be extended until September 15 and individual returns until October 15. This creates a very busy time inside most CPA firms leading up to 3/15 and 4/15 and another (mini busy season) leading up to 9/15 and 10/15.

Working with and talking to CPAs across the country (and the people who work for them), I hear so much frustration and observe an immense amount of finger-pointing about why these due dates cause so much stress and unhappiness.

Yet, I find bright spots! I also hear (a very few) stories about Mary or John (partner in the firm) who never has to work so many extra hours as a due date approaches nor do they put excessive demands on the people who help them deliver client services.

What has Mary or John done differently than their other partners?

Simple. They trained their clients. 

I have seen it happen first-hand. It is possible.

  • It's easier to go down a hill than up it, but the view is much better at the top.
  • Henry Ward Beecher

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Challenging Conversations – Don’t Avoid Them

When I was working inside a busy, growing accounting firm, I would often have someone come to me and say, “Could you talk to Sally (or Joe or whoever), she……. (fill in the blank).”

Usually, it was something that needed to be discussed, however, some accountants are uncomfortable with confrontation so they would try to “pass the buck” to someone else.

Maybe you have a performance conversation coming up and maybe you will need to give some negative feedback. Don’t be afraid. Be honest.

Photo on 10-8-14 at 9.34 AMI recommend you consider sending your key communicators to Crucial Conversations Training. We sent key people from our firm and they reported “it changed my life.” You can even get one of your own people certified to be a trainer for your entire organization.

Formally trained or not, read the book and then you can take steps to become more comfortable when those challenging conversations need to happen.

Read this article on Fast Company, 5 Strategies to Prepare For A Difficult Conversation At Work, to help you prepare.

Focus on the other person – enter the conversation from the perspective of how you can help the person get better.

Think through your opening – Be direct, “here’s what I want to help you with.”

Practice out loud beforehand – Practice what you will say in the car while driving to work.

Call a peer for help – Some people get defensive. Practice with a peer on how you might address objections. It will boost your confidence and help you stay calm.

Don’t fear emotions – They might respond emotionally, that is a good thing because strong conversations can be a turning point in their career.

Follow the link, above, to read the entire article – then practice!

 

  • This is a breakthrough book. I found myself being deeply influenced, motivated, and even inspired.
  • Stephen R. Covey

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

Lighten-up – Enjoy your weekend

Sometimes we make mistakes. Many people stress-out, especially when it is getting very close to a due date for an accounting firm.

Often partners and managers feel like they must just fix the mistake made by a lesser-experienced accountant and move the project (like a tax return) on to the next step in the process.

How will the less-experienced accountant ever learn if they do not know what they did wrong? Send it back to the preparer, even if it is close to the deadline. I am well aware of the pressures…. if you are literally down to the wire – fix it – but make a note and TALK to the accountant about the situation once the pressure is off – like on October 16th.

I made a mistake. I posted my Saturday blog yesterday – on Friday.  Check out this week’s REAL lighten-up blog post here – It’s the weekend!

M-O-O-N spells mistake!

  • I know a transsexual guy whose only ambition is to eat, drink and be Mary.
  • George Carlin

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Constant Interruptions

This is another post in the on-going saga of improving communication inside your CPA firm.

Comments I frequently hear….

From staff members:

  • I can’t complete projects because I’m waiting on the partner to get back with me.
  • The tax return I prepared has been in the partner’s office for review for 4 weeks!
  • I tried to talk to Joe but he is almost always on the phone.
  • Joe is never in the office. He’s at a client location or at some outside meeting.
  • Joe always has someone in his office so it is difficult for me to get my questions answered.
  • I have to stay until 6:00p in off-season just to get a chance to talk to Joe.

From Joe (Fake name for a partner):

  • I never have uninterrupted time, so I have to work early morning and after hours.
  • When I am on the phone, there is always one or two people standing outside my office waiting for me to hang up.
  • Sally is a constant interruption! I wish she would make a list of questions and come see me once a day.
  • I hate to close my door so much but it’s the only way to get a few quiet minutes.

I can relate to both sides. But, one thing I want to stress with CPA firm leaders…. partners, firm administrators, HR directors, etc. is something I learned during my any years in CPA firm leadership:  The thousands of interruptions are not keeping you from your work, they are your work.

When asked what my job was, I usually replied, “My job is talking to people.” That means I had to be accessible. It also meant that my secondary responsibilities had to often be done before 8am and after 5pm.

That’s why I recommend to CPA firm partners, to practice Managing By Wandering Around – at least once a day. If team members have questions about their client project, they know they will have a chance to ask you when you are walking around. It also means that YOU are controlling your time rather than being ambushed continually.

Here’s the drill:  On your way back from getting coffee or a soft drink, walk around the entire office. Then, stop at the desk/office of a person you know is working on one of your projects but don’t talk about the weather or the football game! Talk about the work, ask:

  • Are you doing okay on the Jones project?
  • Are you still on track to have it done by the target date next week?
  • Do you need anything from me?

If you are a frequent follower of this blog, you know about the MBWA 8 (change your firm with 8 words):

  • What do you think?
  • How can I help?
  • Effective questioning brings insight, which fuels curiosity, which cultivates wisdom.
  • Chip Bell