Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category
Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Last week Pew Research released the results of a new study focused on the Millennial generation.
One of the findings could mean a lot inside your CPA firm. The issue of trust:
Millennials have emerged into adulthood with low levels of social trust. In response to a long-standing social science survey question, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people,” just 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers, 37% of Silents and 40% of Boomers.
When I see a group of partners who truly seem to trust each other, their firm excels. If I encounter an administrative team inside a firm that trust each other, they provide amazing service to their internal and external clients.
In the majority of firms I encounter, I do not see an outstanding culture of trust.
In Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, he identifies Absence of Trust as the foundational dysfunction. Trust is the foundation of real teamwork.
One major factor in the lack of trust culture inside CPA firms is the issue of inclusion. Young people are excluded from many management activities and conversations. Partner meet, managers meet and the rest of the accounting team just wonders what they are meeting about.
Include your Millennials. They are the ones 33 and under. They have great ideas and a unique perspective.
I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you.
Thursday, March 6th, 2014
CPA firm partners, managers, and other inside focused professionals have lots of interactions with people working at the firm. Often a firm administrator alone has the opportunity to answer dozens of questions per day.
These firm leaders are sometimes going to get it wrong. They are going to be curt and short with people – often unaware of how they come across. If they are lucky, they will receive feedback from those who care about them to help them adjust.
If this is you and you are facing a somewhat embarrassing situation – receiving the feedback graciously is important. If you are part of management avoid using “we” when acknowledging such personal feedback – - if you did it, say “I’m sorry” not “We’re sorry.”
Keep in mind that people giving you feedback are taking a risk. They don’t deserve excuses or sarcasm.
Here’s a good post on this topic from Seth Godin.
Feedback is the breakfast of champions.
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014
Some of the most successful CEOs in the country had some interesting first jobs. You can check them out in this article – Surprising First Jobs of 10 Famous CEOS - on the Fast Company site.
How about having some fun during this busy time of year inside your firm or office?
Have everyone describe in a few sentences their very first paid job. Then perhaps your firm administrator can create a matching game with the data, listing the jobs and the names of all team members.
At a group in-office lunch, those attending play the matching game with the forms supplied by the administrator. Prizes are awarded to the people making the most correct matches.
Firms across the country, during this time of year, participate in fun things like this. One year The Association for Accounting Administration compiled ideas and offered a booklet titled, The Fun-tastic Firm to the members. Be sure to share these ideas with your AAA Chapter members and at your CPA firm association meetings.
Tax season is a game. You are doing what you do best and hopefully enjoying the challenges.
Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.
Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
I have mentioned this before…. for some of the population, email is dying out. I’m not convinced it is going away anytime soon but you should be aware that your new hires might not be as adept at email as your more experienced people.
As I talk to practitioners and their teams around the country, I hear the constant lament – “I am swamped by email!” It often becomes a bragging contest: I had 100 emails today. Oh yeah, I had 200! That’s nothing, I usually get 300 per day.
Since email is a primary tool of the CPA profession, it might be helpful to learn 10 Trigger Words to Ban From Your Emails. I found them in an article on Inc. Here they are…. but follow the link to read more about them.
Unfortunately – it’s dismissive
But – it’s jarring and too informal for business
Sincerely – a common signature word has become meaningless
Regrettably – the sender doesn’t usually feel regret
Best – don’t use it if you don’t have data to back it up
Amazing – just as “best” it is better to skip such words
Statistically – be specific with statistics
Formally – what does “formally introduce myself” really mean anyway?
Interestingly – it’s a filler word, skip it.
Remotely – what does it mean to work remotely? Iceland is remote. Just say you’ll be working offsite.
I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made the right.
Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Thursday, February 27th, 2014
The CPA profession is facing a very challenging talent shortage. There is no end in sight. With each passing day it becomes more and more important to retain your valuable employees.
Here’s some great ideas I picked up at the annual CPA Consultants’ Alliance meeting yesterday in Nashville. The meeting continues today.
- There are different generations working inside your firm but please don’t put them in a box! There are some Boomers who think like Millennials and vice versa. There are Gen-Xers who act like millennials and so on. People are people and breaking down the walls between generations is a valuable step to take.
- Be sure to communicate! That is one of the biggest issues inside CPA firms. Many leaders think they have communicated but in reality they haven’t. Make use of Stay Interviews – - What would have to happen for you to commit to staying at our firm and building your career?
- Have your managers form groups for communication. Suggest each manager form a Table of Eight (or if you are a smaller firm a Table of Three). These groups get together periodically just to talk about issues and about their careers. A manager leads the discussion and it could be a manager that people rarely work with. Be creative with these groups.
Before you leave this page, look to the right. I have added two new pictures to – Is That You With Rita? Terry Putney of Transition Advisors and Carrie Steffen of The Whetstone Group. We are having a great time in Nashville.
I come from this really small town near Nashville, Tennessee where everything was la-di-da and normal.
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
I was reading the Delta Airlines magazine while flying to Key West yesterday. I enjoy reading the airline magazines. I find all of them to contain interesting news items and articles about a variety of topics.
In the opening editorial, written by the CEO Richard Anderson, he made a statement that CPA firms could certainly utilize: “At Delta, we take great pride in our culture of hard work, creativity, teamwork and a simple commitment to get the job done right.”
Did you notice those two words… hard work? The CEO communicates it clearly – they are not ashamed of their culture of hard work. They take pride in it.
Public accounting is hard work. If you work hard you can become very successful.
Do you communicate that to your people? Are you proud of your culture of hard work?
(Picture: Enjoyed my visit to the Hemingway House.)
A dream doesn't become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.
Monday, February 17th, 2014
CPA firm partners, owners, and other firm leaders hear it over and over again from speakers and authors focused on the profession of public accounting.
Think big picture. Be a visionary. Stay out of the day-to-day, be more strategic.
I, too, have written about it and talked about it. I do believe there is a time and place for contemplating the bigger picture.
However, much of what you do is about the here and now. If you are honest, most of what you do inside your firm and to help clients is about the here and now. And, it is important.
I was reminded of this when I heard a passage in a Wallander episode. I have also read all of the Wallander novels by Henning Mankell. If you are not familiar… Wallander is a brooding, dark character. A Swedish detective who investigates violent and terrifying murders. Kenneth Branagh is amazing in the role.
Here’s the passage:
“I don’t really think there is a bigger picture. This is where we live, here and now. These are our lives. They are fragile and precarious…. and miraculous. They are all we have.”
The majority of you and the people who work for you are living in the here and now.
Think about the big picture, the future but please don’t forget that the majority of life is in the here and now. How can you make life, the here and now, better for yourself and for all the people in your firm who depend on you. After all, life is all you have.
It's only when we can work with something that brings out our strengths that we're of any real use.
Henning Mankell, author The Fifth Woman
Friday, February 14th, 2014
Many of you in the CPA world are probably not thinking about “happy” today.
You’ve been driving on icy roads, wading through snow drifts, sitting in traffic (maybe all night a couple of weeks ago in Atlanta). Maybe like me, you’ve been experiencing sub-zero weather week after week. On top of all that, your CPA firm team have struggled getting to the office and at the busiest time of year you are gradually getting farther and farther behind schedule. As I look at the weather this morning, another storm is heading towards the Northeast tonight/tomorrow.
But hey, it’s Valentine’s Day. I love the little valentine candy hearts with the positive messages. When I worked at a CPA firm I would spread them around the office on Valentine’s Day:
- So Fine
- Cutie Pie
- Be Mine
- My Guy
- My Gal
- Way to Go
Maybe this year, more than ever, it’s time to contemplate the Candy Heart Factory Rejects:
- You’ll Do
- Love Stinks
- Go Away
- Get Real
- Don’t Start
Lighten-up, in your office today, ask the team to submit their Candy Heart Factory Rejects list….. maybe: No Snow, Ice Melts, Cold Heart, Digging Out, I’m Swamped.
By the way…. I still feel this way:
If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love.
Monday, February 10th, 2014
CPA firms are dynamic, fast-moving, high-productivity workplaces. That’s the fun part.
Often, various factions inside the firm have misunderstandings. For example, the CPAs think the IT people are weird AND, vice-versa. Partners think the admin team could spend their time more productively AND, vice-versa! These nagging issues are the not-so-fun part.
The situations above are just a couple of examples of typical workplace challenges inside an accounting firm.
I have a hand-out I share that could possibly alleviate some of the classic misunderstandings between the professional administrative team and the partners they serve. It’s called a Commitment Statement for Assistant and Partner.
Here’s how I describe it:
About this sample: Administrative assistants in a CPA firm must work for multiple partners. However, I recommend each partner have a specific assistant they go to when they want or need something out of the routine workflow. One administrative assistant can be assigned to two, three or four partners. This assignment is just for miscellaneous duties (NOT personal errands). When the admin assistant and the partner work together for a while the admin assistant can absorb admin work the partner should not be doing. One year, as the result of an administrative team retreat, one team I worked with took on the project of an Assistant and Partner Commitment Statement – things that they owed each other. They found it really helped communication and set some much needed expectations. It was an enjoyable exercise for both sides.
Each side came up with about 20 bullet points, as commitments. Some examples this group came up with:
I, as partner, commit to:
- Giving you all the information needed to answer questions and handle problems.
- Telling you where I can be reached and when I will return, when not in the office.
- Working with you to establish a plan for controlling calls and drop-in visitors.
I, as your assistant, commit to:
- Working hard to always make you look good.
- Getting to know the clients you serve and help them in any way I can on your behalf.
- Take the initiative. I won’t wait to be told to do a job. I will handle problems and learn which ones should be referred to you or a supervisor.
Just having each admin person talking with each partner they serve to come up with the commitments is a great exercise in communication.
If you want a copy of the complete sample fill-out the contact form on my website and put Assistant/Partner Commitment Statement in the “Other” box – or, just email me.
Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.
Peter F. Drucker
Friday, February 7th, 2014
CPAs are indeed busy. This time of year for sure and for most public accounting firms being busy does not end with April 15th. It is a client service business and clients need attention all year long.
A topic I have covered several times comes to mind this time of year….. your out-of-office email message or voice mail message.
So, your voice mail tells your client – - ”It’s Monday, February 10th and I’ll be out of the office attending a Chamber meeting until 1:00pm.” Who cares? The client doesn’t care what you are doing or where you are. They called to talk to you.
They would rather hear: “This is John. Leave a message and I’ll get back to you quickly.” Also, remember phone calls and checking voice mail is a dying activity. The new breed of client wants you to text them.
Now for out-of-office email messages. Have you ever received the one that says, “I’m out of the office until Monday, February 10th.” – - and it is Wednesday February 12th when you receive it?
As a recent post on Fast Company states, “You can check your email anywhere in the world on your mobile phone or, at least, on an iPad, laptop or other tablet device. If you can’t, then I’m not sure you are sufficiently up with technology or up to the task of taking care of my business in a timely and professional manner.”
Check out the article, 9 Signs You’re In Out-Of-Office Hell, for some tips.
Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge