Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Enchant? Engage? Why Not Just Make Them Say… “Wow!”

Screenshot 2016-02-07 12.39.28I write a lot about engaging your employees in their work and engaging them in the mission of the firm. I read even more about employee engagement, what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. I just Googled “employee engagement” and received 24,200,000 possibilities.

This weekend, I read an article on HBR by Tim Leberecht about ways to enchant your employees. Oh boy, now engage is not enough, we must enchant!

Marketers for Apple and Disney use enchantment all the time. Enchantment leads to attachment, something that is even greater than loyalty.

Now, it seems, with our employees, we must use enchantment because satisfaction means our basic needs are met. Happiness means our emotional needs are met. Enchantment gives us meaningful experiences we didn’t even know we needed.

The author of the article admits that we can’t be enchanted every day because enchantment remains by its very nature an occasional, peak experience.

About 20 years ago, it seemed work life was much simpler. I was working in a growing, progressive CPA firm. One of our main goals was to make our people say, “Wow!”. We did this periodically, not every day, of course. We had very little turnover.

Back then I wasn’t aware of “engaging” or “enchanting” our team members. We simply did our best to hire great people and stay focused on their needs, their opinions and making our culture a positive one.

Keep it simple at your firm. Occasionally surprise your people with something that makes them say, “Wow!”.

Today’s quote, below, will give you food for thought!

  • Whatever deceives men seems to produce a magical enchantment.
  • Plato

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Engage & Retain Talent With Mentoring

I have talked about, written about and helped firms implement mentoring programs for years. Still, I am receiving lots of feedback about the lack of dedicated mentoring inside CPA firms.

I contend that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession. An older, more experienced accountant guides and teaches a younger, less-experienced accountant. It has been going on for decades. It is how young CPAs have always learned their trade.

Take that basic approach and incorporate more recognition, honest feedback, skilled listening and career advice and you have a mentoring program.

Engaging and retaining talent is a hot topic for the accounting profession. Mentoring can be an important tool.

Experienced CPAs question me…. Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What exactly do I say? What do they expect of me? It will take too much time…. on and on.

Please keep in mind, when it comes to actually implementing a mentoring program, KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You can actually mentor and guide someone with two words. Here’s how, from a presentation I did for Boomer Consulting:

  • I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
  • Robert Frots

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

Exit Interviews Are Important

IMG_1192Being a consultant to CPA firm management, I hear a lot of stories. If you work in a firm, you can just imagine. Many of them sadden me, yet many also bring me joy. This is a “what was he thinking?” type story.

A firm administrator performed the usual exit interview with a departing employee. The employee was not fired, he left after several years building his career at the firm. Many of the remarks made by the exiting employee, according to the firm administrator, were fairly critical, yet true. When the comments were reported to the partners, one partner stated, “We don’t care what Joe thinks, he never did get with the program.”

Exit interviews can be very beneficial to both the firm and the person departing. Employees leave for a reason. Finding out why can help you plan for changes that need to be made.

  • Employees quit their boss, not their job.
  • Employees leave when they lose confidence in their leaders.
  • Employees leave because of issues with workplace culture.
  • Employees leave because they don’t see opportunity for career advancement and growth in compensation.

The person conducting the interview should be experienced in crucial conversations with employees, follow an established process or checklist. The interview should be conducted in a truly caring and non-threatening manner. Remember, the employee will most likely be dreading the interview and needs to be put at ease.

After you gather information from exit interviews, take the comments seriously and determine what actions need to happen to make your firm a place where talented people want to stay and build their careers.

  • And now, gentlemen, like your manners, I must leave you.
  • Dylan Thomas

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Upward Feedback – A Growth Source For Partners

When was the last time you did an upward feedback exercise for your partners? Most CPA partners tell me it has been a very long time and some say they have never asked their valuable team members to provide any kind of critique about the partners.

I am sure most of your younger team members can give you quite a humorous view of the partners. I used to always take the interns to lunch a couple of times during tax season just to chat, no formal agenda. At these lunches I heard some hilarious stories and descriptions of partners.

An upward feedback survey is not intended to be comical. It is intended to give the partners honest feedback on what they should keep doing and what they should focus on for improvement. It can also be a goal-setting tool for the managing partner to use with the other partners.

Your team will be wondering what to do.

  • Do they tow the company line, if they know it?
  • Do they show agreement with the partners activities, whether or not they actually do?
  • Or, do they express their honest opinion, whether it is flattering or not?

If you do an upward feedback survey in 2016, be sure you send a clear message to your employees that you want them to be open and honest.

Use an outsider to gather the information and report it back to the managing partner. People are often more honest with an outsider.

One of my favorite activities (services) is facilitating upward feedback surveys for CPA leaders. Plan now for an upward feedback survey in the spring.  Learn more here.

  • Truth is the breath of life to human society. It is the food of the immortal spirit. Yet a single word of it may kill a man as suddenly as a drop of prussic acid.
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Good Leader – Bad Leader

leadershipfreakThere are many people inside CPA firms that are leaders. Partners, of course, are role models and leaders but so are managers, COOs, firm administrators, marketing directors, HR directors, etc.

Are you, as a leader, inspiring people to perform at their best and advance their careers or, to them, do you appear to be all about the numbers?

According to Dan Rockwell (Leadership Freak), it is simply all about attitude. “Lousy leadership begins with self-protective attitudes not lack of skills, intelligence or talent.”

As Rockwell states, “Lousy leaders can’t serve others because they serve themselves.”

Here’s his list about lousy leaders:

  1. Need to know more than others.
  2. Can’t explore for fear of being wrong.
  3. Won’t ask obvious questions for fear of looking dumb.
  4. Need their egos stroked.
  5. Wonder who’s out to get them.
  6. Fear high performers; they need the spotlight.
  7. Struggle to collaborate.
  8. Won’t change their minds.
  9. Feel isolated and alone.
  10. Sacrifice long-term success for short-term profits.

Here’s his list of traits of great leaders:

  1. Humility.
  2. Optimism.
  3. Curiosity.
  4. Endurance.
  5. Tenacity.
  6. Compassion.
  7. Responsibility.

How do you stack-up?

Read his entire blog post on this topic.

  • Leaders matter most when they help others learn to help others.
  • Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

Have You?

photoHave you kept your commitments? Have you set a good example? Have you done what you said you would do? Have you held people accountable? Have you held yourself accountable. Have you helped someone improve their attitude? Have you called a client today? Have you thanked someone for a job well done?

We all have so many things we want to do. However, many people working inside CPA firms have multiple excuses why they haven’t done things that they should be doing. The #1 Excuse – I’m too busy!

Here’s a link to Tom Peters’ list of THE 50 “HAVE YOUs” – How do you stack up?

Many things on the list of 50 apply to you. Pick 5 and do them tomorrow and 5 more the next day.

I think I’ll make my own list specifically for CPA firm leaders. I’ll post it here!

  • The greatest enemy of good thinking is busyness.
  • John Maxwell

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Helping CPA Firm Managers Succeed

0 Avatar slide for blogOnce again I remind you…. the people filling the “manager” role inside your firm have enormous power. People will stay or leave because of them.

Partners need to be great managers themselves so they can coach the people with the manager title to become more skilled at developing people and engaging them in what the firm is all about. This is really just one step in solving succession issues.

Here’s a quick exercise for managing partners or department heads. Do it in January!

Meet briefly with each manager. Ask them to describe one personal challenge they are currently facing… as they enter tax season. Talk about some possible ways to address this challenge and make it their ONE goal for tax season. Keep it simple, please – just one challenge to address and solve during the first 4 months of the year. If they can’t do that, you might have a bigger issue.

  • Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. it is hard to make something simple.
  • Richard Branson

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Open – Honest – Direct

Accountants are:

  • Nice
  • Polite
  • Often introverted
  • Non-confrontational

All of these are very good things. However, most employees want to hear the “real” story. They want the truth and they want to clearly understand what an employer expects of them.

So, rather than holding back in important meetings and discussions, give them a straight answer.

In many CPA firm meetings, partners (and others) are so busy trying to be nice that the team members don’t really understand what they are trying to say.

CPA firm leaders – don’t be afraid of hurting people’s feelings. Practice being more direct in your communication style. Let them know what needs to be done. Then provide the advice and direction in accomplishing the task.


  • The best way to try to motivate somebody is by being direct with them. To be honest with them. Lies are never the right way to get your message across.
  • Trey Parker

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

What It Takes To Move Your Career Forward

I love it when I have the opportunity to work with the team members of firms without the partners present.

There is so much they don’t know about CPA firm management and why the partners do what they do. I ALSO learn so much from them and that input enables me to advise the owners on where to focus.

If you are new to the CPA profession and focused on moving your career forward, here’s some tips:

Become a quick change artist – The CPA profession is undergoing massive change. Be ready for it and help others in the firm get ready for it. Be a leader in showing the partners that adapting to change is necessary and that resistance to change can lead to a dead-end street.

Commit fully to your job – Don’t be surprised if the firm continually expects more from you. The marketplace is demanding and being fully committed will lead to rapid career advancement.

Speed up – Clients and partners seem to live in an impatient world. Help your firm improve turnaround time and always operate with a sense of urgency.

Behave like you are in business for yourself – Assume personal responsibility for helping clients. Be thinking how you could cut costs, find unique ways to serve the clients, improve your own productivity and then share those ideas with others.

Manage your own morale – Saddling someone else with the job of keeping you contented and upbeat would be a neat trick if you could pull it off. Sometimes you are treated unfairly. Some managers truly are jerks. As the old saying goes, “life is not fair”. Don’t let poor morale drain away precious energy and destroy your self-confidence. Surround yourself with positive people – stay away from the whiners.

  • If you want light to come into your life, you need to stand where it is shining.
  • Guy Finley

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016

It Is More Than A Lot Of Warm & Fuzzy Stuff

IMG_1071Employee engagement – We read about it everywhere. We have been reading about it for several years now (and I have been writing about it for several years, too).

Most of the information about employee engagement originates via the Gallup organization. A recent poll showed that 70% of employees are “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work.

As a firm leader, please take a few minutes to really think about your own people and also take the time to observe them first-hand. Can you spot the ones who are truly “actively disengaged”?

Many of you (firms) have went to extreme lengths to provide your people with special perks to show them that you value them. However, your people care about a lot more than all the “warm and fuzzy” stuff (free food, free drinks, back massages, sport team shirt day, mini-golf in the hallways, etc.).

According to a recent HBR article, there are three things that leaders should be mindful about giving their employees:

Inspiration. Your culture should be alive with meaning. Share stories how the firm has helped clients succeed. Show them you give back by getting people involved in charitable activities. Your people want to know the firm gives back to your community.

Kindness. Sometimes workplace interactions are cool and distant. Be sure you work on your culture, if you don’t it will develop anyway and might not be something you are proud of. Positive and warm relationships are important. A healthy mentoring program can help. Manage By Wandering Around – talk to your people casually and often.

Self-Care. This is an important one for the accounting profession. Don’t work them too long and hard! You know it happens in public accounting. You might even offer a wellness program with free gym memberships but do your people have time to take advantage of it? Consider taking time during the day (maybe a lunch and learn) to teach people about meditation or consider office exercise breaks. Encourage them to get enough sleep.

It’s all about inspiring employees, being kind and encouraging them to take care of themselves. If your people are happy, your firm will be a winner in the recruiting game.

  • Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.
  • J.K. Rowling, author