Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Mindfulness – Maybe Some CPAs Should Learn More About It

Public accounting really is a somewhat stressful profession. It doesn’t have to be. Many CPAs work diligently, serve clients well, make a great living and are not often stressed.

On the other hand, I come in contact with many of those who are almost the opposite. They are working WAY too many hours, dealing with many last minute crisis situations relating to due dates, worrying about keeping top talent, and obtaining successful, growing clients. Their plates are absolutely too full and they don’t take enough time off to vacation and enjoy life.

Ellen Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard, is an expert on mindfulness and here’s how she describes what it is:

Mindfulness is the process of actively noticing new things. When you do that, it puts you in the present. It makes you more sensitive to context and perspective. It’s the essence of engagement. And it’s energy-begetting, not energy-consuming. The mistake most people make is to assume it’s stressful and exhausting, doing all this thinking. But what’s stressful is all the mindless negative evaluations we make and the worry that we’ll find problems and not be able to solve them.

We seek stability. We want to hold things still, thinking that if we do, we can control them. (Sound like someone at your firm?) But since everything is always changing, that doesn’t work. Actually, it causes you to lose control. Read more about Langer here.

When you mention “mindfulness” to a CPA here’s the image that pops up: Someone blissed out on a yoga mat, possibly with spa music playing in the background. In other words, it has nothing to do with the situation you likely find yourself in on any given Tuesday.

In a Fast Company article, the author of Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alernative, Scott Eblin says, “What I mean by mindful is being aware and intentional – aware of what’s going on around you, aware of what’s going on inside you as a response to what’s going on around you, and being intentional about what you’re going to do next.”

In busy accounting firms, some leaders are often not at all tuned in to what is really happening around them. They are self-focused – their priorities are everyone’s priorities.

Here are some tips on embracing mindfulness at work.

  • When's the last time you tried listening to someone without an agenda, and without distractions?
  • Scott Eblin

Friday, November 7th, 2014

Walking and Talking Could Be A Big Benefit

I work with a lot of managing partner/firm administrator teams.

I find when these two roles are in synch, focused on common goals and communicating frequently the firm just seems to move forward more successfully.

A couple of my “pairs” have developed the habit of walking together during lunch time a couple days per week. It’s not a “change into your exercise clothes” type walk – it is just a 30 to 45-minute walk to get exercise and fresh air….. you could call it a stroll. The objective is to just chat… no agenda… whatever comes to mind.

Managing partners, what if you walked a couple of days with the FA, asked the IT leader to duck-out for coffee once a week and had a beer with one of your partners (alone) one night after work. Ask a different partner each week and keep the rotation going.

Here’s a great story about a husband and wife business team that acknowledges that a nightly walk has changed their life and their business.

So many issues could be solved inside CPA firms with more meaningful conversations.

  • Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.
  • Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Is Your CPA Firm Mentoring Program Alive & Healthy?

I have had an increasing number of questions about the effectiveness of mentoring programs inside CPA firms lately. While this might indicate renewed interest and maybe commitment to nurturing, guiding and inspiring others, it also might mean that there are questions on the mind of CPA practitioners.

I believe there are four levels of mentoring inside a CPA firm:

Guide (think of a buddy system)

Coach (think showing someone how things are done and actually teaching)

Mentor (wise career development advice and relaying success stories and pitfalls)

Sponsor (putting you reputation on the line in an effort to promote the protege)

Join me and CPA firm leaders from the Washington, DC/Baltimore area to explore the evolution of mentoring in accounting firms and learn valuable best practices. I will be speaking on November 20th in Rockville, Maryland on behalf of the DC and Baltimore Chapters of the Association for Accounting Administration.

Here are the details.

On the right side of this page, look at the categories and click on Mentoring to read more about mentoring for accounting firms.

  • You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.
  • John Wooden

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Lighten-Up, It’s The Weekend – How Young Accountants Learn

Inside accounting firms, beginner accountants learn from older, more experienced and usually wiser CPAs and accountants. My observation is that the best training is on-the-job. How many times have you heard the new college graduates entering your firm remark, “I never learned that in college!”

I recently read Looking for Alaska by John Green. Many of the passages and reactions to situations from the teenagers attending a boarding school and their teachers, made me smile.

I thought the following remark by a very wise, older religion teacher could apply to young accountants – – when they become discouraged by all they have to learn in their first two or three years.

“I will talk most of the time and you will listen most of the time. Because you may be smart, but I have been smart longer.”

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Twitter & CPAs

I was recently speaking to a group of about 25 CPA firm people – partners, firm administrators, etc. from various firms in one particular state.

I asked how many in the room were using Twitter. One hand went up and it happened to be a CPA firm consultant. Honestly, I was somewhat surprised. No one, employed by a CPA firm in the room, was using Twitter. When I ask this question of groups, I usually have a sprinkling of hands go up.

Twitter is something I use for efficiency and information. I follow a few people and organizations.  This week, I was able to keep current on the AICPA fall council meeting via Twitter (because of the hash tag). It was almost like being there.

Read my June 17th post Twitter As A Resource to learn more.

RobertAnother tidbit, when I blogged about Robert Raiola, CPA (@SportsTaxMan) on January 30th, 2013 and his use of Twitter, I was rather surprised at the number of followers he had, because he was a CPA. He had 14,000 followers. He now has 35,200 followers.

Actually, there are many CPAs tweeting really good stuff! Explore what tweeting can do for your firm.

  • Our legacy is how we spend our time and who we spend it with.
  • Jim Stengel

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