The foundation is Absence of Trust. I believe that trust is the skeleton in the closet of many CPA firms. Has the following statement (or one very similar) been uttered inside your partner group?
“I know Joe is trying to do more financial planning with our clients, but you know Joe. I’m afraid my client won’t like him and I might lose the client because Joe just doesn’t focus enough on detail.”
I just want you to begin by working on the 2 foundational dysfunctions – Absence of Trust and Fear of Conflict. Absence of trust is when team members are not comfortable being vulnerable, open and honest with each other. The next dysfunction of a team, if there is no trust, is Fear of Conflict, because people on a team should be comfortable engaging in good, healthy conflict around ideas. This is one I see again and again during partner retreats and partner meetings. There might be one partner who will say, “I’ll play Devil’s advocate here….” and voice their opinion. Most of the other partners say NOTHING and even avoid eye contact by looking at their laps!
Take a few minutes to watch this video by the author, Patrick Lencioni:
Thanks for reading all my posts during “Book Week” and happy reading.
Today, I would like to recommend a book that maybe you are not as familiar with as some of the others I recommend. When I first read Leadership and Self-Deception, I was amazed and it opened my eyes to many behaviors that I had never explored before. It also opened my eyes to what others often did in the workplace (and in home life) that they don’t even think about.
I don’t often re-read a book. I have read this one 3 times over the years and given copies to people working on their leadership skills.
From the book:
Self-betrayal – An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of “self-betrayal.”
Self-betrayal is the most common thing in the world, Tom,” Kate added, in an easy manner. “Let me give you a few examples.”
You are in bed and you hear the baby cry at 1:00 a.m. You should get up and tend to the baby but you pretend you are asleep and wait for your wife to hear the baby.
You jump on the elevator, in a hurry, an see a man hurrying to get aboard but you just let the door close. You have the immediate sense, I should have caught the door for him but I didn’t.
Maybe it’s a time when you felt you should apologize to someone but never got around to it.
There was a time when you had some information that would be very helpful to a co-worker but you didn’t share it.
They are all examples of self-betrayal, times when I had a sense of something I should do for others but didn’t do it.
Here’s a short video setting the stage for reading the book.
The book focuses on a problem. As Bud says to Tom, “You have a problem. The people at work know it; your spouse knows it; your mother-in-law knows it. I bet even your neighbors know it. The problem is that YOU don’t know it.”
I focused on and inflated her faults when I needed to feel justified for mine.
Soon it will be summer reading season. This year, why don’t you take part? There are so many great books to help you better manage your professional service firm. But wait, there are so many good books about business issues in general that definitely apply to the CPA profession. You can even get a firm-changing idea by reading a fictional novel or a biography.
This week I’m going to write about a different book each day. A book that I think will help you and your CPA firm.
It is the 31st Century – Earth is different. Instead of males and females in the business world, it is dogs and cats. Here’s the dedication:
From the dedication page: ”This story is dedicated to all of the Cats and all of the Dogs who work together every day and wonder… Why it is that Cats must be so Feline. And why it is that Dogs must be so Canine.”
I love this book, told in fable format about dogs and cats in the business world. It’s one of the best books I’ve read on the male/female topic (and I have read many). It addresses many of the issues faced by males and females working in a CPA firm (or any business).
While it addresses the issues that are written about in many of the male/female relationships in the workplace books (and I will feature more this week), it is a fun and easy read with an important message for both men and women.
Thus a skilled warrior subdues enemy troops without raising arms; captures cities without laying siege; destroys countries without lengthly warfare."
Next week on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 I will be doing a webinar presentation for CPA Leadership Institute titled, “Helping Women CPAs Make History.” I hope you will join me – - – both men & women working in public accounting. You can register here.
I really think this is a topic that men need to hear and then contemplate. It is not a one-sided issue and both men and women can enhance their working-relationships by better understanding each other!
Women are entering the accounting profession in greater numbers than men. Women are now half of all workers in the United States, something that has never happened before. Mom and Dad both being employed outside the home is a major shift in how American families function. As the saying goes, A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything. Read more about it in the Shriver Report.
Little girls are taught to be polite, well-behaved, not to interrupt, speak softly….. maybe it is time for a little misbehaving. Men’s and women’s behaviors come from both nature and nurture. – Join me on May 15th to learn more about this fascinating topic.
Another quote I love: Wild women never get the blues. Check out this picture I found on a greeting card – man or woman, it has to make you smile. I can sure see my mother in this picture!
I've never been to New Zealand before. But one of my role models, Xena, the warrior princess, comes from there.
I have really been into simplifying things lately.
As Henry David Thoreau told us, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”
I have always thought that during my many years working inside a growing, busy CPA firm that we tended to make things harder, more difficult, and too complex. Often a project became so complex that it got put on the back-burner and we would attack it the next year.
Now, I see it happening all around me. People looking at little screens on their mobile device and often missing something awe inspiring.
Mark Goldfarb, Managing Director at SS&G, says, “This world of immediate information has helped us to become sharper at running our businesses, but it seems as though the communication overload is starting to blur our vision.”
I think all of you know that I try my best to keep you informed of the various products and services “out there” in the accounting world that might help you make your CPA firm a better place. I like to share topics that might help you build strong teams within your firms and also help you serve clients.
Today, I just wanted to share this video because it is interesting, fun and beautifully done.
Experts tell us that we learn more and better when we are told a story. Check out this story of a small business owner, Arthur, a tree-house architect, Lucy, his bookkeeper and Charles Green, his accountant.
Are you telling stories about your firm and how you serve clients?
When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.
I have been blogging about CPA firm management for over SEVEN years – every work day and usually once on the week-end.
So far this year, 2013, I have made 29 posts that I have put under the category of Communication. Page down and look at the categories on the right. Click on “communication” and scan the posts. I think you will sense how strongly I feel about open, honest, frequent communication at all levels inside a CPA firm.
Twenty-nine in 4 months. You can imagine how many I’ve done over seven years. Why? Because if HONEST communication isn’t part of your culture, you are probably not building a firm that will last for the long-term.
Your owners will merge-up, bail-out or retire.
Your mediocre performers will remain at the firm until this happens.
Your top talent won’t know when it happens because they will have already quit and moved on to more promising pastures.
Times have changed. You used to be able to keep people in the dark. They worked, you paid them and they were trained not to care about what you were thinking and where the firm was going.
Times have changed. You used to be able to dodge your partners’ questions, skip partner meetings and simply not be honest on how you feel about activities inside the firm. You are skilled at avoiding confrontation.
Now, we have a whole generation that is hooked on communication. Plan now for how your firm is going to adjust, embrace and thrive with honest communication.
I have worked with many CPA firms to establish and/or re-engineer their mentoring system and their performance review process. These two things are such an important part of the culture within public accounting firms.
Of course, there is a lot to talk about and a way to communicate in these areas. In fact, communication is one of the most challenging issues consultants to the CPA profession are seeing inside CPA firms.
I find that partners don’t communicate enough OR they have way too many meetings. I also get lots of questions about exactly how to communicate with a subordinate about their performance or how to give meaningful advice to someone you are mentoring.
At your accounting firm, as you enter the season of performance reviews and more frequent mentoring sessions, please keep in mind that you have a special power. Silence is power.
Inside your firm you probably know of situations where “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” but if you really want to increase the power of your voice, silence can be a powerful tool.
In summary, inside accounting firms communication needs to be enhanced at all levels. In conversations inside your accounting firm, often silence is golden.
After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
In my opinion, CPAs let themselves be bullied by their clients. Not all CPAs, but many CPAs.
Clients make unreasonable demands.
Clients do not respond to our requests.
Clients don’t pay you on time or at all.
Clients believe you should go above and beyond for no additional fees.
Clients are rude to your administrative team members.
Clients are not ready when you have clearly communicated the engagement start date.
I’m sure you can add more.
These situations often result from lack of communication up front. CPAs shy away from talking openly and honestly about fees. Many CPAs give the client a range of what fees to expect. The CPA expects the highest fee in the range and the client expects the lowest fee in the range. I have even heard of CPAs who dodge client calls if they perceive it will be a complaint about fees.
What you do for your clients is very, very valuable. You have spent years perfecting your skills and investing in your education, both in time and money. Just because you know the answer immediately, off the top of your head, doesn’t mean you should just give it away.
Upfront communication is so important in these situations. Just because you have an audience with a potential client that you want very badly doesn’t mean you allow them to bully you for years to come.
Consider using a joint CPA/Client Commitment Statement as part of your upfront communication with potential clients. It should state what the client can expect from you and your firm and what you, and the firm, expect from the client. Use the document as a discussion tool and verbally talk through it with your new or potential clients.
State the rules upfront – you will be happier and so will your client. They will know what to expect and that is comforting to most people. Set boundaries and stick with them. This post was inspired by a post by Seth Godin.
I share a joint commitment statement with my clients. If you want to see a sample, let me know.
Individual commitment to a group effort - that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.