Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Preparing Your CPA Firm For The Future

I was delighted to be part of a special blog post on the SmartCenter Blog. Thanks to William Hamilton of SmartCenter for reaching out to me.

They asked 9 thought leaders one question:

“What do modern tax & accounting firms need to do to prepare for the future.”

It was very difficult to offer just one idea!

Click here to read all the great comments and download some very helpful tools from SmartCenter.

BlogCollage

  • Have you taken time to identify your ideal client?
  • Jason Blumer

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Want To Be A Successful Leader, Then READ

I keep pushing, nagging, and pleading with CPA firm leaders AND future leaders to read. It has to be part of your daily life and I don’t mean tax and audit stuff!

Read the blog post I did on April 3 and watch the video. As you go into the late fall season inside your busy firm, I want you to prepare your mind for 2015!

Just to reinforce the importance of reading (if you want to be a successful leader), here is something I read recently in an interview with Tom Peters on the McKinsey site:

Tom Peters: I was at a dinner party recently with a guy who’s probably one of the top ten finance people in the world. At one point he said, “Do you know what the biggest problem is with big-company CEOs? They don’t read enough.”

Another excerpt for you to contemplate:

Tom Peters: Peter Drucker once said the number-one trait of an effective leader is that they do one thing at a time. Today’s technology tools give you great opportunities to do 73 things at a time or to at least delude yourself that you are. I see managers who look like 12-year-olds with attention deficit disorder, running around from one thing to the next, constantly barraged with information, constantly chasing the next shiny thing.

My advice, as you enhance yourself and build a successful firm:

Rita Keller: Read, think, plan and then IMPLEMENT.

  • Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.
  • Albert Einstein

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Try a Stand-Up Meeting

Communication suffers greatly inside most busy accounting firms. Your people want AND NEED more communication from the partner(s).

Some hotel customer service programs recommend a brief, 15-minute stand-up meeting when the shift changes so that all employees know what’s going on at the hotel for their upcoming shift.

Why not try it? Smaller firms, have the managing partner do the communicating first thing in the morning and invite every person. Larger firms, do it by department, by office, by niche service line. Firm administrators, try a brief stand-up meeting with your administrative assistants just as the day is beginning. Firm administrators in larger firms, also have a daily or weekly stand-up meeting with your support professionals (marketing director, HR director, tech staff, bookkeeper/controller, etc.).

Some firms focus on new client opportunities during their stand-up meeting. Inform them of networking opportunities going on in the local business community, give them quick tips on how to properly shake hands, how to start a conversation at a networking event, etc.

Here’s an example:

Talk to your people about client service and instruct them to ALWAYS, when departing from a client encounter, whether in their workplace or at a charity event, ASK:  “How are we doing? Are we taking good care of you?”

Build team spirit, knowledge and add some fun. Most of all….. enhance communication.

  • Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
  • Bill Gates

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Practice Your Listening Skills

I often blog about listening (and also about talking). Some accountants talk too much. Some accountants don’t talk enough. Whether you are a quiet leader or one who talks almost too much – – both types need to be expert listeners.

I am reading a book about the Secret Service during the Kennedy years. One agent noted that when he was called into the top guy’s office he noticed a sign on the boss’s wall:

“You ain’t learnin’ nothing when you are talking.”

As the story unfolds, this particular agent certainly kept the quote in mind and learned SO much.

Just something to keep this in mind as you go through your day and through your career.

  • A wise old owl sat on an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Why aren't we like that wise old bird?

Friday, September 19th, 2014

Learning To Lead – – The Skill of Being A Partner

Experienced partners often ask, “Who will take over when I am gone?” They often supply the answer themselves….. “There’s not a single person ready or able to do it!”

Being a successful CPA is a life-long learning adventure. To become an effective (and admired) leader is often left to chance.  Less experienced partners and others on the “partner track” need support from the firm.

Here’s a resource that could make all the difference in your future. If the firm won’t invest in your career success – pay for it yourself!

The Partner Institute is forming it’s new class for 2015. It is a three-year, multidisciplinary program designed to develop the needed skills and attributes for successful firm leadership. Session 1 starts January 21-23, 2015 at the Disney Boardwalk hotel in Florida.

The program offers participants a robust, in-classroom curriculum led by facilitators who are experts in their particular topic and have a deep pedigree rooted in the accounting profession. Learn more about it…..

TPI

  • I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.
  • Eartha Kitt

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Still A Great Way To Obtain New Clients – Networking

As I have worked with accountants over many years, I have truly come to realize that meeting and talking to people can be difficult, awkward and yes, even scary. All that is foreign to me because I love people and I love to talk (those of you who know me are smiling… maybe laughing… right now).

So, you may be an introvert but that doesn’t mean you can’t begin to enjoy meeting and talking with people. The huge chamber networking events are sometimes scary for experienced networkers, so don’t feel like you have to begin there. Make the networking you do fit your style.

I attended Accountants’ Bootcamp many years ago. We learned many great things there…. but one thing I liked was a way to help accountants feel comfortable with a form of networking.

Have your partners (maybe the ones who aren’t so comfortable in big groups) invite a banker, an attorney, an insurance person, a client and maybe two potential clients and form a breakfast group to simply discuss business issues relevant to your community.  Set the ground rules – – this is not a meeting to “sell” to each other, it is more like a self-help group.  Referral sources and business owners are likely to participate because YOU are the CPA and YOU know a lot that can help them!

Host it every month or every other month, in your office, serve a continental breakfast (or late after noon snack) and talk in round-table format for an hour or so. Ask each other questions about business issues and get to know each other personally. The members of the group will quickly begin looking forward to the meetings and begin to rely on each other’s opinions.

Don’t limit it to just partners. Have your up-and-comers host their own networking groups. Many CPAs across the country are doing exactly this or something very similar. It works!

Also, read this article on the HBR Blog network titled:  Networking for Introverts.  It’s all about doing this where you are comfortable not stressed-out.

  • Talk to someone about themselves and they will listen for hours.
  • Dale Carnegie

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Fear of Delegating – A Big Issue For Career Success

I am often in discussions about specific partner performance, manager success and the over-whelming workload of many partners, firm administrators and others working inside busy accounting firms. One topic reappears over and over again.

In my survey work for firm leaders, a comment I am sure to hear regarding almost everyone receiving upward-feedback is: They need to delegate more.

It is a very common problem. Perhaps it is because accountants and those surrounding them become perfectionists and believe no one can “do it” as well, as fast, as thoroughly as they can do it, personally.

It is the down-fall of many on the road to career success.

I may have a resource for you.  I receive newsletters from an organization called Mind Tools. They have lots of great tools and resources for team management, leadership skills, time management, project management and so on……

They are offering a new workbook called:  How to Delegate

Three little words…. but not something easy to do.

Three little words…. that could solve the succession challenges.

  • No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
  • Andrew Carnegie