Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

I Don’t Remember This Happening Before

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)Perhaps it has happened, but I don’t remember a sitting Pope commenting, in a very public manner, about the important role of accountants in society.

I urge you – CPAs in the corporate arena and CPAs in public practice – to always keep in mind the important role you truly DO play. Here’s a tidbit about what the Pope said in an address in Rome to participants of the World Congress of Accountants.

“So everyone—but especially those in a profession that deals with the proper functioning of the economic life of a country—is required to play a positive, constructive role in the course of their daily work, bearing in mind that behind every document, there is a story, there are faces.

“Those who work in various positions in the economy and finance are called on to make choices in favor of the social and economic wellness of humanity as a whole, giving everybody the opportunity to realize their own development.”

Young CPAs just getting a good start in your career – you should be very proud of the profession you have chosen. Please have the determination and pride to stay in the public accounting arena. You will be able to touch so many lives. I hope you always remember that while the hours are sometimes long and the continual learning is challenging, the rewards are great – both monetary and personal satisfaction and pride.

Experienced CPAs, not only should you keep doing what you are doing, you should also keep in mind how many lives – your clients and your employees – you are responsible for. I believe that you have survived in public accounting because you do strongly feel the commitment to helping people.  Business people and individuals NEED your expertise.

Read about the Pope’s comments on the Journal of Accountancy site.

(photo via Wikipedia)

  • The future starts today, not tomorrow.
  • Pope John Paul II

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

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Avoid The Blame Game

An observation – inside many accounting firms, people point fingers.

When something goes wrong there are always those who want to know who did it. “Find out how this happened! Who’s responsible?”

When something goes wrong, don’t focus on WHO to blame. Focus on HOW you and your team can improve a process to avoid making a similar mistake in the future.

Have some faith and trust in your team members and seek their input on how to improve your processes and procedures. They are the ones on the front line.

 

  • Your life is the fruit of your own doing. You have no one to blame but yourself.
  • Joseph Campbell

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

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Mentoring Really Does Matter – Join Me For A Special Session

DSCN0750 - Version 3I am delighted to be speaking on November 20th in Rockville, Maryland about the importance of mentoring inside a busy CPA firm. Mentoring is an important part of the succession plan for any firm or company.

So much about mentoring has changed. It is not the old fashioned system where a successful, powerful male taps a mini-me on the shoulder and guides him through the mine fields of climbing the corporate ladder.

There are 4 levels of mentoring inside an accounting firm: Guide, Coach, Mentor and Sponsor – each one is important and helps set the stage for career success.

How healthy is your firm’s mentoring program?

The event is co-sponsored by the Washington DC and Baltimore Chapters of The Association for Accounting Administration. CPAs in public or private, firm administrators, HR Directors, partners and partner wanabes should plan to attend.

When:  Thursday November 20th

Where:  Kaplan University, 1390 Piccard Dr., Ste. 100 – Rockville, MD

Time:  9:30 registration – Presentation: 10:00 – 3:00 (lunch included)

More information here.

  • It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

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