Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category
Thursday, May 21st, 2015
Have you see Jersey Boys? Or, are you old enough to actually remember when the Four Seasons’ songs were at the top of the hit list?
One song title stayed with me all these years and helped me travel the female career path: Big Girls Don’t Cry.
Later on, one of the lists from Gail Evans’ book, Play Like A Man, Win Like A Woman brought me another line to remember. On the list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work That Women Can’t. Number 1 is: They Can Cry. You Can’t.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett, in her book Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success: “Crying, I found in my research, is just one of a menu of communication blunders that, in a mere instant, can suck the executive presence right out of you.”
Mika Brzezinski commenting on when she got fired from CBS: “…..but there was no place for those tears in that moment. If anything, when you cry, you give away power.”
Here’s the best story…. from a post by Lisa Quast on Forbes: The next time you feel like crying at work, take a few slow, deep breaths, roll your shoulders up and down several times and try to relax. Picture in your mind the line from the movie “A League Of Their Own” when Tom Hanks’ character says to one of the female baseball players, “Are you crying? ARE YOU CRYING? There’s no crying! THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!” Then try to laugh at yourself to help diffuse the emotions of the situation.
What worked for me, for many years, is that when I felt myself begin to tear-up…. I would simply excuse myself and take a brisk walk down the hall, around the office. It’s better to be abrupt and mysterious than to cry. Besides, as females KNOW, crying usually doesn’t really mean that you are upset, angry, hurt, happy, or sentimental…. it’s a pure emotion we really can’t control.
Men, if you are confronted with this situation – it’s not personal and usually not significant. When counseling and mentoring females and tears happen, simply hand them a tissue (keep tissues handy in your office), and ignore the tears.
Ladies, one more thing from Gail Evans’ list of Six Things Men Can Do At Work that Women Can’t: #6 – They Can Be Ugly. You Can’t.
It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.
Tom Hanks in A League Of Their Own
Monday, May 18th, 2015
Helping CPAs Be Awesome Communicators
I have had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Kristen Rampe, CPA. I am impressed with her down-to-earth, real-life approach to helping CPAs become better. Yes, better communicators but also better at so many of the other things that make accountants pursuing a career in public accounting successful.
I always enjoy talking with Kristen when our paths cross at conferences and meetings because she has actual, recent experience working in public accounting. She worked for the Big Four for 3 years, worked in industry and then 7 years at a regional firm. During her journey, she of course developed the accounting technical skills but she also developed and enjoyed the other important skills that a CPA needs to be a success in public accounting – the “success skills”! (Some call them “soft” skills.)
Here’s my interview with Kristen:
You have a lot of experience, what types of clients have you worked with in the past?
I’m fortunate to have a great mix of clients. I do leadership programs, training and practice consulting for CPA firms with 12 – 2,000 employees. I also enjoy sharing my work more broadly through industry news sources and associations by working with the AICPA and AccountingWeb, to name a few.
Why did you decide to launch a solo consulting practice for professional service firms?
Like any good GenX/Millenial (I was born in a grey area), I wanted to do what I loved. For me that was helping CPA firms build great teams and great clients.
My favorite part of working as a practice professional was creating dynamic and fun teams that had the happiest clients – the kind of teams that that shared an apartment in Paris for three weeks and had clients asking for us by name…five years later. I figured, why not bring that to the world rather than just the firm I was working at.
You do a lot of speaking, what is your favorite topic to address for CPAs?
Delegating Effectively. Most CPAs know they need to delegate in order to be successful at some level, but many have a hard time figuring out how or giving themselves permission to delegate. It can run in the face of billable hours, efficiency and quality…on the surface. But once we dive into the topic participants understand how delegating actually improves those metrics.
Watching my workshop participants come away from our time together feeling inspired to take their delegation further and understanding the benefits this has is one of my favorite moments. We also talk about Saying No when I cover this topic, and that’s a huge crowd-pleaser too.
What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great teams?
We have fun together. In my workshops, we are out of our seats a lot, bouncing inflatable animal beach balls throughout the room, and laughing often. I even had one participant write “I’m not a fan of cheesy team exercises, but found some of the things we did fun.” If I can convince the haters that team-building is fun, I’ve done my job right.
One other huge benefit is that I give teams a chance to get together and use their minds in a space that’s free from the day-to-day stresses of client work. It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand. When teams get to work together in a way that develops their relationships, it makes communication and collaboration easier when they’re back to the grind.
What are some specific things you do to help CPAs build great clients?
I help them see that client service and brand is a true differentiator. Often this takes the form of a workshop where we explore the different touch-points a client has with a firm (e.g. engagement letters, document requests, issue resolution process, client gifts, etc.), how those touch-points are adding or detracting from the client relationship, and what CPAs can do about it as it relates to their organization’s goals.
There are so many opportunities to further client relationships, and not all require going out to lunch, though I am a huge fan of client lunches as part of the overall package!
What advice would you give a young, female accountant who wants to find a sponsor?
In finding a sponsor, look for someone who:
- Knows you do great work and appreciates your contributions.
- You respect and want to be associated with.
- Has influence at your organization and can create opportunities for you.
If you’ve found someone like this:
- Ask them for challenging opportunities and projects that are outside of your comfort zone.
- Make your sponsor look good, they are putting their reputation on the line for you, you must come through.
If no one immediately comes to mind, think of the person who is closest candidate and up your game with them. Do better work, be more visible – once you knock their socks off a few times you should be able to convert a colleague to a sponsor with ease.
I heard you’re writing a book, tell me more about that.
I am! It’s a humor book for current and former CPAs called Accounting Dreams. Because what could be funnier than accounting dreams or dreams accountants have, right?! But really, it’s about the challenges CPAs have with clients, and vice versa – showcased in a series of photos with captions about what you would LOVE to hear your client say.
I was inspired to write the book because there’s I believe there’s always room for more laugher and fun in the world, and especially our profession. One of my favorite pages is a photo of a client meeting with the caption “Wow, great rates! Who knew accounting fees could be so reasonable.” Which, generally speaking, is never going to happen, but this page highlights a dreamy situation in which a client feels that way.
Curious and fun-loving CPAs can find details about release dates and upcoming sample pages on my website.
Ways to connect with Kristen
It’s amazing how little time teams get to work on themselves versus the project-at-hand.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2015
In public accounting, you hear it everywhere, read it everywhere but in actuality CPAs take little action.
Today, I am passing along some hopefully motivational information about Leadership Training from management guru Tom Peters. I never tire of reading his “stuff”.
As leaders, it is fine to:
- Develop a vision for their firm.
- Get people excited about their work.
- Be masterful problem solvers.
- Have the highest integrity.
Yes, all fine……… But this is not close to being enough. In fact, Peters would go so far to say that these items, collectively, miss the boat. In fact, they’re not even at the right dock.
What do leaders…. DO?
First and foremost they assemble and then develop a topflight team of people
Here’s Peters’ Seven Steps to Sustaining Success
- You take care of the people
- The people take care of the service.
- The service takes care of the customer.
- The customer takes care of the profit.
- The profit takes care of the re-investment.
- The re-investment takes care of the re-invention.
- The re-invention takes care of the future.
I contend that developing people is the foundation of the CPA profession. CPAs have always been developed, educated and trained by a wiser, experienced accountant teaching and guiding a, usually younger, less experienced accountant (new college graduate). Duh… it’s call mentoring!
The obvious point being made is that developing people comes first.
I think we often lose sight of this fact in busy accounting firms. We make some very important “things” too difficult, too time-consuming and we use the excuse that we are too busy – so, implementation never happens.
Leaders 'do' people.
Tuesday, May 12th, 2015
Civility. noun – formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.
Some of us think of it more in the terms of good manners. Children must be taught good manners and see it practiced by their role models.
As you become a manager and then a partner in your firm, if you want to be viewed as an inspiring leader, you better be practicing civility.
There is solid research behind this. This is from Christine Porath via HBR:
“For the last 20 years, I’ve studied the costs of incivility, as well as the benefits of civility. Across the board, I’ve found that civility pays. it enhances your influence and performance and is positively associated with being perceived as a leader.”
Leaders need to demonstrate respect. According to recent studies, being treated with respect was more important to employees than recognition, appreciation, inspiring visions or even learning opportunities.
I do upward survey services for CPA firm partners and managers. I often find that partner groups are hesitant to hear what their employees actually think. Maybe I shouldn’t say hesitant. I should say scared. They want to manipulate the questions, and make multiple types of other modifications to the surveys. One firm administrator told me, “We will never do an upward survey. The partners don’t want to hear what the staff thinks of them.” Maybe this partner group isn’t practicing civility and I am sure that most baby boomers were taught good manners as a child!
In actuality, I find that the results of upward surveys in CPA firms are honest, insightful, and contain very helpful suggestions. They are not vicious or vindictive. The replies are civil. (Qualifier: Unless you have one of those “loose cannon” type partners who actually needs to hear the truth and the other partners are afraid to tell him/her.
Want to read more? Here are some of my other posts on this topic:
2009 – The Power of Civility
2011 – Make Your Clients & Your People Feel Special
2014 – Be Honest, Are You Really Different?
You know my motto: I’d rather be kind.
(See quote below… I was actually a kindergarten teacher’s aide at one point years ago.)
Play fair. Don't hit people. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Robert Fulghum, author-All I Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
Tuesday, May 5th, 2015
How are things going for the firm? – – Something I naturally ask when conversing with CPA firm leaders. I ask this question very often and direct it to various people working behind the scenes in CPA firms, not just partners.
Here’s the response I almost always receive. First, a big sigh followed by a lament on how busy they are.
“Sorry, I didn’t get back to you sooner, things are crazy here.”
“I didn’t get a chance to call you this morning, we were in a meeting and it ran over.”
“I can’t get all my vacation in this summer, I’m just too busy.”
“I won’t be going to the conference this year, I just can’t get away from the firm.
Here’s my advice: GET AWAY FROM THE FIRM!
Message to partners: Young people don’t want to become a partner in your firm because YOU are always TOO BUSY. You might even be scaring new clients away because you always appear SO busy. Some of your best clients hesitate to refer their friends to your firm because you are already TOO busy.
It’s catching and it spreads and soon you have a culture of BUSYNESS. If you don’t stay until 10:00p during tax season you might get frowned upon.
Focus on delegation and efficiency. I see a huge amount of time wasted inside CPA firms. Being too busy is often a reflection of personal choice.
Get a large jar or fish bowl and put it in the lunch room. Every time someone get’s caught SAYING the work BUSY they must deposit 25 cents into the jar. Maybe if you don’t say it all the time and talk about it all the time it won’t become a dark cloud that continually hangs over your head or a hurdle that blocks your way toward real progress.
Beware the barrenness of a busy life.
Friday, May 1st, 2015
There is a lot of advice being handed out to females on how to advance to leadership roles in accounting.
One issue that often holds back both males and females in public accounting is the fact that they must continually devote time and energy to improve their technical skills. CPAs are required to have a tremendous amount of expertise in audit, tax and often in other highly specialized technical areas.
To advance as a leader, they need to maintain their technical skills but they also need to seek out broader exposure to management, marketing, technology and other areas to enhance their over-all business experience.
Many experienced CPAs gained valuable skills via volunteer work such as serving on non-profit boards, being committee chairs at other community organizations and so on. Many younger accountants, especially women, say they simply don’t have time to get involved outside the firm.
Most firms support these community and charitable activities. Consider joining Toastmasters to enhance your speaking and presentation skills. Join a YP (young professionals) group or begin your own women’s networking group.
Leaders need board exposure – don’t hide in your cubicle or office and expect to become a leader in your firm.
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Thursday, April 30th, 2015
Once again this year, Accountingfly will host ADVANCE 15 an online career summit to connect accountants with accounting firm employers.
It will be on June 18, 2015 – 1:00-5:00p EDT. Here’s the scoop:
WELCOME TO ADVANCE ’15!
This online career summit will connect you with your next accounting career opportunity without having to leave your home or office.
HERE’S HOW IT WORKS
Thursday June 18, participate in the online career fair where you can interact with employers of your choice. “Get in line” to chat in one-on-one text conversations with employers who have current job openings that match your interests. Build your network by continuing your conversations with employers after the event ends. New employers are signing up everyday – register today!
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
Accounting professionals across all specialties.
- This is a great opportunity to meet recruiters from different types of employers from across the United States.
- The webinars throughout the week will bring experts to show you future trends in our profession. You will receive more information on these webinars as the event approaches.
Read all about it and register here.
The future depends on what you do today.
Monday, April 27th, 2015
It’s amazing what you might accomplish if you work hard and pursue your dreams.
I enjoy success stories and was fascinated as I read about Belicia Cespedes, CPA. She’s 17 years old and passed the CPA exam last summer.
After graduating from high school at 13, Belicia took a QuickBooks course and enjoyed bookkeeping so much she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree and study accounting.
As of January 8, 2015, she became the youngest voting member of the AICPA.
Be sure you are challenging and coaching the youngest members of your CPA team. They do not want to be ignored; they crave your attention. Who knows what they might accomplish.
Read more about this amazing young lady’s story on the AICPA site.
The person who is waiting for something to turn up might start with their shirt sleeves.
Friday, April 24th, 2015
Maybe you just joined the firm and maybe you have just survived your first busy season. Are you getting noticed? Are you being assigned to some high-profile clients? Are you being sought out to work with the managers and partners who seem to “get it”?
It’s always important to make a good first impression and often inside CPA firms it might take a year to do that. You might think it is safe to keep your head down and grind through the work. That’s what you have heard gets your noticed by the partners. That’s part of it but not the most important part.
You want the partners and managers to notice you. What I have heard, time and time again from partners, is that they can teach bright, new people accounting and tax, but they want more than that.
Be visible, friendly and respectful – Ask questions but don’t interrupt them constantly. Don’t shy away from a partner when you have a chance to just be friendly.
Pay attention. Be a good listener – Out of the starting gate, don’t get the reputation of “being glued to her mobile device.” Seek conversations and advice where you can look them in the eye and soak it all in.
No matter what you think – how you look matters (especially in public accounting). – Looking professional is one of the easy things you can do to help bridge the generation gap with Boomers and Xers. No, you don’t have to wear a coat and tie (or a pantsuit) to look professional.
Speak-up in meetings. – If you are in a training session inside the firm, don’t be afraid to ask questions and ask for more detailed instructions, if you need them.
Show them that millennials are not afraid of hard work. – This is a big misconception with Boomers and GenXers. Research has shown that millennials are willing to devote extraordinary efforts to their work – they just want to do it differently with more flexibility. Explain how you feel and show them with results.
Ask them questions about building your career. – This will show them that you value their experience and want to make the most of being a CPA. If your firm doesn’t have an official mentoring program, informally seek one out. Pick the one you think can help you the most and just ask them.
Be prepared. – Yes, the old Boy Scout motto. Be ready to discuss the review comments you receive on your work. Speak clearly and concisely. Use eye contact and show that you are confident and are willing to absorb feedback and advice.
Be Genuine – This one applies every day. The best possible way to win people over, regardless of their age, is to be yourself. Find ways to open dialogue with all the different partners and managers. Absorb their good habits and build on yours.
Learn how to be happy with what you have while you pursue all that you want.
Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015
Millennials are now mature, experienced and ready to take control.
I have been talking about Millennials for years and urging Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers to embrace them, nurture them and learn from them.
There is some great information for CPA firm leaders in this article on Forbes. Here’s an excerpt:
Companies have also felt the pressure by millennials to evolve, especially because about one in every three employees in the U.S. will be a millennial by next year, and by 2025 they will become 75 percent of the global workforce. At some companies, such as EY, millennials already make up 60% of their workforce. Technology has ended the nine to five workday, crushed global communication barriers and create transparent offices. They have forced companies to rethink flexibility, meetings and cubicles. They also believe that business should focus on a societal purpose, not just be in business to make a profit. This is why you see so many millennial become social entrepreneurs or support their local non-profit – they always need to feel like they are touching someone and making an impact, regardless of their job title.
Accounting firms have always recruited on college campuses, sought out the young career beginners to become part of the CPA firm team. Be sure your firm is taking advantage of the millennial goldmine you already have.
It takes a very long time to become young.