I have talked about, written about and helped firms implement mentoring programs for years. Still, I am receiving lots of feedback about the lack of dedicated mentoring inside CPA firms.
I contend that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession. An older, more experienced accountant guides and teaches a younger, less-experienced accountant. It has been going on for decades. It is how young CPAs have always learned their trade.
Take that basic approach and incorporate more recognition, honest feedback, skilled listening and career advice and you have a mentoring program.
Engaging and retaining talent is a hot topic for the accounting profession. Mentoring can be an important tool.
Experienced CPAs question me…. Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What exactly do I say? What do they expect of me? It will take too much time…. on and on.
Please keep in mind, when it comes to actually implementing a mentoring program, KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You can actually mentor and guide someone with two words. Here’s how, from a presentation I did for Boomer Consulting:
If you are a beginner at an accounting firm, be a volunteer.
If you are not new to the firm, share this blog post with a beginner.
It is my observation that most partners thoroughly enjoy working with a beginner who shows an interest in learning as much as possible. Many partners have told me….. “I would love it if they would just stick their head inside my door and ask if there was anything they could help me with.”
Listen to what is going on around you. Has a new large client recently been added to the firm? Ask if you can be assigned to the job.
Does the marketing person need someone to represent the firm at a community event? Volunteer to shadow a partner or manager.
Sometimes the marketing person needs someone to fill-in for a partner or manager at a charitable luncheon event. They love to invite beginners to fill these spots. IF (and that’s a big if), they are dressed professional enough to attend. This one is a big issue because of very relaxed dress codes. Volunteer to keep some dress clothes at the office for a quick change.
Does the firm administrator or HR person need an extra body to staff the firm booth at a local campus? Volunteer.
Firm leaders are impressed with people who have initiative. They are impressed with people who have a great attitude. They are impressed with people who are not afraid to speak-up and volunteer.
Wherever a man turns he can find someone who needs him.
Baker Tilly’s announcement: Baker Tilly Makes Everyday Denim Dreams Come True:
The Chicago-based accounting firm has launched a pilot program allowing its professionals to wear jeans any day of the week they deem it appropriate. No longer will denim be confined to Friday, a fairly common practice in the profession, or purchased as a one-off dispensation for a $5 charitable donation.
Such a practice is fairly unusual in the buttoned-down profession. “If Baker Tilly is jeans every day, they’re probably leading the way on that,” said Todd Shapiro, president and CEO of the Illinois CPA Society in Chicago.
A few days later (via GoingConcern), Crowe Horwath joined the movement:
Not be outdone by their crosstown1 rivals,Crowe Horwath announced earlier this week that not only can their employees wear whatever they want, they can work wherever they want, too (subject to approval of course):
The firm’s new mobility strategy, which was rolled out in December, includes two policies integral to the firm’s approach to attracting and retaining the profession’s best talent. The first initiative, “What to Wear,” dictates that if you’re in the office and aren’t meeting with clients, you can keep it casual and wear jeans any day of the week. The second, “Where to Work,” allows personnel to work wherever it’s convenient and they’re most productive, with support from their performance manager.
The accounting profession is no different. Brown Smith Wallace, a nationally ranked top-100 accounting firm, added new features to its employee benefit package in an effort to recruit and retain more Millennials. As of January 1, 2016, the firm offers paid maternity leave and increased personal time off—including unlimited vacation for managers and principals—based on years of service at the firm.
When was the last time you did an upward feedback exercise for your partners? Most CPA partners tell me it has been a very long time and some say they have never asked their valuable team members to provide any kind of critique about the partners.
I am sure most of your younger team members can give you quite a humorous view of the partners. I used to always take the interns to lunch a couple of times during tax season just to chat, no formal agenda. At these lunches I heard some hilarious stories and descriptions of partners.
An upward feedback survey is not intended to be comical. It is intended to give the partners honest feedback on what they should keep doing and what they should focus on for improvement. It can also be a goal-setting tool for the managing partner to use with the other partners.
Your team will be wondering what to do.
Do they tow the company line, if they know it?
Do they show agreement with the partners activities, whether or not they actually do?
Or, do they express their honest opinion, whether it is flattering or not?
If you do an upward feedback survey in 2016, be sure you send a clear message to your employees that you want them to be open and honest.
Use an outsider to gather the information and report it back to the managing partner. People are often more honest with an outsider.
One of my favorite activities (services) is facilitating upward feedback surveys for CPA leaders. Plan now for an upward feedback survey in the spring. Learn more here.
Truth is the breath of life to human society. It is the food of the immortal spirit. Yet a single word of it may kill a man as suddenly as a drop of prussic acid.
CPA firms lose so many bright, savvy females because of the long-talked about stigma that when you want to start a family, you cannot work in public accounting.
Too many young female professionals tend to heed the old-fashioned advice that they should work in public accounting for a few years, get their CPA designation and then get a job in a private company so they can then raise a family. Fewer actually become “stay at home” moms because the millennials need two incomes to live the life style they desire.
So, I urge all young women in accounting, stick it out. The accounting profession is becoming more and more flexible all the time. It is a profession that can provide the career development and prestige that you desire.
Don’t feel guilty if you are working and also raising children. Children of working moms actually reap many benefits because they have working mothers.
According to a survey of 1,000 grown children of working mothers, many substantial benefits were identified
Strong Work Ethic – The grown children reported that watching their mothers go to work every day instilled in them a strong work ethic.
Independence – Working mothers know they won’t be there for everything so they have deliberately taught their children to be more independent.
Resilience – The children of working mothers reported being able to solve their own problems and bounce back from tough times better than children of stay-at-home mothers.
Prepared For The Work World – Watching their mothers face the many challenges at work helped the children feel better prepared for the working world. They have a better sense of what to expect when they enter the work world.
Daughters Benefit Most – Harvard found that daughters of working mothers earned 23% more than daughters of stay-at-home mothers.
There is so much opportunity for young women entering the accounting profession. I truly believe it offers the flexibility and opportunity where females can continually develop their careers and still have a life.
Much of this is thanks to Millennials – males and females – who have figured out that work is not the be all and end all.
Here’s a song with right-on-target lyrics written by Pete Seeger’s sister, Peggy, also a singer/song writer.
Maybe many of you hard-working, professional women of today can relate. The story starts out with “when I was a little girl, I wished I was a boy.” Be sure to listen to the end to hear how the story ends.
That was me, an all-out tomboy who bullied the neighborhood boys. If they didn’t do what I said, I would make them eat dirt. Can you believe it? They still tease me about it. There were times at my firm when I wished I could have still done that!
If you don't like being a doormat, get off the floor.
Have you kept your commitments? Have you set a good example? Have you done what you said you would do? Have you held people accountable? Have you held yourself accountable. Have you helped someone improve their attitude? Have you called a client today? Have you thanked someone for a job well done?
We all have so many things we want to do. However, many people working inside CPA firms have multiple excuses why they haven’t done things that they should be doing. The #1 Excuse – I’m too busy!
Once again I remind you…. the people filling the “manager” role inside your firm have enormous power. People will stay or leave because of them.
Partners need to be great managers themselves so they can coach the people with the manager title to become more skilled at developing people and engaging them in what the firm is all about. This is really just one step in solving succession issues.
Here’s a quick exercise for managing partners or department heads. Do it in January!
Meet briefly with each manager. Ask them to describe one personal challenge they are currently facing… as they enter tax season. Talk about some possible ways to address this challenge and make it their ONE goal for tax season. Keep it simple, please – just one challenge to address and solve during the first 4 months of the year. If they can’t do that, you might have a bigger issue.
Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. it is hard to make something simple.
This is mostly a repeat of a previous post from January 2014. At this time, I feel it is worth repeating!
People with the title of “manager” working inside CPA firms usually are not doing what a “manager” should be doing. Just like many partners, managers get very comfortable actually DOING the work rather than carrying out manager level responsibilities and activities.
Managers play a key role in employee engagement and retention. Remember, people leave bosses not firms.
I once asked a group of CPA firm owners to give me their expectations of a person in the manager role and to keep it very simple. I think the following bullet point job description says it clearly and concisely. How do your managers stack-up?
Solid technical skills, with an area of technical expertise that is recognized
Good communication skills, both written and verbal
The ability to manage and develop team members
The ability to manage client relationships
The ability to manage multile engagements
The ability to manage engagement profitability
Must be an advocate of the firm
Participation in firm marketing activities
Participation in personal marketing activities
Participation in various firm internal projects
Be viewed, by most firm owners, as a candidate for partner status
Addendum for 2016: So many partners declare they have no one who can replace them when they retire. If you want succession to work at your firm you must work with your managers on these key traits. Developing people is a key characteristic of a competent partner.
To add value to others, one must first value others.