Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

The 12 Questions

“The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person’s trigger.” – Marcus Buckingham

I haven’t written about the “12 Questions” in a very long time. It comes from a book titled, First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The book has been around a while but maybe it is time you read it again.

They contend that employees leave managers, not companies. I strongly believe that this is often the case in CPA firms.

Buckingham and Coffman offer 12 questions that can be used to measure the core elements needed to attract, develop and retain the next generation of CPA firm leaders.

Here are the 12 Questions:

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
  3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
  5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
  6. Is there someone at work who encourages both my personal and my career development?
  7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
  8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
  9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
  10. Do I have a best friend at work?
  11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
  12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

One of my client firms, asks these 12 questions of their entire staff every year and tracks progress year-to-year. They share the tracking matrix with the entire staff at the annual State of The Firm meeting. Constant improvement is part of their firm culture.

I hope you are doing something like this at your firm. I also hope that you are taking the steps to make steady progress. Don’t ever ask for input from your team and then do nothing with that valuable information.

  • The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
  • Peter Drucker

Friday, January 12th, 2018

Weed the Garden – Turnover

“Turnover is bad only if the good go.” – Patrick Lencioni

Most CPA firm leaders consider turnover is a very bad thing. That’s not necessarily true.

In their book, “Built to Last,” Jerry Porras and Jim Collins talk about the occurrence of strong cultures of great companies. One of the indications of a strong culture is the rapid departure of people who don’t fit. Ultimately, those people are best served by finding a company where they can fit, and thrive.

When you retain people who don’t fit, it creates an even bigger threat to your firm. It demotivates those who do fit. It creates a culture of mediocrity.

So many firms have become a “please everyone” culture, providing lots of nice, sometimes trivial benefits to everyone. Sure, poor performers want to stay.

But, a menu of benefits will not retain all-star performers. They want to work in a thriving, high-performance and rewarding culture.

Stick with mediocre performers and you will find it even more difficult to attract top talent.

  • The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant.
  • Max DePree

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

The Three C’s

“I can live for two months on a good compliment.” – Mark Twain

Years ago I learned a method that might be something you should try. It is called the compliment sandwich and is based on the three C’s.

There always comes a time when you need to correct someone. Perhaps they have made an accounting mistake or maybe even a communication mistake and you want to point it out but not be harsh in doing so. The person’s performance is almost always above average and you also need to compliment them.

Try using the compliment sandwich! It is the best way to offer criticism or advice.

Use the three Cs: first compliment, then correct, then compliment again.

For instance, when a student is learning to waltz, the instructor might say, “I see you’re working very hard. Saying ‘Left, two, three, right, two, three’ helps me keep the steps straight. You might try that. But you look great out there!”

Consider how you can use the compliment sandwich in the office this week.

  • The highest compliment that you can pay me is to say that I work hard every day, that I never dog it.
  • Wayne Gretzky

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

Searching For a Mentor

“My mentor said, ‘Let’s go do it,’ not ‘You go do it.’ How powerful when someone says, ‘Let’s!'” – Jim Rohn

So, you want to make some changes this year. You want to implement some important initiatives at the firm and you also want to make some changes, personally.

A mentor would be a good idea. Someone to hold you accountable and to actually help you along the road of change.

How do you choose a mentor? Here are some things to consider:

Experience – Make sure your potential mentor has been through what you are facing. Do they have the appropriate background to help answer your questions and give you guidance?

Communication – Determine what communication style works best for both of you. A potential mentor might prefer conversations in person or by phone. Another might prefer to have more of an online type relationship.

Life-stage: Has the potential mentor been through the life-stage that is currently giving you significant challenges? Can they give you practical and applicable advice and tools?

Over the last couple of years, mentoring and coaching people working in the CPA profession has become my most requested service. In fact, I only have a couple of slots open for monthly mentoring clients. Maybe I can help you. Contact me if you want to just talk about your situation. I offer a no obligation consultation.

  • Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Next Year

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

How many times have you said those two words, “next year”?

Maybe to your kids, “You’ll be old enough to do that next year.”

Maybe to your spouse, “Honey, we’ll take that special vacation trip next year.”

Maybe to yourself, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds next year!”

How about inside your firm?

“We will work on it and become COMPLETELY paperless next year.”

“We can’t do it this year, but next year we will out-place those five clients that drive our staff nuts.”

“We promise to be more timely with our feedback process next year.”

“We will add a few more employee benefits next year.”

“We have to update our website next year.”

“We will look into all this new digital stuff like blockchain and artificial intelligence, next year.”

“I’ll pass the CPA exam next year.”

For all these “next years” relating to your firm: Monday is NEXT YEAR.

For NOW – have a happy and safe New Years’ weekend!

  • It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.
  • Chief Joseph

Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

The Different Lives of Managing Partners

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali

In his December blog post, Gary Adamson (Adamson Advisory), a former managing partner himself, talks about the different lives a managing partner lives. 

The inside the firm life.

The outside life, representing the firm in the business community.

And, of course, their personal life.

If you are a CPA firm partner, are you living all of these lives, too? You probably act differently in your role as partner inside the firm than you do at home with your family.

What I observe is that while the MP must represent the firm outside – being involved in  civic and charitable organizations, some of the other partners don’t quite live up to that “outside” role.

Young people just building your career in public accounting, start living that outside-the-firm life now.

Take a minute to read Adamson’s blog post.

  • The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.
  • Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

We Just Can’t….

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins, author Good to Great

Read the above quotation again.

I have coached and consulted with lots of CPA firms. I have done presentations for thousands of CPAs. I often hear the same lament about a poor performer: “We can’t let her go, she’s been with us 20 years.” I have heard that statement applied to poor performers over and over again throughout my career.

Is she meeting the firm’s expectations for her specific job at the firm? “No, but…” I hear too many “No, buts…” when I ask questions about this person. “We just can’t let her go.”

I use the term “she” because it is usually a she (just from my experience). “She” is someone hired by the former managing partner. She is stuck in status quo. She hasn’t kept up with technology changes. She demotivates all those around her. She dodges difficult tasks. Sometimes it is an admin person. Sometimes it is a paraprofessional. Sometimes it is a very technical tax person. AND yes, sometimes it is a partner!

Take action:

  • Clearly communicate to this person that they are not meeting expectations.
  • Clearly define those expectations.
  • Work with them to outline a development plan and assure them of the firm’s support in the improvement process.
  • Set a target date for some improvement to occur.

They just might change, improve and succeed. Usually, they remain a poor performer or a mediocre performer, at best.

If your people are mediocre, the firm will remain mediocre.

Again, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins, author Good to Great.

  • Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.
  • Jim Collins

Monday, December 11th, 2017

I’m On My Reading Soapbox Again

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

A suggestion from Seth Godin, instead of having 20 valuable employees spend an hour in a meeting that’s only vaguely related to their productive output, why not have them spend one hour reading?

That suggestion made me think about some things you can do at your CPA firm.

Rather than having a “lunch & learn” that about half of your employees dread, why not have a “read & learn”?

One of my clients is having their management group read a chapter a week in a selected popular business/leadership book and then discuss it briefly at their weekly management meeting.

Another client is establishing a leadership/management library by collecting (and buying) well-known business books and asking the leadership group to read one per quarter.

I also believe you can learn a lot from and be inspired by simply reading novels.

Thinking about the goals you will set for 2018? Commit to reading at least 12 books.

Wondering what should be on your team’s reading list? Here’s a list of twenty books. 

  • I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns one on, I go into the other room and read a book.
  • Groucho Marx

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Maybe You Are Lazy

“I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t understand you. I don’t want to understand you.” – Kolbe Bryant

I often refer to Seth Godin and some of his amazing blog posts. I hope you are following him, too.

Today, he posted about “modern laziness.” I have observed modern laziness inside so many CPA firms. I bet you have, too!

From Godin: “The original kind of lazy avoids hard physical work. Too lazy to dig a ditch, organize a warehouse or clean the garage. Modern lazy avoids emotional labor.”

As a team member in a CPA firm:

  • During a training session, do you refrain from raising your hand and asking a question? Do you wait on someone else to ask?
  • Do you follow what was done last year (SALY) on a client engagement rather than discuss with your supervisor something that confuses or puzzles you?

As a CPA firm leader:

  • Do you dodge those tough phone calls from clients about their recent invoice?
  • Do you hide out in your office and hope no one bothers you with questions?
  • Do you ask someone else to discuss an issue of poor performance with a team member rather than doing it yourself?

These are the kinds of things that require emotional labor. To me, it falls under the category of Emotional Intelligence. Accountants have a reputation of NOT having it!

Whether your are a recent accounting graduate or a long-term partner in an accounting firm, work on your EQ and don’t be lazy!

  • People are not lazy. They simply have impotent goals - that is, goals that do not inspire them.
  • Tony Robbins

Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Searching For A Manager

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle

Accounting firms are hiring. That is an under-statement. Most of the firms I work with are almost desperate for an experienced manager. Throughout this year I have heard this statement over and over again, “We really need a tax manager and they are impossible to find.”

Perhaps, someone already working at your firm is the answer. Top talent joins a firm where they believe opportunities for advancement exists. They don’t want to work at entry-level for years, then as a Senior for a few more years. Then, maybe in the partners’ minds they are seasoned enough to become a manager. That is why it is so important that you have documented career paths available.

If your firm is content with status quo and not experiencing impressive growth, top talent won’t join up. To become a manager, the firm has to need a manager.

You don’t need a manager if:

  • Your firm is not dynamic, growing and generating new opportunities.
  • Your firm has a level of managers in place who are not dynamic and growing.
  • Your young people see your current managers as roadblocks

Keep in mind that promotions are no longer based on seniority. So many firms have current managers that were promoted to manager to reward them for longevity and productivity, not because they had proven ability to manage and inspire other people. In many cases, it is the opposite.

So, the next time you need a manager, look inside and ask a top performing senior or supervisor to stretch. They may be tired of waiting and already searching for another job. Bringing in someone unproven over them might be the last straw.

  • The future depends on what you do today.
  • Gandhi