Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Partner Accountability

“If you are building a culture where honest expectations are communicated and peer accountability is the norm, then the group will address poor performance and attitudes.” – Henry Cloud

I hear it discussed all the time. I also hear partners debate what accountability really means. Most seem to find it very difficult to define, thus accountability is not part of the partner group culture.

I often describe accountability as simply the act of asking questions. Did you make that follow-up call to Joe Prospect? Did you schedule lunch with that disgruntled client? Did you counsel Jill Newperson about CPE that would be appropriate for her?

When you have a lack of accountability there are consequences. In Aquila Advisors recent newsletter, August Aquila skillfully answers the question, “What is partner accountability?”

  • The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.
  • Simon Mainwaring

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

You Don’t Always Have to “Give In”

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

Accounting firms, in recent years, have gone to great lengths to be more flexible, to be more understanding, to be more tolerant, compassionate and caring towards their valuable workforce.

All that is good. However, firm leaders, and accountants, in general, are non-confrontational so it seems like they eventually give in to almost any request.

arrow-down-4-xxlYou dumb things down, you go to great lengths to make things simple and easy. You strive to eliminate any discomfort and stress. You want people to have fun and enjoy their work.

I have observed that this fear of offending any team member leads to more work getting done by those at a more experienced level in the firm. Leaders not only fail to set high expectations, they fail to set any expectations. An environment evolves where partners and managers are doing the work and the staff are looking for work.

Many experts tell us that young people want to know exactly what is expected of them. Thus, they can judge when they are making progress on their career path.

I believe that there are still talented people working in the CPA profession who want to be challenged, who want to learn more and do better. They want assignments that are not boring and cause them to stretch to a higher level of performance.

Develop a culture of high performance and high expectations. Create a reputation of being extremely professional, well-disciplined and knowledgeable. You don’t always have to give in to lowering your standards. It is a downward spiral.

  • Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable.
  • Joe Biden

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Reading About Leadership

2.0are

I have been reading a book titled, Leadership 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

Here’s a passage that I want to impress upon CPA firm leaders. It’s something especially important when you are promoted to a leadership role.

What you can accomplish now and in the future has everything to do with what you can accomplish through others. It’s just not about you anymore.

Leaders who aren’t privy to this guidance early enough in their careers head down one of three possible paths:

  1. Micromanaging because they don’t trust anyone but themselves.
  2. Trying to be a superhero by being the only one who can save the day
  3. Trying to be a one-man or one-woman show because they seek all the glory.

If you are undertaking a more advanced leadership role in your firm, seek out a mentor, one that will hold you accountable – not one that just takes you to lunch to chat.

  • Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.
  • John Maxwell

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Are You An Authentic Leader?

“Whatever you are, be a good one.” – Abraham Lincoln

I have observed that many of the performance, human resources and leadership issues inside a CPA firm could be eliminated very easily if partners (owners) would simply do what they say they will do.

If you are an owner/leader of a firm, you need to be authentic.

Here’s what Seth Godin has to say about being authentic:

We call a brand or a person authentic when they’re consistent, when they act the same way whether or not someone is looking. Someone is authentic when their actions are in alignment with what they promise.

Showing up as a pro.

Keeping promises.

Even when you don’t feel like it.

Especially when you don’t.

 

  • I define authenticity as 'consistent emotional labor.'
  • Seth Godin

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

I’ve Been in Meetings All Day

IMG_4125I hear it all the time when I talk to people in the CPA profession.

Sorry I didn’t get back with you…

Sorry, I didn’t get to work on that initiative….

Sorry I missed our call…

—-“I’ve been in meetings all day!”

I love this line from Seth Godin’s blog post today“A $30,000 software package is actually $3,000 worth of software plus $27,000 worth of meetings.”

He talks about “crisp” meetings and what they are. “The crisp meeting is one of a series. It’s driven by purpose and intent. It’s guided by questions.” He lists the questions. Be sure to take a couple minutes to read his post.

Then – “If it’s not going to be a crisp meeting, the professional is well-advised to not even attend.”

I have observed, in CPA firms, that leaders keep the accounting staff well-focused on billable work. Sometimes they don’t have enough meetings with the entire staff.

It’s the management and supervisory staff that seem to waste a huge amount of time in meetings… partner meetings, manager meetings, scheduling meetings, marketing committee meetings, HR committee meetings, technology committee meeting and so on. Develop a management structure, a CEO and a COO, maybe an executive committee. Have fewer committees and fewer meetings with fewer people.

  • The biggest difference between great work and pretty-good work are the meetings that accompanied it.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Partner Development Program

“As our circle of knowledge expands, so does the circumference of darkness surrounding it.” – Albert Einstein

What’s it take to be an effective, successful CPA firm partner? This question is often undefined inside many firms, it’s a mystery!

I believe each firm should have a well-documented partner-in-training program that they adhere to inside the firm. Part of that program should be an outside leadership or partner development program. Current partners also need some outside training and inspiration. Invest in your success!

The Growth Partnership offers an exceptional partner training program, The Partner Institute. Registration for the 2018 class is now open. It is an extensive 3-year program. The curriculum includes five categories of development.

  1. Leadership
  2. Productivity
  3. Communication
  4. Practice Development
  5. Practice Management

Who in your firm needs to attend?

  • If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.
  • Margaret Fuller

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Disruption, Future-Ready and All That Jazz

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy

I enjoyed a recent post by Gail Perry, Editor-in-Chief of CPA Practice Advisor, titled, CPA Tomorrowland.

Gail talks about the word disruption and how often it is included in CPA conversations. As she notes, it is not disruption in small letters, it is DISRUPTION in capital letters and it is happening SO fast. Changing FAST is not something most CPAs are not used to.

  • A McKinsey study suggests that 49% of work currently being done by accountants is likely to be automated.
  • Accenture reports that 21% of organizations have blockchain in production and that 40% of basic accounting work will be automated or eliminated by 2020 – in 3 years!
  • The AICPA and state society leaders are pushing members to quickly move from personally doing compliance work (let AI and bots do that) and evolve into business consultants.

What makes all of this very interesting and puzzling to me is the fact that so many consultants, media and profession leaders are strongly advising that the older CPAs need to get out of the way because they are not suited for this new world of CPA-ing.

In my work consulting work with firms, I have observed that automation has been increasing inside firms for years. Sure, there might be a bigger and quicker leap in the coming years but most well-managed practices with savvy (and usually mature) leadership will make that leap.

Successful, older CPAs do not love grinding out compliance work. In fact, many older CPAs (partners), don’t even know how to use the elaborate software and automated systems the firm has now.

I have observed that in multiple partner firms, the more experienced CPAs (older) are the ones ALREADY consulting with clients. The next generation (managers and “next” partners) have been groomed to be production units. They don’t network, they don’t bring in business, they don’t go to management conferences or keep on top of current trends – they are too busy grinding.

I recently asked a CPA how many of their eight partners were already spending the majority of their time consulting. The answer was two! The others have become complacent and comfortable doing compliance work.

Before you push your older, more experienced partners out the door, identify which ones are already consultants. Be sure they are working very hard at training younger partners and next leaders on how to really consult with, and advise, clients. They need to develop the skills necessary to help their clients become more profitable and successful.

We want retiring partners to transition the client relationships. It is a whole lot more than getting the client to call Joe Young rather than Bob Old, when they have a problem.

As for the automation part, here’s what Nick Chandi notes in his article on Forbes – How AI Is Reshaping The Accounting Industry: “..since accounting professionals will still remain as the final approvers of all the tasks performed by the AI, they will keep control of any sensitive information they want. As long as they have everything backed up to the cloud, they are good to go.”

CPAs are going through some very exciting times. The CPA profession is interesting and challenging and unlike many outside the profession believe, it is never, ever boring.

  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  • Robert C. Gallagher

Monday, September 18th, 2017

If You Want To Win….

“Reject ordinary, be legendary.” – Brad Lea

CPAs in public accounting are always seeking to find out what those “other” firms are doing. They eagerly await various surveys that give them statistics about other accounting firms. I often smile when I hear partners say that they are so pleased because, according to the most recent MAP survey, they are doing okay, they are average.

How uninspiring that must be for the young accountants in your office. Often, firm partners don’t even share MAP statistics with their team members. It is just one simple step among the many that you need to take to prepare the next generation of firm leaders.

I say, stop comparing and start taking action. Show your team that you listen to their suggestions. Actually implement some of their suggestions! Take the steps necessary to accomplish the initiatives you outlined at your last partner retreat.

I love this comment from Brad Lea, founder of LightSpeed VT.

brad lea

  • I would rather be alone than surrounded by the wrong people.
  • Brad Lea

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

Results

“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.” – Seth Godin

I hear it discussed often when I am with a group of people who work in the CPA profession. It is the topic of judging performance based upon results. Some say, don’t judge them on methods nor maybe even on attitude and teamwork. How much do they accomplish? (How much do they bill? …is often the question in public accounting.)

Some of that is fine with me, but not completely. There is more to a person’s role in a CPA firm than results.

As Seth Godin puts it…. “Doing work that matters, with people we care about.” Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Doesn’t that matter a lot?

Sometimes we find ourselves doing “busy work” – trivial stuff that sucks up much of our time. Sometimes we find ourselves employing people who are not great performers, nor do they even seem to care about the firm. They demotivate those around them.

Read Godin’s post about this topic. Many things actually do matter more than results.

 

  • Being aware of your fear is smart. Overcoming it is the mark of a successful person.
  • Seth Godin

Friday, August 25th, 2017

Flashback Friday – What About You?

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” – Robert Fulghum

Here’s this week’s flashback: As a Leader You Worry About Others – But Don’t Forget About Yourself!

As a servant leader, you think of others first. You worry about the firm, your worry about your people. Don’t forget to focus on yourself. In the post, featured above, there is a sample of a Personal SWOT Analysis form for you to use.

Have a great weekend. Hope you observed the eclipse this week. One of my clients closed their office for the day – they were in the totality path. Hope others did too!

  • Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.
  • Leo Buscaglia