Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Using Fear as a Motivator

“Everything I’ve ever done was out of fear of being mediocre.” – Chet Adkins

There are plenty of people who argue the pros and cons of using fear as a motivator. While I can’t imagine building an organization via motivation by fear, we are hearing a lot about it in the workplace these days.

I believe, in the CPA firm world, we see very little management by fear. Not, that it never existed. I have been around long enough to remember when it did. However, it has become a thing of the past in well-run firms. We have been able to attract and keep people who have the passion for public accounting, the work they do for clients and the pride they feel in being part of a winning team – all the things I hope to bring to you, on a regular basis, with this newsletter.

As I work with accounting firms around the country, I see both sides of the coin.  Many employees want to see a little more discipline and structure in their firm.  They feel the partners let things slide and do not address issues of poor performance.  A dose of fear for some employees would be an improvement.  A lack of discipline culture can be very demotivating.

On the other side of the coin, team members in other firms tell me that partners are always looking over their shoulder and providing feedback in a very critical style.  Each partner wants things done in a different manner.  The fear from employees comes from dreading the extensive, critical review notes issued by those in charge.

Striking the right balance of discipline, structure, coaching and recognition will go a long way to inspiring employees to work a little harder, demonstrate teamwork and even be more creative and helpful to clients.

  • One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn't do.
  • Henry Ford

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Performance Management

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” – Anthony D’Angelo

In the world of CPA firm management, we often talk about performance reviews, performance evaluations or performance feedback. In firms, it has many names. Some call it Career Advancement Process and similar titles.

While giving feedback is an important part of the process, it is much more than that. If your firm simply gathers information and relays that information about their performance to the individual you have only taken one step in the process.

Also consider including some upward feedback or some peer-to-peer feedback.

Be sure to include:

Self-evaluations – Most people are very insightful into their own performance.

Mutual agreed upon goals – – the team member identifies goals and so does management. Then they negotiate to determine the two or three most important ones.

Periodic checking on the progress of goals. Set fewer goals with shorter timeframes. I like to see one goal for every 4-month period.

Everyday coaching. Walk around, talk to people, give them spot-checks on their performance. MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around). Today’s workforce wants feedback immediately.

 

  • Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.
  • Margaret Mead

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Warm & Fuzzy

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many accounting firm owners/shareholders, in years gone by believed they were doing the right things.

  • We can get by with two monitors, no one needs three.
  • We need to stick with our professional dress code, our clients care.
  • Not everyone needs access to remote connectivity.
  • We don’t need to send more than one person to that management conference, they can come back and inform us all about what they learned.
  • We can just send one person to that leadership training, they can teach it at the firm.
  • It will be okay if we delay working on that succession plan until next year.
  • We don’t need to spend very much on Christmas gifts for the staff, they really don’t appreciate it anyway.
  • It is too hard to keep track of everyone’s birthdays, we don’t need to send a card to each person’s home.
  • It will hurt production if we close the office on Fridays in the summer.

Many partners called all of these things and other nice, little things they were expected to do for staff, “warm & fuzzy” stuff.

In the past, some of these did apply but they sure don’t now. Never be afraid to admit that you were wrong and make important changes that will guide your firm into the future.

  • We would all like a reputation for generosity and we'd all like to buy it cheap.
  • Mignon McLaughlin

Friday, August 4th, 2017

Flashback Friday – Put Yourself in Selfie Mode

DSC03008“Vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you’ve been taking.” – Earl Wilson

Today I am sharing a post from September 2015.

Selfie Mode

Have a great weekend!

Maybe you are at the beach, I hope so.

  • Laughter is an instant vacation.
  • Milton Berle

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Rapid Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

The above quote is one of my favorite and it applies to CPAs in public practice.

CPA management consultants (like me) have been asking, urging and pleading with CPAs in public accounting to change for several decades.

Enlightened CPAs paid attention, the vast majority did not. One of the first major changes I can remember was more focus on marketing. Way back, even before my time, CPAs were not allowed to market/sell – it was unethical. You had to rely on word-of-mouth via satisfied clients and referral sources. Finally, over decades, marketing and selling are just like breathing – something every CPA firm must do.

The scary thing to me, as I reflect back, is how long it has taken to begin marketing and to actually learn to sell. It has also taken way too long to begin focusing on the efficiencies with technology and to realize the importance of building a people-friendly culture.

I recently read an article (@hrbartender) about how the number one concern of CEOs right now is not recruiting and retaining, it’s the speed of change.

Of course, recruiting and retaining is still a huge issue but it has become a given and will always be a priority.

For CPAs, change has been something to do gradually. Now, they must face the challenge of rapid change. Never before has the business world moved so rapidly.

Many companies are moving away from any type of long-term planning. They are focusing on hiring the right people – those who fit their culture. Company culture has become a top priority.

From my experience, CPAs in public practice know they need to change many things inside their firm. They know they need to change, personally. They listen to me and others and they learn what must be done. They simply do not do it. My favorite description of CPA firm owners:  Good intentions.  No implementation.

Keep in mind, you are running a business. Business decisions must be made. You can’t take decades to implement changes inside your firm. You must get it done in a few months and maybe even a few weeks!

Revisit the quote at the top of this page. Consider how many CPA firms have disappeared via merger/acquisition. Many could not accomplish change so they have permitted others to do it for them.

  • Stagnation is a slow death.
  • Ellen Hopkins

Monday, July 24th, 2017

Providing Leadership Training Is A Must

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

There are a lot of good leadership training programs out there for managers and new partners in the CPA profession. Today, I want to make you aware of a great one from ConvergenceCoaching, LLC.

It is a future leaders development program called theTransformational Leadership ProgramTM.  The typical participant is a manager, senior manager or newer partner and the one-year program focuses on leadership behavior and mindset first, then management skills and knowledge of the profession, too.  Convergence runs “public” programs where any firm can send their up-and-comers and they also offer private versions of the program for specific firms and/or associations.

The program is unique from others in that they help participants understand the power of their mindset and the “internal dialogue” we all have that holds us back, or causes us to say or do things we shouldn’t.  It is only after participants understand themselves better that they can then help them develop new leadership, management and practice development skills.  And, participants are personally coached by a ConvergenceCoaching, LLC coach and their accountability to the program, their commitment to change and grow and their leaps forward are greater than in an education-only program.

There is a program beginning in mid-September and information about that program can be found at:

http://www.convergencecoaching.com/what-we-do/transformational-leadership-program/

Testimonials on the program can be found at:  http://www.convergencecoaching.com/who-we-serve/testimonials/

  • An army of a thousand is easy to find but ah how difficult to find a general.
  • Chinese Proverb

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

Adulthood Pushed Back

“The greatest day in your life and mine is when we take total responsibility for our attitudes. That’s the day we truly grow up.” – John Maxwell

Several years ago, Rebecca Ryan warned the CPA profession that the twenty-somethings that CPAs were accustomed to managing had changed, dramatically. She noted that adulthood markers were happening during their thirties rather than in their twenties.

Just this week I found additional information on this topic that I want to share with you.

Think about it. Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) graduated from college, got a job, got married and had kids when they were in their twenties. Gen-X (born 1965 to 1976) pretty much followed this same tradition.

Millennials are different. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau compares how people born between 1941 and 1957 were living as young adults in the 1970s and how people the same age lived in 2016.

Researchers established four milestones of adulthood: 1) Moving out of your parents’ house, 2) Getting married, 3) Having a child and 4) Getting a job.

  • Younger generations are delaying marriage.
  • One in 3 people ages 18 to 34 (24 million young adults) live with their parents. In 1975, it was one in 5.
  • Women ages 25 to 34 who were out of the labor force to take care of their home and family dropped from 43% to 14% between 1975 and 2016.

So, remember many of those twenty-somethings working at your firm have not actually moved into the adult world. Keep that in mind as you mentor, nurture and supervise them.

  • You're dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.
  • Walt Disney

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

How Do They See You?

“Leadership has less to do with position than it does disposition.” John C. Maxwell

You are a partner in a CPA firm. Maybe you are a manager in the firm. You are responsible for taking care of clients and leading, managing, inspiring, mentoring, nurturing, encouraging, correcting, inspiring others. That’s a pretty big responsibility!

The “others” watch you. What do they see? As the quote above tells us, they notice a lot about your disposition. Those bright, young new hires can quickly assess your disposition and act accordingly.

Here’s some actual quotes I have heard during my consultations and surveys with CPA firm citizens:

About a high-profile, managing partner of a very large firm: “If you want to be inspired or talk about a problem you DO NOT go to (name of partner).”

About a long-time, successful managing partner of a mid-size local firm: “We never encourage staff to go to (name of MP) with questions, he doesn’t like to be interrupted.”

About another managing partner of a large, local very successful firm: “Most staff people don’t know (name) at all. He is out and about so much that he is rarely at the firm during normal business hours.

As a leader, do you have a welcoming, congenial disposition, one that encourages people to like and respect you? Or are you too busy to even think about what disposition you are communicating?

Be sure to read the quote below (on my blog page if you are reading this in your email).

  • I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition and not on our circumstances.”
  • Martha Washington

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Start Networking Now

“If you’re trying to be successful, networking is the difference between mediocre and big.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Sure, accounting firms are getting a lot of new business via social media. Many new clients now come directly from your website. I love to see CPAs using Twitter and Instagram. There are some great blogs out there authored by CPAs.

Here comes the but. But, personal networking is still an extremely important part of career-building for CPAs working in public accounting. If you are just beginning our CPA career – begin networking now. If you have many years of experience and really haven’t been expected to bring in business up to now – begin networking now. If you are a partner who rarely brings in business – begin networking now.

I am a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer and all his writings about sales and other things. He says, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. It is business leisure conducted before and after work – as proposed to business frantic, which is conducted from 9 to 5 (the exception being lunch)

Here’s Gitomer’s principles of networking:

  • to get known by those who count
  • to get more prospects
  • to make more contacts
  • to make more sales
  • to build relationships
  • to make a career advancement (or just get a job)
  • to build your reputation (and be seen and known as consistent)What do you need to be a successful networker?
  • A GREAT 30-second commercial that engages and asks questions that qualify the prospect, and gets to the next step in the sales cycle if there’s an interest.
  • Your willingness to dedicate the time it takes to do it and be excellent at it.
  • A plan of where and when.To maximize your networking effectiveness, you must follow one simple rule:
    Go where your customers and prospects go, or are likely to be.

Gitomer’s recent post gives you the 21.5 BEST places to network. Be sure to read it and begin networking!

  • Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
  • Mother Teresa

Wednesday, June 21st, 2017

K.I.S.S.

“If we stopped doing this, who would notice?” – Dan Rockwell @leadershipfreak

From my experience working in the CPA profession, we always used K.I.S.S. to mean “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” – – Whenever I used it, I always changed it to mean, “Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.” It is always important to be kind.

In more recent years, we have been talking a lot about K.S.S. – Keep, Stop, Start as it relates to performance feedback. We share with others in the firm what we think they should keep doing, stop doing and start doing. I am happy that I now see many firms using this much simplified version of performance feedback.

I have now learned from @Leadershipfreak (Dan Rockwell) that he has added an “I” to Keep Stop Start to change it to K.I.S.S. and uses it for meeting agendas:

#1 – Keep: What do we need to keep doing?

#2 – Improve: What do we need to improve?

#3 – Stop: What do we need to stop doing?

#4 – Start: What do we need to start doing.

Read more about Dan’s version of K.I.S.S. here.

Most CPA firms have WAY too many meetings. Maybe K.I.S.S. will help you streamline some of them. Also, seriously consider which meetings you can actually eliminate.

  • People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.
  • Thomas Sowell