Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

The Best Way to Train New Staff

“The greatest education in the world is watching the masters at work.” – Michael Jackson

Several years ago I heard Dustin Hostetler, Chief Innovation Officer at Boomer Consulting, talk about a method of training that he thought would be greatly beneficial to the CPA profession.

It is a simple, 4-step method but seems to make so much sense for interns and new hires working in accounting firms.

  1. I do – You watch
  2. I do – You help
  3. You do – I help
  4. You do – I watch

Here’s a short video with the complete explanation.

  • Learning is not watching a video, learning is taking action and seeing what happens.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

We Are So busy

“Never mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden

I love the above quote and it is something that I think applies to CPA firm citizens.

I hear it all the time:

  • We are so busy.
  • No one has time to help me.
  • I hesitate to add new clients because I can’t ask the staff to work more hours.
  • And, many similar statements.

I also see it all the time. A huge amount of talking, debating and worrying with very little actually being accomplished. I observe it often in my coaching clients – lots of talk and excuses (we were too busy) and little achievement.

Analyze what you are so busy doing. The best thing you can be doing, no matter what level of staff you are (or partner), is to focus on developing others. Delegate to them and get yourself out of the busy-work and focus on achieving something bigger.

  • Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Performance Feedback

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

For many firms, it is the time of year when you begin your performance feedback sessions. Hopefully, you have modified and updated your methods over the last few years. While some firms have theoretically eliminated the annual performance review, it is certainly not dead yet.

If you use the same format year after year after year, your employees and those who are giving them feedback come to dread the entire process.

Sometimes partners are expected to give feedback to 7, 8, 9 or more people. That takes a lot of time. The bigger issue is, after all the preliminary information gathering is done, how you structure the actual feedback face-to-face meeting.

One step in the right direction is to have more performance conversations throughout the year and not put so much focus on the big, annual evaluation.

Another modification is to work with your partners and managers in learning how to provide more meaningful feedback. Historically, managers have focused on past performance rather than talking about the future. Managers have also tended to focus on weaknesses rather than strengths.

Work to identify each individual’s strengths. Then, build momentum and career progression on those strengths. Develop a system of more frequent conversations and down-play the dreaded annual review.

 

  • If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
  • Thomas Edison

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Accountability

“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.” – Courtney Lynch

There are a lot of conversations in public accounting firm circles about accountability. Practitioners ask, “How do we hold people accountable?” They want to know exactly what to do and what to say.

In an accounting firm, it is almost always from the top down. As leaders, you want your people to be held accountable for their performance or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, accountability is a two-way street. If you are holding your people accountable for their performance, they should also be holding you accountable for your performance.

Is that happening at your firm? Do the members of your partner group hold each other accountable? Do you welcome upward feedback so that you are accountable to everyone in the firm?

  • Go into every interaction with those who work for you believing that you are as accountable to them for your performance as they are to you for their performance.
  • Jim Whitehurst

Monday, February 26th, 2018

It Is More Than Performance Review

“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.” – Tim Fargo

You have read about them, the firms that have abolished the annual performance feedback session. I can understand why. In many firms, they have become a dreaded exercise, dreaded by the person being reviewed and also by the reviewer.

Something that you may have missed is that doing away with the actual face-to-face formal session does not mean you do not provide feedback. That meeting is only one part of a performance management system!

Performance feedback sets the stage for promotions and compensation adjustments, too. If you don’t have the traditional feedback system you must train your managers (and partners) to provide performance feedback on an on-going basis. If carried out properly, I think it is absolutely the best way to provide feedback – immediate and continual. It’s called managing people and CPA firms haven’t been very good at it in the past.

Here is an excellent article by Sharlyn Lauby, @HRBartender. Be sure to read item #3, about training managers!

  • Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.
  • Ed Batista

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

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Staff Development

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” – Albert Einstein

Most firms have some sort of coaching program for team members who are in their early years as a staff associate. The transition from campus life to professional work life can be rather overwhelming.

Some firms have buddies, coaches, mentors, sponsors and maybe other levels of on-going staff development activities for everyone at the firm. I believe that partners still need to have a mentor.

While all of that is going on, there is often an experienced person inside the firm, usually a long-time manager, who takes it upon themselves to be a real source of knowledge and support to the younger, less-experienced staff associates.

Often, this person goes unrecognized and maybe the firm does not even allow them some slack in their workload while they informally coach the younger workers.

Sharon_TrabbicThat’s why I love a comment made by Sharon Trabbic, PAFM, Chief Operating Officer of the William Vaughan Company, CPAs in Maumee, Ohio.

“Our coaching program is very similar to other firms. We ask for the coaches and protégés to connect formally four times a year and informally as often as they need to. We have one senior manger that is an excellent coach for staff members and she coaches 9 people. That role is almost as important to the firm as her client work.”

 

  • Confidence comes from discipline and training.
  • Robert Kiyosaki

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Managers, Are You Ready?

“Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.” – Peter Drucker

Being a manager in a CPA firm is often a thankless experience.

You are caught between the partners and the staff. You seem to be responsible for so many tasks and activities relating to both. Plus, you are responsible for your own productivity. On top of that, the partners want you to help market the firm and bring in new business.

You can only do all of this if you are performing as a true manager and not simply being a worker-bee producing billable work.

As next busy season approaches, are you ready to manage or will you simply be a firefighter putting out fires in reactionary mode, day after day?

Here are some steps to help you be a manager – that means getting things done through other people.

Work on your delegation skills. When a task comes you way, ask yourself, can someone at a lower billing rate do this task? Is there a team member with space on their schedule? Even if it might be difficult for them, let them try. Just because a partner delegates to you, it doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. YOU have to just be sure it gets done properly.

Do not participate in upward delegation. When a team member has difficulty completing an assignment, for a variety of reasons, don’t take the work back! After assigning the task, check with them every day to see what progress they are making and be available to answer questions. As the deadline approaches, you will know where they stand and might even be able to allow them more time.

Train, communicate, coach and delegate continually. That is how people improve in a CPA firm. They learn by doing and even re-doing. Provide helpful and insightful review notes so they learn from their mistakes. Give them verbal feedback daily. Don’t save up feedback for a formal performance review.

Hold them accountable. How do you do this? By simply asking questions – “Are you having any difficulties with the Jones assignment?” “Are you going to be able to hit the established completion date coming up in three days?” “Do you have any questions for me?”

Being a manager involves so much more than these few things. You must help direct reports establish goals and achieve them. You must encourage them to hit their goals and review their progress frequently. You must be a constant source of encouragement to others. You must also work on your own goals and be a life-long learner.

 

  • Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.
  • Warren Bennis

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