Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

I Can Do It A Lot Faster

“Deciding what not to do is an important as deciding what to do.” – Jessica Jackley

CPAs who have reached the manager level in a public accounting firm are not always great managers.

They have reached the manager level (usually the level just below partner) because they have worked very hard and been with the firm for several years. They are good at managing the client work. They have been trained and trained for that job. The firm has invested significant dollars in their technical knowledge advancement. They are great technicians.

Firm leaders then expect them to naturally be great managers of people – great trainers, mentors and delegators. Yet, the firm has not spent any money on teaching them how to be motivators and leaders.

Perhaps you have heard this story inside your own firm – Sally is a great manager. She brings the job in on time and under budget. She works an almost unreal amount of hours to get it done. She has an engagement team to help her. Young Bill on her team struggles with a particular part of the work. Sally takes the work back and does it herself. Her excuse is, “I know my billing rate is much higher than Bill’s but I can do it in half the time.” Thus, Bill never learns and Sally is tired and stressed.

Ask you younger people to stretch – they might just surprise you in how much they can accomplish if they are taught, managed and encouraged.

  • No person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Motivate By Individualizing

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

The Golden Rule, which is a good rule, for the most part, doesn’t always apply in today’s complex workplace environment.

Not everyone wants to be treated like “I” want to be treated.

These days training and development are all about, “One size fits one.”

The Association for Talent Development explains it this way: One size fits one is a movement toward providing learning to employees, clients, or children in a way that makes sense to the learner and not to the trainer, teacher or instructional designer.

CPA firm managers are often not very in-tune with the best ways to motivate and engage the people they supervise. In many CPA firms, everyone is trained the same and it is often a very long-standing aspect of the firm culture. Also, accounting firms do not spend enough money on educating and training their managers on how to manage PEOPLE.

One size fits one, acknowledges that people are motivated by immensely different things. For example, one person loves to be recognized publicly and another dreads being the center of attention.

Qualified managers (and partners) are good at understanding people and they adjust their supervisory style accordingly.

 

  • Don't let yesterday take up too much of today.
  • Will Rogers

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

Honest Feedback On What Matters Most To Employees

“Many people hear your words, but they feel your attitude.” – John Maxwell

I recently read some feedback from employees regarding what matters most to them in relation to their own manager (or leader).

Here are some comments from employees regarding what matters most to them in relation to their manager. Food for thought if you are a leader in your accounting firm.

“Practicing humility, that is, serving your people rather than insisting that they serve you.”

“A willingness to get into the trenches. In college, I worked for a deli. When we were very busy, my boss would get behind the counter and ask, “OK, what do you need me to do?”

“The best leaders have the ability to express kindness. My last two managers (one in a huge company and one in a small company) took the time to get to know me as a person and find out what motivated me.”

“Leaders need to be consistent in your principles. When you are unpredictable and make declarations based on whims, you paralyze the people beneath you.”

“A leader should separate friendships from professional relationships. I loved one manager because she asked for input from every person on staff instead of playing favorites. She didn’t always give the easiest jobs to her “friends.”

“I like a person who has the ability to help people with opposing viewpoints find common ground.” 

Think about some of these as you go through your week. Be sure to set a good example for your team. Consider doing an upward feedback survey in 2017 to see what your own team members think about your leadership ability.

  • People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.
  • Dale Carnegie

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Bringing In New Business

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

Sally, a new manager in a growing CPA firm has just been told that to become a partner in the firm, she must be able to bring new business and increase revenue for the firm.

Sally is in shock. She had never realized that it was absolutely necessary to bring in business if she wanted to be a partner. After all, it is the life-blood of the firm.

Here are three simple tips to help people like Sally in your firm. It might also be very helpful to people who are already partners!

Build a relationship first. You meet someone at a Chamber event or other business mixer. They appear to have a thriving business. Talk to them about business, in general. Follow-up with an invitation to lunch or breakfast but don’t try to “sell” anything until you have connected, met and established common ground. Yes, this might take a while. Get to know them before you sell them.

Listen. Most prospective clients will be anxious to tell you what they want. Listen to them and then be prepared to tell them what they really need. Good listening skills are a critical part of selling.

Tell stories. Tell them success stories about the firm’s team members (including partners). Tell them how a specific team member has succeeded. Tell them success stories about how your firm has solved business challenges for clients. Tell them how you would like to help them (not how you want to sell them services).

You can also use these three steps to win clients via online activities.

Relationship: Use blogs, articles, news items, tax updates and other helpful information to build a relationship. That means you must have a website that is engaging – not something all about the firm. A site that people will visit often because it is helpful.

Listen: Make it easy for them to submit a question or make contact online. Make searching for how to make contact very easy. Offer a free initial consultation that can be done in person, via phone, via email or online video.

Stories: Use interesting bios about your people and how they have become successful. Tell success stories via tweets, Linkedin, Facebook even Instagram. Develop testimonials from some of your best clients and post them on your website. Testimonials are so powerful. The prospect might think, “Oh, Joe Smith uses this firm. His business seems to be growing like crazy!”

  • Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.
  • Robert McKee

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Repetition

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” – Vince Lombardi

Want a simple way to train and develop your people? Try repetition.

Think about how your new college recruits learn to become skilled accountants and CPAs. In many firms, it goes like this. You train them on basic auditing. You may send them to a 3-day training course sponsored by your firm association, state society or inside your own firm. You may do it online. But it is very focused.

Then they are assigned to engagement after engagement where they do the same thing over and over until they “get it.” Then they receive a more difficult task and they do it over and over until they become proficient, and so on. They become more and more skilled, they ask great questions and learn from others, they make mistakes and correct them and over time their confidence and skill become top notch.

People learn from repetition. It is much more effective than a one or two-day training session.

You expect your managers to bring in new business and they aren’t very good at it. This also applies to some partners, they are not able to do the basic function of a partner – perpetuate the firm. Why not apply repetition to teaching people in your firm how to sell.

You best rainmakers are the teachers. Ask them to always have a shadow (less experienced person) when they meet with a client. When they meet with a prospect. When they meet with a referral source. When they attend a business networking event. When they attend a charitable fund-raising function. When they attend a Chamber of Commerce meeting. You get the idea.

Expose them over and over again to business development situations. Have them try it on their own – over and over again. Repetition solidifies skills.

  • Don't join an easy crowd. You won't grow. Go where the expectations and the demands to perform are achieve are igh.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Approach Performance Feedback With A Growth Mindset

In case you haven’t heard GE (General Electric) is changing their performance feedback system. Many large companies are doing the same thing. The are looking at a fresh approach to feedback that is more continuous and helpful.

GE has been known for it’s “rank and yank” system made famous by long-time CEO Jack Welch. You rate and rank your employees from top to bottom and then get rid of the bottom players – year after year.

Gone are those days thanks to the Millennials. Now, employers are focusing on growth (career growth and helping people get there).

Companies are doing something I have been urging CPAs to do for several years now…. set-up shorter goal periods and have fewer goals, then change the dialogue to growth conversations that are not tied to compensation.

Millennials, because of technology, are accustomed to having continual feedback – it’s a fact of life for them and employers are getting wise to that fact.

For your firm, it might mean a culture change and a plan on how to implement that change. You have to help partners and managers make the transition from a competitive process to one that is identified by its emphasis on growth.

GE’s slogan…. “inspire connection and develop people.”

Not a bad thing to consider for your firm and your people.

Read more about the GE transition here.

  • The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Moving Your Firm Forward

I have written about the Keep Stop Start method of performance feedback several times. It is an effective way to simplify your formal performance feedback system. Just communicate (hopefully, in a face-to-face, meeting) to each of your valuable team members what they should keep doing, what they should stop doing and what they should start doing to enhance their performance and their career advancement.

Do this often, don’t save your comments up for one annual feedback session. Managers and/or partners should be meeting with their direct reports several times throughout the year. The millennials expect frequent feedback.

Why not apply this Keep Stop Start method to your entire firm? If your partner group wants to move the firm into the future; if they want to build an attractive culture and design a brand that will attract clients and employees, what should the FIRM keep doing, stop doing and start doing?

 

  • The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
  • Mark Zukerberg

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Do This Today

Oh boy, email. It can be so problematic.

I love this quote by Jeff Bezos – “Email has some magical ability to turn off the politeness gene in a human being.”

It’s another one of those busy due dates. During the last week, you have probably been inundated with emails both urgent and irreverent.

Maybe today is the day to send some complimentary emails to deserving people. I contend that you should be doing that every day.

I’m going to make it easy for you. I’ll give you some suggested text that you can just copy and paste it into an email, fill in the name and send.

Hi (fill in name),

It has been a very busy time for all of us. I just wanted to let you know that I have been aware of how hard you have been working to serve our clients. I appreciate it and am proud of you.

Thanks,

Copy, paste, fill in names and send. How hard is that??

  • Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.
  • Henry Ward Beecher

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Never Dodge Difficult Conversations

If you supervise other people there are times when you really need to have some open and honest conversations.

Of course, you need to have frequent and honest talks when people are doing well. Continually sprinkle praise on your top performers and also have periodic conversations with them about their career path and the progress they are making.

You also need to have some crucial conversations, critical conversations, and difficult conversations when people are not meeting your expectations. I have observed that while communication with your top performers is easy, it does not happen often enough. I have also observed that difficult conversations are often put-off for months and sometimes even years!

Partners and managers often ask, “How do we begin? How do we actually conduct these difficult conversations?”

I always recommend that you be very clear about the situation whether it is about performance on an engagement or even about the fact that they have body odor.

How do you begin? Be completely straight forward and say, “I need to have a difficult conversation with  you.”

Then you might want to use the BEER method (I have blogged about it before. Here’s a recap:

Talk directly with the person, in private and follow these steps:
B = Behavior – describe to the person what they are doing or not doing that is unacceptable
E = Effect – Explain why the behavior is unacceptable, how it hurts productivity, bothers others, etc.
E = Expectation – Tell the what you expect them to do (or not do) to change.
R = Result – Clearly explain what will happen if the employee changes (positive) or the consequences if this behavior continues.

 

  • A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet.
  • Truman Capote

Monday, August 8th, 2016

What Hat Do You Wear?

My post today was inspired by one last week from Seth Godin, called Scientist, Engineer, and Operations Manager. Each one has a job to do…..

Inside most CPA firms, there are three client-facing  “jobs,” partner, manager, and staff. Each one has a job to do.

The partner is key to defining the firm vision. The partner brings in new business, keeps current clients from leaving by continually working on the relationship and finds and develops new talent.

The manager manages. Yes, they manage and review the work but a key priority is managing people. They train, coach, mentor, nurture, inspire their subordinates and build career-enhancing relationships that keep talented people at the firm.

The staff does the work. They never have to worry about having enough to do because partners and managers are making sure they are professionally challenged and are assigned to engagements that will enhance their skills. The staff work as a team to help each other make progress.

I hope you do not have partners and managers doing too much work and staffers looking for work.

  • If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.
  • Henry Ford