Archive for the ‘Mentoring’ Category
Thursday, July 24th, 2014
I believe there is a lot of misunderstanding in the CPA profession about the need for some special training and attention to the females working inside CPA firms. Recently, I have observed some men show bitterness and disbelief when the two words – women’s initiatives – were just mentioned.
Here’s a story of how simple understanding can make a difference….
This story is about a young, male CPA, experienced as a CPA but new to the role of managing partner in a smaller firm (about 20 people). In a smaller, the MP handled all of the performance reviews and other performance and personal related conversations with employees. This led to his first experience with women crying in the workplace and it made him extremely uncomfortable.
Luckily, he had a female firm administrator, he could talk to about his uneasiness. This is where the understanding part comes into play. The FA advised him, “When women cry, it an emotion they have no control over. Almost all of the time it does not mean a thing – it doesn’t mean they are hurt, mad, fanatical, or sad – it does mean they care about the topic and simply cannot physically escape the tearing-up.” The young MP put a box of tissues on his desk and offered them when tears appeared and just kept going with the conversations.
Most of the time, the above story plays out. However, men often yell when they are angry and women show their anger with tears.
Women – when your emotions show via tears, acknowledge the emotion but don’t apologize, just move on.
Here’s an interesting article about crying in the workplace from Fortune.
What I have often observed is that occasionally a man will let tears flow – others think it is touching, heart-warming, etc. – - “He’s so caring….” When a women cries, she’s weak and emotional.
Inside your firm, DO THINGS to encourage understanding of emotions, work styles, and challenges for (and between) men and women and also between generations.
Here’s a great book to use as a resource: Why Must There Be Dragons
Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
Wednesday, July 16th, 2014
This week, Tom Peters shared a 9-page paper: The Moral Bedrock of Management.
Today, I am using his words from Page 9, hopefully, to inspire you:
Where the (Moral) Rubber Meets the Road
If the regimental commander lost most of his 2nd lieutenants and 1st lieutenants and captains and majors, it would be a tragedy.
If he lost his sergeants it would be a catastrophe. The Army and the Navy are fully aware that success on the battlefield is dependent on an overwhelming degree on its Sergeants and Chief Petty Officers. Does industry (and CPA firms) have the same awareness?
The argument here: While men and women “at the top” are responsible for setting the moral tone, the vast majority of employees work for a first-line supervisor. Hence the transmission of – - and the “walking of the talk” that matters – - is set by the full cadre of 1st-line chiefs.
Companies tend to take these jobs “seriously.” But such seriousness almost invariably falls miles and miles – and more miles – short of using this set of individuals as the singularly important transmitters of the corporate culture. Hence the “moral duty” discussed in this piece is executed first and foremost by the 1st-line chiefs.
Yes, I worry about the performance of the managers inside your CPA firm. Are they great technicians? Yes, probably and you have helped them get there. Are they walking the talk, coaching, inspiring and holding people accountable?
Help them get there!
"Too much focus on things, not enough focus on commitment." - - John Bogle
Friday, June 13th, 2014
If you are a leader inside a CPA firm, ask yourself, “Why would people want to follow me?”
Here’s what studies and experts tell us. Character is #1 period.
It means you tell the truth all of the time.
Interestingly, this is often lacking inside CPA firms. Yes, CPAs are honest, have integrity and all that jazz. However, they often hide the truth or dodge the truth to “protect” others.
Here are some of the characteristics that followers are looking for:
Honest – the leader tells me the truth
Forward-looking – they aren’t living in the past
Competent – They are good at their job (have developed their leadership skills)
Inspiring – Not necessarily a rah-rah person but someone who shows passion and is excited about the business and the future.
Fair – Makes decisions that demonstrate fairness. They don’t kowtow to special interest groups.
Supportive – They have great listening skills and they recognize people who deserve recognition.
If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.
Thursday, May 29th, 2014
I do a lot of work with firms assisting, advising and training focused on establishing or updating their firm mentoring program. A couple of weeks ago I did a morning training program for a large firm’s mentors and two afternoon sessions for their mentees. I was very proud of the firm for devoting the time and money to give their mentoring program a facelift and a shot-in-the-arm, so to speak. Progressive firms know that mentoring is a major tool in retaining top talent.
At various CPA management conferences, I often ask my audiences if they have a formal mentoring program – - many hands go up, some tentatively. When I further inquire, “How is your program doing?” – - hands come down, point outward and move back and forth (wobble the hand) – meaning “so-so.”
There is too much research to deny that mentoring doesn’t work. As I have said many times, it is the foundation of the CPA profession – a more experienced accountant, coaches, mentors, advises, teaches a less experienced accountant.
One question I often hear is, “Can we change mentors?” The answer is yes, absolutely! If you have a mentoring program, be sure there is documentation stating that is is perfectly alright to end a mentoring relationship and begin one with a different person. Make it part of your culture so that there is no blame associated with it – it should be a natural part of personal growth – for both sides. Sometimes, people just don’t “click” when it comes to involvement in a mentoring relationship. If not, move on.
On the HBR blog, there is a good post about How To Break Up With Your Mentor. Follow the link to read the article. Here are some highlights:
Take stock of your goals – - Are you getting value? Maybe your skills do not align.
Consider giving your mentor a second chance – Your mentor does not have a crystal ball. Maybe you haven’t articulated your expectations and needs.
Don’t draw it out – If it isn’t working, act quickly.
Disengage with gratitude – Gratitude is the key to leaving gracefully.
Be transparent and direct – Explain why your future plans necessitate a shift.
Keep the door open – In today’s workplace, connections matter. You might need to reconnect in the future.
Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud.
Wednesday, May 21st, 2014
I love to hear real-life stories of how young, CPA professionals developed, improved, grew professionally, worked hard and became a partner in their CPA firm.
Marc Rosenberg shared some wonderful information on a recent blog post. He featured three (young) partners on a panel and asked them how they succeeded and how some experienced partner/mentors helped them.
I’ve been on a roll lately about mentoring (all my posts a couple of weeks ago were about mentoring).
One question Rosenberg asked these young partners was, “What are some techniques used by your mentors to help you learn and grow?
The 3 young partners replied: Although we are improving at it, none of us made our mark by being a rainmaker. But our partners did two things to help us along. First, they understood that it’s easier to grow a book of business if you have one to begin with. Partners delegated clients to us, allowing us to capitalize on our strong client relationship skills to develop more business with existing clients through expanded services and referrals.
Second, when clients called the senior partners and left a message, they would forward the message to us, fill us in on the details, give us some “talking points” and have us return the clients’ calls. It didn’t take long for the clients to start calling us first.
Common thread: the partners were proactive in helping us advance.
If you want to be a better mentor, re-read the reply above! Kudos to them, Marc Rosenberg and to the partners at Weiss & Company, Pasquesi Shepard and Mowery & Schoenfeld.
The state of your life is nothing more than a reflection of your state of mind.
Dr. Wayne Dyer
Friday, May 9th, 2014
I talk and write a lot about what a mentor in a CPA firm should do and shouldn’t do, the questions they should ask and the advice they might give.
All of that is important BUT in my opinion the outcomes and rewards of mentoring are the responsibility of the mentee. As I began a career inside an accounting firm, I wanted to be better at a lot of things, more successful, more informed, and better equipped for success. I had the desire and the passion for self-improvement. So, I continually sought-out advice and guidance from people I admired, inside the firm and out. Yes, it’s called mentoring.
While firms can establish mentoring programs and make it much easier for younger, less-experienced people to gain knowledge and practical advice, the success of the mentee is still the responsibility of the mentee.
Here’s the way David Maister explains it:
Here’s a listing of responsibilities for the mentee:
- Recognize that mutual gain is the goal
- Show appreciation for the mentor’s help and guidance
- Welcome the mentor’s interest and concern
- Take initiative and make decisions whenever possible without waiting on feedback or approval from the mentor
- Be open to feedback without interpretation, evaluation and judgment
- Communicate problems clearly
- Search for ways to achieve goals and objectives
- Initiate reasonably frequent contact with the mentor
- Follow-through on commitments
- Never delay in seeking advice from your mentor
- Contribute ideas about alternatives for solving problems
- Be willing to discuss negative results as well as positive results
- Continually work at building the relationship
- Always be open and honest, don’t avoid the tough conversations
- Establish a trusting relationship with your mentor by sharing personal and professional issues and encouraging your mentor to do the same
- Openly discuss your successes and failures; make sure to share good news as well as setbacks
- Take a proactive role in managing your own career and keep your mentor updated on progress against your career goals
- Respect the confidentiality of the relationship
- Do not overburden your mentor or make unreasonable demands on them to act on your behalf
Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.
Thursday, May 8th, 2014
In public accounting firms there is always a lot going on. Client service, internal operations, practice growth, learning, teaching and, hopefully, mentoring.
Mentoring is something that is a natural inside a CPA firm and it has been going on informally for decades. It’s when an older, more experienced accountant teaches new things, methods, procedures to a younger, less experienced accountant. That’s how all of the CPAs I know “learned their trade.”
The thing is, the more experienced CPA usually doesn’t realize they are actually mentoring. When they are approached about being a formal mentor to a younger person, sometimes they panic. What do I say? Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What shouldn’t I tell them? How will I find time?
Please keep in mind what I alway communicate to CPA mentors – KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You can actually mentor and guide someone with two words. Here’s how:
Wednesday, May 7th, 2014
Many firms are renewing their focus on more formalized mentoring programs.
One step in most programs is asking the mentee to select their mentor. We usually ask them to submit their top 3 choices so that the mentoring workload can be spread-around and balanced. When developing your program, where you have individualized mentoring, be sure not to assign more than 3 mentees to a mentor.
If you are a CPA firm partner or manager, how many people will submit YOUR name on their mentor request list? Do you have any idea? Have you even thought about it?
To help you contemplate these questions, do some self- examination:
- In whose career have i taken a personal interest?
- Whom have I helped to gain important assignments?
- To whom have I given special coaching?
- Whom have I counseled about strategies for influencing others?
- Who has discussed personal problems with me?
- Whom have I supported when they were criticized by others?
- Whom have I counseled about the “informal” rules of the firm?
- Whom have I helped to sort out and prioritize their professional goals?
- Who seems to regard me as a role model?
- Who seems interested in my views about the profession?
- Who confides in me and puts their trust in me?
- Who asks me about rumors they may hear at the firm?
As you move into a more formal mentoring relationship and program at your firm, do these people seek you out as a mentor? They should….. If they don’t, why don’t they?
Truth has no special time of its own. Its hour is now - always.
Tuesday, May 6th, 2014
If you are new to the CPA profession, you might be somewhat over-whelmed at all the things you have to learn. Perhaps, like so many accounting grads, you thought you learned it all in college. Doesn’t work that way in a CPA firm. I have heard new hire after new hire say these words: I didn’t learn any of this in school!
If you need some help, some advice or someone to simply listen, seek out a mentor. Many firms have established, documented mentoring programs. Some do not. But, that doesn’t matter. It’s up to you to seek out mentors. If you are an experienced CPA, keep in mind that you never out-grow the need for a mentor.
Here’s what a mentor can do for you:
- Provides empathy and support for career development activities.
- Listens to you and acts as a sounding board.
- Advises you on identifying and resolving professional, work-life balance and personal issues.
- Provides a risk-free environment to discuss mistakes and learn from them.
- Helps you to make decisions.
- Respects the confidentiality of the relationship.
- Identifies opportunities for you to gain exposure and demonstrate your potential across the firm and/or externally.
- May advocate on your behalf.
- Provides important information and introductions.
- Encourages long-term career planning and self-assessment of values, competencies, and interests.
- Supports, guides, coaches and sponsors.
- Serves as a positive professional and personal role model.
I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
Monday, May 5th, 2014
I’ve been helping CPA firms establish and/or renew mentoring programs for years. Back in 2008, The Journal of Accountancy featured one of my articles on mentoring for CPAs. The interesting thing is that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession:
An older, more experienced accountant teaches a younger, newer accountant how to be a CPA.
That’s how I’ve seen it work for years and years inside CPA firms. Yet, so many experienced CPAs ask me: What do I say? Where do we meet? How long do we meet? Do I help them set goals? Do I help them achieve goals? What if I don’t know the answers?
This week’s blog posts will be all about mentoring in the CPA firm world. Let’s start with a history lesson.
The Story of Mentor – Greek Mythology
The story of Mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus.
After the war, Odysseus is condemned to wander vainly for ten years in his attempt to return home. In time, Telemachus, now grown, ventures in search of his father. Athena, Goddess of War and patroness of the arts and industry, assumes the form of Mentor and accompanies Telemachus on his quest. Father and son reunite and cast down would-be usurpers of Odysseus’ throne and Telemachus’s birthright.
The word Mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. History offers many examples of helpful mentoring relationships: Socrates and Plato, Hayden and Beethoven, Freud and Jung. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person.
One thing that Mentor said to Telemachus might apply to some situations inside your accounting firm as you truly begin to mentor your less-experienced accountants:
“You must not keep acting like a chid – you’re too old for that now. You are fine and strong, I see. You should be brave, so people born in future years will say good things of you.” – - Mentor
Stay tuned this week for more on mentoring. I will be sharing some practical steps and examples/samples that are focused on both roles: The Mentor and the Mentee.
Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.