Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Linchpin or Hurdle

Linchpin jpegA few years ago, I read one of Seth Godin’s books that really hit home with me. since then I have talked about it often during my presentations to CPA groups around the country. The reason being, I see two types of people working in accounting firms at opposite ends of the spectrum.

On the leading end are the Linchpins. On the opposite, following along, dragging their feet, are the Hurdles.

The book is titled Linchpin. Here is an excerpt of a review of the book written by Chris Bailey in 2013:

Occasionally a book comes along that completely changes the way you work. For me, a couple of years ago, that book was Linchpin by Seth Godin. I’d wager a bet that it will shake your work up too.

Linchpin is a book about how to “become indispensable”. In the book, Godin makes a distinction between what he calls “factory workers”, workers who mostly follow instructions, and “linchpins”. A linchpin is an employee who doesn’t need a rule book, and delights others because that’s what they love to do. Every day a linchpin creates art, which Godin defines as “the intentional act of using your humanity to create a change in another person”, and they overcome big mental hurdles (like fear) which come from your “lizard brain”.

Fit jpeg

  • The secret to being wrong isn't to avoid being wrong! The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn't fatal.
  • Seth Godiin

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Who Is The Leader?

“It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.” – Adlai E. Stevenson

Accountants often struggle with making decisions. When they can’t make a decision, then that is a decision.

We’ve made a decision to make no decision. That will sure impress your team.

Some firms are managed by a group of partners. They decline to officially name any one partner as their managing partner, CEO or president. I hear comments like, “Joe is the president of the firm but Bob helps and so does Sue.” “We’ve been together since college so we trust each other and don’t need to have an official managing partner.”

We’ve made a decision not to have any one person in-charge, so we have no leader. That will sure impress your team!

I was talking to a client recently, the managing partner of a smaller firm in talks with a larger firm. Merging up is the succession plan for his efficiently and profitably managed firm. The smaller firm CPA explained to me that he had talked with a group of three partners from the larger (not a huge firm) several different times. His comment, “I don’t sense any real leadership. I’m not sure any one is actually in-charge of firm management.”

Do your team members (and clients) wonder who is actually in charge? Do they wonder how decisions are made? Do they get a sense that there is no one who is a strong leader, no one being held accountable?

Don’t shy away from naming and empowering a talented managing partner for your firm. If the best candidate isn’t quite ready, be sure to invest in their education and training. If they are qualified and ready, also invest in their education and training.

Here’s one great source for leadership training, Transformational Leadership Program from Convergence Coaching.

  • The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
  • William Arthur Ward

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption

“Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.” – James Sephens

Here’s a great video from the Illinois CPA Society about enabling your CPA firm to survive this era of disruption.

Allan Koltin is featured. It’s short and informative – please take 2 minutes to watch and listen.

Winning in the Competitive Era of Disruption.

  • In skating over thin ice our safety is our speed.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Are You Using Technology To Do Things The Old Way?

“The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.” – Warren Bennis

I imagine that many of you have seen this quote from Bill Gates:

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” 

I believe that in many cases, inside CPA firms, you have simply taken the way that paper flowed through your office and replicated it into some wonderful, advanced software program.

For example, I was visiting with a firm recently that had simply taken the steps that they used for moving paper tax returns through the office and inserted the same exact steps into a software program that is capable of doing so much more, without even exploring all of the possible options and efficiencies now available to them.

I find this same scenario playing out in firms over and over again, year after year!

We all become comfortable with status quo, the familiar, the known. Take your firm to the next level – move out of the comfort zone – don’t be afraid! Stop settling for status quo because it is easy. As we get closer to wrapping up another year, look back, contemplate 2017. Has it been another year of just settling for status quo?

  • Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.
  • Edward de Bono

Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Programs to Advance Women to Leadership Roles in CPA Firms Seen as Bolstering Talent Acquisition, Survey Finds

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.” – Marilyn Monroe

Here’s a recent press release from the AICPA. Since “women in accounting” are very important to me, I wanted to be sure to share this with my readers. I have bolded some points that were important to me.

CHICAGO (Nov. 9, 2017) – U.S. CPA firms that use advancement programs for promoting women to leadership positions overwhelmingly view them as effective tools in recruiting and retaining talent, according to new research by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

Mentorship is by far the most popular advancement program, with 45 percent of firms using it, the 2017 CPA Firm Gender Survey found. Sponsorship, in which influential firm leaders take a more formal role in guiding promising employees to career opportunities, professional development and promotions, is used by 12 percent of firms.

“There are two important takeaways here: 1) firms that use these programs have seen a beneficial impact on attracting and retaining talent,” said Melissa K. Hooley, CPA, CGMA, chair of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. “And 2) firms that are taking active steps to promote women and minorities likely will have a competitive advantage when it comes to securing talent.”

Advancement Program

Percentage of Firms Using It

Of That Group, Those Who Say It Has an Impact on Attracting or Retaining Talent

Mentoring

45%

87%

Sponsorship

12%

97%

Gender Initiative

11%

85%

Minority Initiative

2%

90%

Combined Diversity & Inclusion

6%

90%

Women comprise nearly half of all accounting graduates entering the profession, but remain underrepresented at the partnership level and other leadership positions. The survey shows little change in this area from studies done in years past, which have typically found less than one-quarter of the partnership ranks made up of women. As was the case two years ago – the last time the CPA Firm Gender Survey was conducted – the percentage of women partners was found to be highest at smaller firms.

Firm Size

Percentage of Women Partners

Two to 10 CPAs

42% (43%*)

11 to 20 CPAs

30% (39%)

21 to 99 CPAs

26% (27%)

100+ CPAs

21% (20%)

*Results in parentheses from 2015 CPA Firm Gender Survey

Among other findings of the survey:

  • An analysis of job titles found that women maintained parity or better with men in CPA firms through the senior manager level, after which the ratio declines
  • The larger the firm, the greater the gender gap in equity ownership
  • Only 47 percent of firms have a succession plan and only two percent have a formal gender component in those plans
  • Some 89 percent of firms say they have instituted some form of modified work arrangements, with flextime and reduced hours being the most prevalent

Survey methodology:  The CPA Firm Gender Survey was conducted online by MKTG Incorporated for the AICPA’s Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee from Aug. 3 to Sept. 11, 2017. Some 492 qualified respondents, drawn from CPA firms of varying sizes and regions within the United States, participated.

For more information about gender initiatives and other resources, visit aicpa.org/womenlead.

  • Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, “She doesn’t have what it takes.” They will say, “Women don’t have what it takes”
  • Clare Boothe Luce

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Cancel Some Meetings

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

Occasionally, I repost – word for word – something that Seth Godin has posted. He posts everyday and I encourage you to follow him.

Here’s the message I want all my CPA tribe to hear:

All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.

What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?

If it’s better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?

  • One reason I encourage people to blog is that the act of doing it stretches your available vocabulary and hones a new voice.
  • Seth Godin

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Level 5 Leaders

“The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline.” – Jim Collins

I certainly hope, by now, you have all read Good to Great by Jim Collins. In it he introduced us to the concept of Level 5 leaders. He found that truly great companies had what he coined as Level 5 leaders.

Level 5 leaders have humility. They don’t seek success for their own recognition. They see success as necessary so that the team and the firm can thrive. Level 5 leaders share credit for success and accept blame for failures.

Something interesting to me is that Collins found that these Level 5 leaders were often shy but fearless when it came to making decisions. Level 5 leaders possess fierce resolve with personal humility. That’s something rare to find when considering your next managing partner!

The Level 5 leaders also have the the skills of the other 4 levels of leadership. Here’s a link to a short video from HBR that explains Level 5 leadership.

  • Great vision without great people is irrelevant.
  • Jim Collins

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Cheating

“I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.” – Sophocles

A headline via Fast Company caused me to ponder a familiar situation in an accounting firm. The headline – Is Your Workplace Encouraging Employees To Cheat?

Here’s the lead in paragraph:

Your company prides itself on having a culture of high performers who thrive under pressure. But could that very culture be encouraging employees to cheat?

Leaders of CPA firms, I ask you that question.

Think about it, if you reward the way many firms have rewarded employees for years, they are probably cheating. Of course, in the CPA world we don’t come right out and call it cheating.

If you reward for chargeable hours, they will give you more chargeable hours. (They record more hours than it actually takes them to complete the client work.)

If you reward for improved realization, they will give you improved realization. (They record fewer hours than it takes them to complete the client work.)

The result is that you never have a real picture of the effort (and time) it takes to complete a client’s engagement. On top of that, your employees are really uncomfortable and feel pressure to give you what you want.

It’s a common issue. The solution is to become better managers of our people. If you do still bill based on time (and many of you do), Ask for honesty and lighten up on the pressure.

  • In athletics there's always been a willingness to cheat if it looks like you're not cheating. I think that's just a quirk of human nature.
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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

Monday, November 6th, 2017

You Don’t Need A Crisis

“Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.” – Abraham Lincoln

Inside a growing accounting firm, there is a lot of work going on. Some of it is performed quickly but a lot of it is slowly making its way through the pipeline. In accounting firms it is called WIP (work-in-process).

Then a crisis appears on the horizon (called a tax due date or an audit client’s board meeting). That due date (or crisis) pushes people forward.

Inside an accounting firm, there is also a significant number of internal improvement projects and strategic initiatives moving a lot more slowly than the client work. I describe it as partners (owners) being very comfortable with status quo. They have been successful over a period of year and have become complacent. “I’m making really good money and doing things that are easy for me, why change?”

It will also take a crisis to speed up these very important tasks. If you procrastinate too long, your competition will leave you behind. The business world is changing rapidly.

I like this advice from Seth Godin: If you’re the kind of person that needs a crisis to move forward, feel free to invent one. 

For the good of the firm and for the future of the firm, create internal deadlines relating to management projects – – don’t allow extensions!

  • My advice is to never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time.
  • Charles Dickens