Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Leaders & Managers – You Need Both

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen R. Covey

In an accounting firm, you need great partners and great managers.

Partners have the vision, they are the role models and they steer the firm in the direction of the strategic plan. Managers follow their example but have much more responsibility to get the work done. They supervise all of the staff members, teach them, encourage them and accomplish the various, identified goals.

Your firm needs great partners and you especially need great managers. In many firms, the firm administrator is an excellent example of a great manager, carrying out the wishes of the partners and working to keep the team focused on the work.

So, if you promise every young person joining your team that “they can be a partner someday,” are you telling the truth? Probably not. A firm full of partners with no managers and staff would not be building something for the long-term.

Per Gallup, great managers look inward. They look inside the firm, into each individual, into the differences in style, goals, needs and motivation of each person. Managers guide people toward the right way to release each person’s unique talents into performance.

Great leaders look outward. They look at the competition, out at the future, out at alternate routes to follow. They focus on broad patterns, finding connections, cracks, and then press home their advantage where the resistance is weakest. They must be visionaries, strategic thinkers, activators.

How is your leader and manager groups doing? Maybe it is time to realign, rethink and refocus on the proper roles for each. Both are valuable.  Read the Gallup article here.

  • The secret of managing is to keep the guys who hate you away from the guys who are undecided.
  • Casey Stengel

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Buying Into The Vision

People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision. John C. Maxwell

Owners of accounting firms spend a significant amount of money on partner and/or management retreats. At these multi-day, off-site meetings they often update or draft their firm’s mission and vision.

People often get the two confused. To describe them simply:  A mission describes why an organization exists. A vision is a description of the future.

When CPA firm owners design a vision statement it VERY often sounds something like this:

Vision: To be the most respected CPA firm in our business market providing quality services to our clients and providing careers for our people where they can grow professionally.

Keep John Maxwell’s quote (above) in mind as you approach the topic of creating a vision statement for your firm. If the leaders are not living examples of where the firm wants to go, then the team will not follow. Nor will they be inspired.

  • To the person who does not know where the wants to go there is no favorable wind.
  • Seneca

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

Employee Engagement Matters

“Paychecks can’t buy passion.” – Brad Federman

It is getting to be a rather tiring topic. To be successful, you must have employees who are engaged. You can Google the topic and find all kinds of advice.

The fact is, there is an overwhelming amount of people who are not engaged in their work. To me, that means they really don’t like what they do. Per Gallup, you have Three Types of Employees:

Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.

Not-Engaged employees are essentially “checked out.” They are sleepwalking through their workday, putting time but not energy or passion into their work.

Actively Disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work, they are busy action out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.

My motto, on this topic as it is with most things inside a busy CPA firm – – Keep It Simple

Where do your people fit? I’m sure you have some in each classification. To drive engagement, it’s simple, you have to be proactive.

  • Be sure your people know what is expected of them.
  • Let them know how important they are to the success of your clients and your firm.
  • Make sure you explain to them how their career can, or will, advance.
  • Give regular feedback so that they know how they are doing and where they are going.
  • Be a caring boss.
  • Over communicate
  • Set a good example
  • Have a sense of humor

If you do some of these things and are proactive maybe your “Not-Engaged” people will become Engaged.

For the Actively Disengaged, give them the opportunity to get a new job elsewhere.

  • Research indicates that workers have three prime needs: Interesting work, recognition for doing a good job, and being let in on things that are going on in the company.
  • Zig Ziglar

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

Friday, January 20th, 2017

All CPA Partners Should Remember This

Many firms have a Managing Partner, CEO or President. Many firms are sole-proprietorships and that owner is the Managing Partner. People within the firm look to the person in this role as the firm leader, the person-in-charge, the visionary.

In firms with multiple partners, the employees also look to the other partners as leaders and expect as much leadership from them as they do from the CEO.

Some of these “other” partners believe that leadership is up to the Managing Partner and that as a client service partner they don’t have to worry as much about inspiring staff or guiding their careers or even about following firm processes and guidelines.

This brings to mind a quote I read recently from Queen Elizabeth I of England. She ruled from 1558 until her death in 1603 and was the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty.

“A thousand eyes see all I do.”

It was rough being the Queen during those times when even her most personal actions and even her health details were observed and closely monitored by not only her personal attendants but also her subjects.

As a CPA partner, many eyes see what you do. Keep that in mind when you short-cut a procedure, delay returning a phone call or answering a question for a team member.

  • To be a king and wear a crown is a thing more glorious to them that see it then it is pleasant to them that bear it.
  • Queen Elizabeth I

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Talk To Your Clients And Your Team

“The telephone is a good way to talk to people without having to offer them a drink.” – Fran Lebowitz

I know many CPAs who avoid talking to their clients. Yes, they have all kinds of valid excuses. I don’t mean to say that they ignore their clients but they think they save time by emailing almost all of the time.

That’s why the following thought, expressed by Simon Sinek, was meaningful to me.

“A five-minute call replaces the time it takes to read and reply to the original email and read and reply to their reply… or replies. And I no longer spend 20+ minutes crafting the perfect email – no need to.” – – Simon Sinek

So, you say, when I call my client I always get voice mail and we end up playing telephone tag. When they return my call I may be on the phone with another client.

Simple solution – set a telephone appointment.

Sinek’s quote also applies to your team members – a two-minute conversation can keep client work moving through the office rather than having the staffer wait on partners or managers to reply to emails.

Delay in getting answers from partners is one of the most common responses I receive when facilitating upward feedback surveys for partners.

I think the quote, below, applies to accounting firms!

  • For email, the old postcard rule applies. Nobody else is suppose to read your postcards, but you'd be a fool if you wrote anything private on one.
  • Judith Martin

Monday, January 16th, 2017

Focus On Your Destination

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.” – Jim Rohn

Think about this meaningful quote from Jim Rohn. Can you see how it applies to you and how you go about improving and growing your accounting firm?

For example, you finally agree that you need to be TRULY paperless and become a digital firm. – – That’s the destination.

You work with your people to develop a roadmap on how to get there. You start down that road. Something happens (I won’t use the other “S” word), but things do happen. You get delayed, you encounter an unexpected obstacle. Some of the things you planned don’t work well.

By all means, change your approach. Learn from those who have gone before you and adopt some different ways to arrive at your destination.

But, do not give up. Keep focused on results and reach your destination.

Then set a new destination!

  • I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.
  • Jimmy Dean

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Be An Inspiration

“Eliminate the term motivate. Adopt the term inspire.” – Dan Rockwell

You read about it all the time. How to motivate others. I blogged about it this week – Motivate By Individualizing. I blog about it often. Another example is on February 16, 2015 – Are you doing the right things or just things?

Then, yesterday, I read the above quote from @leadership freak. I think he’s identified the correct term.

In accounting firms, you do all kinds of things to motivate people. You GIVE them an extensive list of benefits. You GIVE them words of encouragement. You GIVE them flexibility. You GIVE them a cool workplace. You even GIVE them opportunity.

The question is, as a leader, do you INSPIRE them? Even if you are not officially in a leadership role, do you inspire your peers?

Don’t GIVE them things continually. Try BEING an inspiration. Be the leader who works hard but is always available to help others. Be the leader who does not complain about peers, subordinates or clients. Be the leader who is active in the community and has even been recognized for charitable and community work. Be the person who has achieved great satisfaction and success from being a professional working in the accounting profession.

  • Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.
  • Charles Swindoll

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, January 3rd, 2017

To Begin This New Year – Be Kind

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop

This week, I am celebrating completing ELEVEN years of blogging every business day on the topic of CPA firm management. Here’s an introduction I did on January 5, 2006 – my third blog post. Notice how many of the publications I recommended no longer exist.

My theme, behind all of the practical information I share, began in 2006 and will continue into 2017:  Be kind and practice civility.

From his book, Choosing Civility, Pier Massimo Forni says:

“Civility means a great deal more than just being nice to one another. It is complex and encompasses learning how to connect successfully and live well with others, developing thoughtfulness, and fostering effective self-expression and communication. Civility includes courtesy, politeness, mutual respect, fairness, good manners, as well as a matter of good health.”

  • Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
  • Mark Twain