Archive for the ‘Mentoring’ Category

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Check-in With Your Team – How Are They Doing With Their Goals?

Before CPAs became so unrealistically busy in the late summer and fall, they used to use September as the month to touch base on goals. Most firms used the cycle of formal, more comprehensive performance feedback in June and set goals for the coming year to begin July 1.

Then in late September or early October, individual face-to-face conversations happened to see how progress was being made, what didn’t seem so important any more and re-align goals for the remainder of the fall and early winter.

Hopefully, you have replaced this method with simplified, direct feedback more often, mentoring conversations on-going and fewer goals with shorter timelines.

Even though you have multiple priorities, your people should be at the top of the list. How are they doing?

Star slideTalk with them soon about their goals for the next 3 months and be sure that you always include some stretch-goals for individuals.

Stretch goal – that cannot be achieved by incremental or small improvements but require extending oneself to the limit to be actualized. Expressed in the saying, “You cannot cross a chasm in two steps.”

In this time of talent shortage, it’s time to ask your current all-stars and middle-stars to STRETCH and fill the void in the all-star category!

  • They invented the All-Star Game for Willie Mays.
  • Ted Williams

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

I Wish You Could Do Away With Job Descriptions

IMG_1109Yes, I wish job descriptions were not necessary inside CPA firms. But, it’s hard for me to visualize.

I was recently reading a post by Leadership Freak (you should follow him on Twitter), that gave some great reasons not to give a new hire a job description. The example, an employer, hired a new person and didn’t give them a job description. They are writing their own. The new person has goals and responsibilities but he is writing the details himself. The boss and employee meet every week to track progress and set the path forward.

Read the post for yourself and see if you can see the two problems I see.

# 1 – Surveys tells us that young accountants want to know there is a career path for them and exactly what is expected of them. You need to paint a picture (with words) of where they are going and how they are going to get there.

# 2 – Notice the sentence: The boss and employee meet every week to track progress and set the path forward.

Number 2 is the clincher. Are your partners and managers meeting every week with the people they supervise to track progress and set the path forward? I see very little of this happening. I do see lots of questions being answered and lots of general direction being given but not the “progress and path forward” types of conversations that need to happen more frequently.

Set a goal this fall to practice your mentoring on a weekly basis – just until December 31. See if it becomes a habit!

  • I really didn't say everything I said.
  • Yogi Berra

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Invest In Your Managers

Simple message today.

I talk to so many firms that have basically permitted their managers to grow in years of experience…. from associate to manager … without any training, nurturing or mentoring on how to actually manage people. They are great CPAs/Accountants but actually drive many younger newcomers away from the firm.

Here’s a recent quote from Tom Peters:

“Suggested addition to your statement of Core Values: We are obsessed with developing a cadre of first-line managers that is second to none – we understand that this cadre per se is arguably one of our top two or three most important ‘Strategic Assets.'”

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

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Is Your CPA Firm Mentoring Program Alive & Healthy?

I have had an increasing number of questions about the effectiveness of mentoring programs inside CPA firms lately. While this might indicate renewed interest and maybe commitment to nurturing, guiding and inspiring others, it also might mean that there are questions on the mind of CPA practitioners.

I believe there are four levels of mentoring inside a CPA firm:

Guide (think of a buddy system)

Coach (think showing someone how things are done and actually teaching)

Mentor (wise career development advice and relaying success stories and pitfalls)

Sponsor (putting you reputation on the line in an effort to promote the protege)

Join me and CPA firm leaders from the Washington, DC/Baltimore area to explore the evolution of mentoring in accounting firms and learn valuable best practices. I will be speaking on November 20th in Rockville, Maryland on behalf of the DC and Baltimore Chapters of the Association for Accounting Administration.

Here are the details.

On the right side of this page, look at the categories and click on Mentoring to read more about mentoring for accounting firms.

  • You can't let praise or criticism get to you. It's a weakness to get caught up in either one.
  • John Wooden

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Mentoring Really Does Matter – Join Me For A Special Session

DSCN0750 - Version 3I am delighted to be speaking on November 20th in Rockville, Maryland about the importance of mentoring inside a busy CPA firm. Mentoring is an important part of the succession plan for any firm or company.

So much about mentoring has changed. It is not the old fashioned system where a successful, powerful male taps a mini-me on the shoulder and guides him through the mine fields of climbing the corporate ladder.

There are 4 levels of mentoring inside an accounting firm: Guide, Coach, Mentor and Sponsor – each one is important and helps set the stage for career success.

How healthy is your firm’s mentoring program?

The event is co-sponsored by the Washington DC and Baltimore Chapters of The Association for Accounting Administration. CPAs in public or private, firm administrators, HR Directors, partners and partner wanabes should plan to attend.

When:  Thursday November 20th

Where:  Kaplan University, 1390 Piccard Dr., Ste. 100 – Rockville, MD

Time:  9:30 registration – Presentation: 10:00 – 3:00 (lunch included)

More information here.

  • It is not fair to ask of others what you are unwilling to do yourself.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Helping Men Understand…. Crying and Other Things

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

NJ Women Summit

  • Any fool can know. The point is to understand.
  • Albert Einstein

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

TomPeters_PreviewThis 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.

Act Accordingly!

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

Do People Want To Follow You?

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.
  • Zig Ziglar

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Yes, It Is Perfectly Alright To Change Mentors

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.
  • Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Help Your Young CPAs Become Successful

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