“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” – J. Loren Norris
Tomorrow I will be talking at the AICPA Practitioners’ Symposium & TECH+ Conference about the importance of mentoring and how developing a mentoring culture can help the firm hire and retain talented people.
I usually get a lot of questions about the specifics, such as:
How often to we meet?
Where do we meet?
What exactly should I talk about?
What if we are not a good match?
How does each side benefit?
Here’s the answer to what’s in it for both sides:
For the Mentor:
Mentoring allows the mentor to give something back to the firm and to the CPA profession. It helps the mentor to become a much better listener. It is a way for the mentor to share some of the good things they have learned from their years of experience and also gives them a chance to share some warnings about bad things that could possibly happen. It gives them the opportunity to “see” the firm through another person’s eyes. Most mentors say they usually gain just as much, or even more, than the mentee.
For the Mentee:
A great mentor will help increase the mentee’s level of self-confidence. The mentee will learn how to say the right thing, when to speak up and when it is best to remain silent. It gives the mentee some direction on handling the feedback they receive on their performance. It provides important networking opportunities and introductions to people who may become influential to their careers. It helps the mentee more quickly understand the organization and even the CPA profession.
Simply put, creating a mentoring culture shows your people that the firm is willing to invest time and money in the success of its people.
My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.
Technology trends, including the latest on cloud migration
Management techniques to help you grow your business and enhance profitability
Marketing and sales initiatives to help secure the clientele you want
Human resource programming that can help you attract and retain key employees.
If you are a long-time attendee, this year bring a younger partner or team member with you to the conference. With two or more attendees from your firm you will have great momentum when you return to the office.
I will be speaking on why Mentoring Matters.
Mentoring is key in retaining top talent. Today’s new hire was raised in a culture of mentoring and positive reinforcement. Surveys tell us they will be looking to your firm to provide this same focused attention. Everyone benefits from mentoring! Learn what you can do to keep your top performers.
I would love to meet you. Seek me out during the conference – I’ll be mingling at all the receptions.
My mentor said, 'Let's go do it,' not 'You go do it.' How powerful when someone says 'Let's!
“I didn’t get her by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.” – Estee Lauder
Lynne Doughtie is the Chairman and CEO of KPMG. After 30 years at KPMG she made history by becoming the first female CEO last year. It is also important to note that Cathy Engelbert became the first female CEO of Deliotte earlier in 2015.
Recently Doughtie (who is apparently a charming and down-to-earth person), shared some advice for women and employers about how the mindset has to change about females breaking through to reach senior positions in their careers.
Here’s her list:
Seek out and ask for mentors and sponsors
Understand the difference between the two
Work hard and set clear goals
Ask for more
Press the pause button when you need to
Be honest with yourself and stick to what your priorities in life
Don’t place pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly all the time
Do not lose your confidence, which has a knock-off effect in your career because of immediate circumstances
“Work to become, not to acquire.” – Elbert Hubbard
There are some recent reports that tell us that many young CPA professionals do not possess many of the skills necessary to carry them into the future.
Some recent studies (such as some done by the Maryland Association of CPAs) hint at an emerging crisis because of a significant gap between the skills young professionals need to succeed and those they actually possess.
Here’s a list that was compiled by a strategy session involving managing partners of 14 local, regional and national CPA firms facilitated by MACPA:
Writing skills / memos
Critical and strategic thinking
Advanced Excel skills
Time management / organization
Take some time to assess if this list is valid with your own young professionals. Read much more on this topic here.
The best way to predict the future is to create it.
I have talked about, written about and helped firms implement mentoring programs for years. Still, I am receiving lots of feedback about the lack of dedicated mentoring inside CPA firms.
I contend that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession. An older, more experienced accountant guides and teaches a younger, less-experienced accountant. It has been going on for decades. It is how young CPAs have always learned their trade.
Take that basic approach and incorporate more recognition, honest feedback, skilled listening and career advice and you have a mentoring program.
Engaging and retaining talent is a hot topic for the accounting profession. Mentoring can be an important tool.
Experienced CPAs question me…. Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What exactly do I say? What do they expect of me? It will take too much time…. on and on.
Please keep in mind, when it comes to actually implementing a mentoring program, KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You can actually mentor and guide someone with two words. Here’s how, from a presentation I did for Boomer Consulting:
This is mostly a repeat of a previous post from January 2014. At this time, I feel it is worth repeating!
People with the title of “manager” working inside CPA firms usually are not doing what a “manager” should be doing. Just like many partners, managers get very comfortable actually DOING the work rather than carrying out manager level responsibilities and activities.
Managers play a key role in employee engagement and retention. Remember, people leave bosses not firms.
I once asked a group of CPA firm owners to give me their expectations of a person in the manager role and to keep it very simple. I think the following bullet point job description says it clearly and concisely. How do your managers stack-up?
Solid technical skills, with an area of technical expertise that is recognized
Good communication skills, both written and verbal
The ability to manage and develop team members
The ability to manage client relationships
The ability to manage multile engagements
The ability to manage engagement profitability
Must be an advocate of the firm
Participation in firm marketing activities
Participation in personal marketing activities
Participation in various firm internal projects
Be viewed, by most firm owners, as a candidate for partner status
Addendum for 2016: So many partners declare they have no one who can replace them when they retire. If you want succession to work at your firm you must work with your managers on these key traits. Developing people is a key characteristic of a competent partner.
To add value to others, one must first value others.
All of these are very good things. However, most employees want to hear the “real” story. They want the truth and they want to clearly understand what an employer expects of them.
So, rather than holding back in important meetings and discussions, give them a straight answer.
In many CPA firm meetings, partners (and others) are so busy trying to be nice that the team members don’t really understand what they are trying to say.
CPA firm leaders – don’t be afraid of hurting people’s feelings. Practice being more direct in your communication style. Let them know what needs to be done. Then provide the advice and direction in accomplishing the task.
The best way to try to motivate somebody is by being direct with them. To be honest with them. Lies are never the right way to get your message across.
Once again, busy season is approaching for thousands of accounting firms.
Workload compression has been a huge issue for accounting firms for years. Thus, managers often complain that they don’t have time to get all of their work completed AND train all of the new people joining the firm.
Partners often point the finger at managers and blame them for a poorly equipped staff that makes too many mistakes.
My observation is that most CPA firm managers do not know how to manage, train and inspire their subordinates. It’s not their fault!
Firm leaders have failed to invest in training for the managers – on, guess what? How to manage!
The year is almost gone, you haven’t invested in your managers’ education when it comes to building relationships and nurturing people, it’s not too late.
Rally your managers and have your own internal management training session. I know you have at least one person in your firm (partner or manager) who is a natural at it. Have them lead a discussion/training session based on their own success story. It is as simple as clearly communicating the expectations you have for your managers.
Most managers are focused on their own productivity… meeting billable hour goals and getting the work out the door. Keep in mind that the partners’ internal succession plan depends on how well their managers perform.
There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.
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?
Talk 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!