Archive for the ‘performance evaluations’ Category

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

You Will Be Receiving Performance Feedback. Are You Prepared?

“Don’t spew about your weaknesses. Affirm your aspirations.” – Dan Rockwell

It’s that time of year. Firm leaders are gathering and preparing feedback information to communicate to various team members.

You are a various team member. What are you thinking? How are YOU preparing?

I have conducted a huge number of performance feedback sessions during my decades in public accounting and I have always been surprised and impressed when the team member had actually taken time to prepare.

Be prepared to talk about the future and don’t dwell on the past. Be prepared to talk about all the good or even outstanding things you accomplished in recent months. Everyone has weaknesses. Acknowledge them and work on them but start a conversation about your career progress, what excites you about your role and your hopes, desires, and aspirations going forward.

  • By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Monday, May 21st, 2018

Performance Feedback

“Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

For many firms, it is the time of year when you begin your performance feedback sessions. Hopefully, you have modified and updated your methods over the last few years. While some firms have theoretically eliminated the annual performance review, it is certainly not dead yet.

If you use the same format year after year after year, your employees and those who are giving them feedback come to dread the entire process.

Sometimes partners are expected to give feedback to 7, 8, 9 or more people. That takes a lot of time. The bigger issue is, after all the preliminary information gathering is done, how you structure the actual feedback face-to-face meeting.

One step in the right direction is to have more performance conversations throughout the year and not put so much focus on the big, annual evaluation.

Another modification is to work with your partners and managers in learning how to provide more meaningful feedback. Historically, managers have focused on past performance rather than talking about the future. Managers have also tended to focus on weaknesses rather than strengths.

Work to identify each individual’s strengths. Then, build momentum and career progression on those strengths. Develop a system of more frequent conversations and down-play the dreaded annual review.

 

  • If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
  • Thomas Edison

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

It Is Time To Review Your Performance Review

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” – Pablo Picasso

You have probably read the articles. Many accounting firms are eliminating the annual performance review.

I think this statement can be very misleading. What they are eliminating are the annual ranking and written feedback comments.

Employees still need feedback and managers still need to give feedback. However, the widely-used formal feedback process is way too time-consuming for partners and managers and dreaded by both managers and employees.

It will soon be performance feedback time (after busy season). Revisit your process now and identify ways to transform your “performance evaluation” process into an entire “performance management” system.

Here are some ideas:

Keep It Simple, Sweetheart.

Would Your Employees Cheer If You Eliminated Formal Performance Evaluations?

It is More Than Performance Review.

  • There is always stuff to work on. You are never there.
  • Tiger Woods

Monday, February 26th, 2018

It Is More Than Performance Review

“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.” – Tim Fargo

You have read about them, the firms that have abolished the annual performance feedback session. I can understand why. In many firms, they have become a dreaded exercise, dreaded by the person being reviewed and also by the reviewer.

Something that you may have missed is that doing away with the actual face-to-face formal session does not mean you do not provide feedback. That meeting is only one part of a performance management system!

Performance feedback sets the stage for promotions and compensation adjustments, too. If you don’t have the traditional feedback system you must train your managers (and partners) to provide performance feedback on an on-going basis. If carried out properly, I think it is absolutely the best way to provide feedback – immediate and continual. It’s called managing people and CPA firms haven’t been very good at it in the past.

Here is an excellent article by Sharlyn Lauby, @HRBartender. Be sure to read item #3, about training managers!

  • Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.
  • Ed Batista

Friday, December 29th, 2017

Next Year

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep.” – Robert Frost

How many times have you said those two words, “next year”?

Maybe to your kids, “You’ll be old enough to do that next year.”

Maybe to your spouse, “Honey, we’ll take that special vacation trip next year.”

Maybe to yourself, “I’m going to lose 25 pounds next year!”

How about inside your firm?

“We will work on it and become COMPLETELY paperless next year.”

“We can’t do it this year, but next year we will out-place those five clients that drive our staff nuts.”

“We promise to be more timely with our feedback process next year.”

“We will add a few more employee benefits next year.”

“We have to update our website next year.”

“We will look into all this new digital stuff like blockchain and artificial intelligence, next year.”

“I’ll pass the CPA exam next year.”

For all these “next years” relating to your firm: Monday is NEXT YEAR.

For NOW – have a happy and safe New Years’ weekend!

  • It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.
  • Chief Joseph

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Frustrated With The Annual Performance Review?

“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.” – Tom Peters

I am so pleased to be part of the lead article for the December issue of the Journal of Accountancy. The article is by Anna Reitman.

It is titled: Want to jettison the annual performance review? – Here’s how some organizations are making the change.

As I have often stated, in many CPA firms, the reviewers and those being reviewed have come to dread the annual ordeal. This article examines changes that firms have made, the pitfalls they have encountered, and the results of their efforts.

I hope you find it helpful if your firm is considering making a change. Contact me if you need help.

 

  • I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.
  • Elon Musk

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

We Just Can’t….

“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins, author Good to Great

Read the above quotation again.

I have coached and consulted with lots of CPA firms. I have done presentations for thousands of CPAs. I often hear the same lament about a poor performer: “We can’t let her go, she’s been with us 20 years.” I have heard that statement applied to poor performers over and over again throughout my career.

Is she meeting the firm’s expectations for her specific job at the firm? “No, but…” I hear too many “No, buts…” when I ask questions about this person. “We just can’t let her go.”

I use the term “she” because it is usually a she (just from my experience). “She” is someone hired by the former managing partner. She is stuck in status quo. She hasn’t kept up with technology changes. She demotivates all those around her. She dodges difficult tasks. Sometimes it is an admin person. Sometimes it is a paraprofessional. Sometimes it is a very technical tax person. AND yes, sometimes it is a partner!

Take action:

  • Clearly communicate to this person that they are not meeting expectations.
  • Clearly define those expectations.
  • Work with them to outline a development plan and assure them of the firm’s support in the improvement process.
  • Set a target date for some improvement to occur.

They just might change, improve and succeed. Usually, they remain a poor performer or a mediocre performer, at best.

If your people are mediocre, the firm will remain mediocre.

Again, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” – Jim Collins, author Good to Great.

  • Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.
  • Jim Collins

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Performance Management

“Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.” – Anthony D’Angelo

In the world of CPA firm management, we often talk about performance reviews, performance evaluations or performance feedback. In firms, it has many names. Some call it Career Advancement Process and similar titles.

While giving feedback is an important part of the process, it is much more than that. If your firm simply gathers information and relays that information about their performance to the individual you have only taken one step in the process.

Also consider including some upward feedback or some peer-to-peer feedback.

Be sure to include:

Self-evaluations – Most people are very insightful into their own performance.

Mutual agreed upon goals – – the team member identifies goals and so does management. Then they negotiate to determine the two or three most important ones.

Periodic checking on the progress of goals. Set fewer goals with shorter timeframes. I like to see one goal for every 4-month period.

Everyday coaching. Walk around, talk to people, give them spot-checks on their performance. MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around). Today’s workforce wants feedback immediately.

 

  • Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have.
  • Margaret Mead

Wednesday, February 1st, 2017

Keep Fighting That Procrastination Habit

“Last year I joined a support group for procrastinators. We haven’t met yet.”

When I am speaking to CPA firm groups, I like to tell the story of the classic procrastination scenario inside of a busy CPA firm. It goes something like this:

It’s tax season, we can’t possibly take the time to update our performance feedback process. It’s April 16, we desperately need time to recover from tax season. I call this the after-tax-season coma that you are in for about two to four weeks. It’s late May, early June, we can’t possibly work on the performance system because it is time to begin this year’s reviews. Our process will last at least through July. It’s August, too many people are on vacation. It’s September, we have extensions. It’s October, we have extensions. It’s December, we have tax planning appointments. So, that means you have November to catch-up on all the initiatives and projects you have talked about for years.

Any of this sound familiar? Don’t procrastinate this year begin NOW. Take it in small steps and just keep moving forward with your initiatives even is you have a lot of various excuses not to.

  • A year from now you may wish you had started today.
  • Karen Lamb

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

The Value of a Partner

Aquila“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

In a recent newsletter, August Aquila of Aquila Global Advisors, LLC, shared the Factors Determining the Partner’s Value.

Here’s an excerpt:

In an accounting firm, profitability is generally the result of the firm’s combined talents, business management skills, internal systems, and value proposition to its core clients. Therefore, many factors must be considered when determining the value of a partner to the firm, for example

  • What are the technical competencies of the partner?
  • Are the partner’s technical competencies up to date?
  • Are these competencies needed by the current client base?
  • Does the partner add value in other areas, such as leadership, mentoring, and so on?
  • Can he or she bring in business—the lifeblood of any organization?

Skills alone do not make a good partner. You must also look at the character of the partner, for example

  • Does the partner live the firm’s core values?
  • Do staff members want to work with the partner?
  • Is the partner ethical in his or her dealings with both staff members and clients?

Most firms are too small to have a partner justify his or her existence as solely an administrative, marketing, or human resources partner. Partners need to increase the economic value of the firm.

He goes on to explain that many firms do not conduct formal partner evaluations. They do not require partners to set goals.

Partners need feedback, including the managing partner, if they want to improve their performance….. or NEED to improve their performance.

  • Excellent firms don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change.
  • Tom Peters