Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

Two Million Hours Per Year on Performance Management

Maybe you read the article back in April. It came across on Twitter again this week.

It is on the Harvard Business Review site and is from their April, 2015 issue and it is about a Big Four firm that has drastically changed their performance feedback approach. The article – Reinventing Performance Management is by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.

It goes something like this (and it makes sense). The big firm realized how labor intensive it is to gather, analyze, collaborate on and provide feedback on performance. The end result being that the feedback was not that helpful. They need something nimbler, real-time, and more individualized. I like that terminology. The Big Four and all of us working in CPA firm management want something focused on fueling performance in the future rather than assessing it in the past.

I have been saying for many years that if you don’t update your performance management system, everyone ends up dreading them – the people getting feedback and the people giving feedback. It is looked at as drudgery.

This particular Big Four firm found that their old way of creating the ratings consumed close to 2 million hours a year!

Please follow the link and read about the 4 future-focused statements that leaders/managers at the firm are being asked about their subordinates.

They are asking leaders what they would do with their team members, not what they think of them. I like that.

What I don’t like, personally, is that a Big Four firm gets written up in the Harvard Business Review for enacting this wonderful process and if you talk to people in the local offices, the well-publicized national initiatives (whatever they may be) are not being implemented.

Local and regional CPA firm partners, look at YOUR process this year and determine if it is time to revise it. Once revised, I know you will implement! It is part of your ammunition for retaining top performers.

  • We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.
  • Aristotle

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

A Shared Economy CPA

IMG_5667If you follow this blog regularly (you can sign-up for email updates on the right side of this page), you know I have been on vacation.

On the long drive home, I caught up on some reading. Yes, I actually had the paper copy of Accounting Today with me.

I really enjoyed the article by Tamika Cody titled, A CPA For The Shared Economy. Be sure to read it!

Derek Davis, discovered a need, an opportunity and pursued it! People working in the shared economy as independent contractors, need professional advice. He realized the confusion they faced with taxes. So, he left his Big Four position, followed the road to independence and launched a virtual accounting practice.

Stories like this are unfolding across the country. “Traditional” CPAs are becoming “New Age”!

How about you? No matter what your age – new opportunities, many that are actually more challenging, interesting and exciting are developing.

Are you and your firm ready for the future?

  • In case you never get a second chance: don't be afraid! And what if you do get a second chance? You take it!
  • C. JoyBell C., author

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Plod or Practice?

IMG_5278I am reading a new book. Just started it this week. The title is Practice Perfect, 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better, by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi. They are teachers and admit that they see the world from an educator’s perspective.

However, the book has a broad reach and definitely applies to the public accounting profession. After all, CPAs are teachers/educators in many aspects.

You teach your young accountants, in a large degree, by repetition. If they execute a certain procedure (maybe it’s a task that is part of an audit) they will eventually become very skilled at it. What if what they are doing is not the best, most efficient way?

Have you ever considered the mere fact of doing something repeatedly does not help us improve?

You have probably heard the stories about Robin Williams and how he practiced, tweaked, and practiced some more and it all looked so natural. In the Foreword of this book, written by Dan Heath, he tells the story of Chris Rock and how he would go to a small comedy club and try out new material, make note of audience reaction and make small changes, get rid of what didn’t work and get better by experimenting 40 times or more before he did it on Letterman.

Heath asks, “Will we be content to cruise along on autopilot or will we scramble and suffer to get better? Will we plod or will we practice?

I see a whole lot of plodding in accounting firms.

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.” – – Michael Jordan

Keep in mind, practice requires humility. It forces us to admit that we don’t know everything. Take time to contemplate how you train and educate inside your firm. Even the most experienced accountant should have a practice mindset. You must get better at getting better.

  • To practice isn't to declare, I'm bad. To practice is to declare, I can be better.
  • Dan Heath

Friday, May 8th, 2015

The Challenges of Developing Leaders – Get Real With Your Competency Models

Leadership development is not just a challenge for the CPA profession. $14 billion is being spent by U.S. corporations annually on leadership development and yet, public confidence in leadership has dropped considerably. 70% of Americans believe there is a leadership crisis that will lead to a national decline unless we find better leaders.

How’s that going at your firm? Inside your CPA firm, I imagine you have been spending lots of dollars on development of the next generation of firm leaders. Has the confidence, among your current leaders and your employees, in regard to future leaders increased or decreased in recent years?

According to an article on clomedia.com (Chief Learning Officer), if leadership programs do not produce the bench strength, performance and behaviors desired, one or more of six problems could be the culprit.

The one I want to focus on today is the CPA firm competency models. Here’s a quote from the article that sure got my attention:

“Competency models also can be used to define leadership. But competency models are idiosyncratic lists of skills and abilities composed by asking senior managers what is needed to lead in particular jobs. Because few senior managers are good leaders, asking them about effective leadership is like asking a doctor for investment advice. He or she probably has an opinion, but it may not be a good one.”

It is my observation that most firms simply obtain their competency models by copying other firms or using the standard resources provided by the AICPA and other broad resources specifically for the CPA profession.

Here are the six problems:

The evaluation problem – It is a dirty little secret that leadership development programs are rarely evaluated in a meaningful way.

The definition problem – Evaluation requires specifying desired outcomes, and this requires defining leadership correctly.

The people problem – Many of the people who attend leadership development programs are drawn to high-status and high-paying leadership positions, but they have little talent for leading a team. (Need I say… Amen!)

The content problem – Little of what is taught in leadership programs concerns the actual tasks of leadership.

The pedagogy problem – Most leadership programs are taught in inappropriate ways. They tend to be events with little follow-up support or accountability for transferring learning back to the job.

The rationale problem – Leadership development programs are often launched for questionable reasons.

Where do you go, what do you do? Read the detail in this article and discuss it with your partners and other internal leaders. The article provides seven recommendations that are not expensive but do require learning leaders to think differently about leader development.

  • Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.
  • Jim Rohn

Friday, February 13th, 2015

First Female CEO of a Big Four Accounting Firm

I like the headline. To be honest, I had to chuckle when I read the opening line of the Accounting Today article, because they called one of the Big Four an accounting firm, something that the big 4 seem to shy away from. And, realistically, they are much more than accounting firms.

CathySMSeriously, I love what Cathy Engelbert, new CEO at Deloitte said about fostering women leaders in the accounting profession. I also definitely support her comments about taking risks. I find that women in accounting whine about being passed over for leadership positions, yet they shy away from taking risks, branching out and learning more.

Comments from Engelbert about making the most of experiences she was given:

“For me, this was about the experiences that I was given. I took some risks in my career to get a wider variety of experiences to be considered for a role like this, including sponsors, and partners who sat in rooms when there were deployment decisions being made on difference experiences. They would say, ‘Let’s let Cathy do this.”

We often talk about partner complacency at many successful accounting firms. I also believe that there is female manager complacency. They get promoted to manager, their earnings continually climb – – so why change?

You, as my audience, know how much importance I place on mentoring. Be sure to assess it inside your firm – work on making mentorship and sponsorship a larger part of your culture. Here’s Engelbert’s comments:

“Sometimes if you have a mentor who’s not in the room at the time they’re making decisions about the experiences you might be eligible for, you don’t get the development you want. Mentorship is really important for your own personal development, making sure that you’re seeking the right opportunities and then having the right people in the room when those decisions are being made about your deployment or the opportunities you might have.”

I urge you to read the Accounting Today article and share it with others inside your CPA firm. Be sure you take note of the comments about audit.

 

  • Our young people are excited that we're using technology in different ways to deliver the audit.
  • Cathy Engelbert

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Helping Your New Accounting Recruits & Interns Rock Their New Job

Have you checked-out Slideshare? If you are in a leadership position in a CPA firm, you need all the resources you can get. I’m always on the prowl for things that will be helpful to you to build a winning culture and a winning firm.

I really like this slide deck (My First 90 Days), on LinkedIn Pulse that is intended to help newbies make the most of their first 90 days on the job.

Starting a new job can be daunting. It’s time to meet your colleagues, impress your boss, get into the rhythm of your new role. So how should a newbie navigate those first 90 days?

There are only 14 slides that provide links to 8 posts on advice aimed a surviving a new job. The eight titles:

  1. Start working before Day One
  2. You can’t fix it right away
  3. Say yes to everything
  4. Ask your coworkers to lunch
  5. Listen to everyone you meet
  6. Make your boss look good (includes quote from Guy Kawasaki: “Either you rise to the top together, or crash and burn together.”)
  7. Take care of yourself first
  8. Don’t try to be the golden child

This is not just for newbies. CPA partners and managers need to read these posts, too. I frequently remind partners in accounting firms, “Don’t forget what it was like to be the new kid!” Most experienced partners admit they were lost, confused and clueless.

  • Make yourself available, work hard, and over time you will make yourself indispensable.
  • Richard Branson

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

The Ability To Recognize Emotions In Others

I mention emotional intelligence fairly often. That is because CPAs have the reputation for ranking fairly low on the emotional intelligence scale.

The experts tell us (Daniel Goleman, author) that emotional intelligence consists of five competencies:

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social Skills

I urge you to learn more about it and focus on how it plays out inside your busy CPA firm. It is essential to a productive work environment.

It does not mean you are simply nice to everyone and always pleasant. It means that you can confront others in a constructive way when problems arise. It doesn’t mean you are visibly emotional, it means you are in control of your emotions and to recognize emotions in others.

I bet that accountants reading this right now are not liking it much. I find most of them do not want to address the “warm and fuzzy” stuff. Usually, it is the simple fact that accountants think more along the lines of “business is business and personal is personal.”

In a recent article on Fast Company, Yongmei Liu, an associate professor at Illinois State University’s College of Business is quoted as follows. “A leader who has a high degree of emotional intelligence can recognize when his or her followers are not in the right emotional state to perform well.” – That would sure be helpful as you go through tax season!

Read more about it here. – article is titled, Why Emotionally Intelligent People Make More Money (maybe that got your attention).

 

  • It isn't stress that makes us fall - it's how we respond to stressful events.
  • Wayde Goodall

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

Dare To Change The Future Of Your Firm in 2015

I have been reading more over the Holidays. How about you? My suggested New Year’s resolution for you — Read more!

I mentioned earlier this week that I am reading Seth Godin‘s book. So many of his thoughts and challenges apply to CPAs. Many accountants are smart, talented people who get trapped in status quo. I DARE you to take that big, scary step this year and make some changes, take some risk. In fact, I triple-dog-dare you!

From the book:

“I see it all perfectly; there are two possible situations – one can either do THIS or THAT. My honest opinion and my friendly advice is this:  DO IT OR DO NOT DO IT – YOU WILL REGRET BOTH … To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. NOT TO DARE IS TO LOSE ONESELF. – – Soren Kierkegaard

  • Happy New Year to all my loyal blog followers (and to my occasional readers, too).
  • Rita Keller

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

Grades Or Grit

I like to work with people who have grit.

To me that means:

  • They are not hesitant to say what’s on their mind.
  • They continually give honest feedback and encouragement to those around them.
  • They don’t “walk on egg shells” because some people they work with are very sensitive or very explosive.
  • They also continually and positively push people to do their best.

When you are hiring or when you are assessing your fleet of interns to identify future hires, it is not about their GPA. Experts tell us that when a young person is about 5 years into their career, all the grades and academic credentials in the world don’t mean anything anymore.

I have observed that first-hand over my career. If you are a leader in your firm I bet you have observed it, too. So… work with that.

Leaders with grit create team of doers not talkers.

Here’s a book to use as a resource – The Soft Edge: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success by Rich Karlgaard.

Being a Baby Boomer, when I hear the word “grit” I think of John Wayne. How about you?

  • In the real world, smarts isn't about looking for the next star student with a 4.0 or having an IQ that can boil water. Instead, it's about the importance of hard work, of perseverance and resilience. Call it grit.
  • Rich Karlgaard, author of The Soft Edge

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Helping You Save Time – Here’s A Quick Review Of Last Week’s Posts

It’s a simple thing.      Saving time.      You should try it sometime.

Yes, I am being sarcastic again. As you know, working inside a busy, growing CPA firm, it is very important to always be aware of saving time and wasting time. This applies if you still record time daily or if you are a value-pricing firm.

I worked very hard last week to do my part to:  Enlighten you – Give you ideas – Encourage you to be your best – Help you (and your people) earn more money – Be more appreciative of each other – And so on. Plus, never forget that a leader MUST read – often and a variety of things and topics.

Here’s a list of last week’s posts. If one or more grabs your attention, you might want to read it quickly as you start your week:

Monday:  CPAs Will Leave Your Firm – No Matter What Time of Year – Yes, people quit CPA firm jobs in tax season these days.

Tuesday: Identify Future Leaders Early, Part I – Gary Boomer’s article inspired me to elaborate. Be sure you communicate to your young people the benefits of a long career in public accounting.

Wednesday: Identify Future Leaders Early, Part II – My thoughts relating to Boomer’s article were too extensive for just one blog post. So, Here are 10 characteristics to look for in identifying future leaders.

Thursday:  Apologies – Don’t point fingers. Don’t play the blame game. It wastes too much time.

Friday:  Make It Easy For Your Clients – Starbucks Does – Do you avoid client phone calls at times? Do your managers rarely answer their phone, preferring to let it go to voice mail?

Don’t forget my Saturday post “Lighten-Up” post (off topic, humorous or even weird). Holy weekend, Batman!

  • The MORE that you READ, the more THINGS you will KNOW. The MORE you LEARN, the more PLACES you'll GO!
  • Dr. Seuss