Friday, December 4th, 2020

Dress Code – It’s Still Business

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head

Lighten up, it’s Friday. The following comes from Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady)

It seems a Judge in Florida was fed up with how attorneys appeared for hearings (via Zoom). The following was added to the Bar Association’s website as a pop-up message.

One comment that needs sharing and that is the judges would appreciate it if the lawyers and their clients keep in mind these Zoom hearings are just that: hearings. They are not casual phone conversations. It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera. We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up you’re poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.

Per Lucas: “Work is still work. yes, this is an abnormal situation. Yes, you should be forgiving of employees with childcare issues, or space issues, but it’s still work.

Today is Friday, maybe you can consider it casual Friday. Remember those days? They seem so long ago. Stay safe and enjoy your weekend.

Read the entire article here.

Just for fun – The 80 Greatest Fashion Quotes of All Time via Harper’s Bazaar for your weekend reading!

  • "Trendy is the last stage before tacky."
  • Karl Lagerfeld

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Press On

There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.– Calvin Coolidge

In my presentations and on this blog, I often talk about the value of perseverance.

The following quote from Calvin Coolidge about persistence says it wonderfully.

When you are facing challenges inside your firm, when all the partners aren’t on the same page, keep telling yourself: Press on.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.” –Calvin Coolidge

  • "You don't have to explain something you haven't said."
  • Calvin Coolidge

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020

Upcoming Webinar

“Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.” – Katherine Whitehorn

Save the date! – – Wednesday, December 9, 2020.

Guy Gage and I will be presenting an informative webinar for The CPA Firm Management Association (CPAFMA). Here’s the scoop:

Interview to Hire the Best Candidates

Date: Wednesday, December 09, 2020
Time: 03:00 PM EST / 02:00 PM CST / 01:00 PM MST / 12:00 PM PST
Presenter(s): Guy Gage, III LPC and Rita A. Keller
Objective: In this 60 minute MAPCast on how to interview to hire the best candidates, participants will learn:

• The three common mistakes that interviewers make;
• Questioning techniques that uncover what you want to know; and
• Examples of situations that demonstrate interview proficiency.
Field of Study: Personnel/Human Resources
Program Level: Basic
CPE Credit: 1 Credit Hour

No advanced preparation or prerequisites are required for this course.

Click here for the course description.

Click here to register.

  • "Never wear a backward baseball cap to an interview unless applying for the job of umpire."
  • Dan Zevin

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

The Source of Truth

“How to give people feedback is one of the hottest topics in business today.” – Marcus Buckingham 

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post about giving and receiving feedback. It is an excerpt from the article, The Feedback Fallacy, via HBR, written by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall.

Just in case you didn’t read the entire article, here is a segment that speaks volumes.

The Source of Truth

The first problem with feedback is that humans are unreliable raters of other humans. Over the past 40 years psychometricians have shown in study after study that people don’t have the objectivity to hold in their heads a stable definition of an abstract quality, such as business acumen or assertiveness, and then accurately evaluate someone else on it. Our evaluations are deeply colored by our own understanding of what we’re rating others on, our own sense of what good looks like for a particular competency, our harshness or leniency as raters, and our own inherent and unconscious biases. This phenomenon is called the idiosyncratic rater effect, and it’s large (more than half of your rating of someone else reflects your characteristics, not hers) and resilient (no training can lessen it). In other words, the research shows that feedback is more distortion than truth.

This is why, despite all the training available on how to receive feedback, it’s such hard work: Recipients have to struggle through this forest of distortion in search of something that they recognize as themselves.

Next summer, when all the unique and unusual circumstances surrounding work has calmed down. Your firm should be ready to give feedback in a new and refreshing way. Do the homework and begin now. Maybe even some new behaviors surrounding feedback should begin happening much sooner than next summer. How about starting January 1st?

  • "Just as your doctor doesn’t know the truth of your pain, we don’t know the truth about our colleagues, at least not in any objective way."
  • Marcus Buckingham

Monday, November 30th, 2020

Thrive & Excel


“The key to learning is feedback. It is nearly impossible to learn anything without it.” – Steven Levitt

What kind of feedback are you offering at your firm? Is it an annual performance feedback session, a semi-annual review, or maybe quarterly “touch-base” type feedback meetings? Some firms have eliminated formal performance reviews completely.

Hopefully, firms are offering frequent feedback and keeping the entire process very simple and direct.

No matter what process you are using, be sure you are always searching for better ways to give feedback. Rather than giving people feedback on how they can do better, why not ask “How can we help each person thrive and excel?” This question comes from Marcus Buckingham. If we ask that question, we might just find that the answers take us in a different direction.

Don’t get this feedback confused with actual training type feedback actually called instruction. Per Buckingham, “To be clear, instruction – telling people what steps to follow or what factual knowledge they’re lacking – can be truly useful. That’s why we have checklists in airplane cockpits.”

Also, per Buckingham, there are three theories that we in the business world commonly accept as truths. 

  • Theory of the source of truth
  • Theory of learning
  • Theory of excellence

Read Buckingham’s informative article, The Feedback Fallacy, here.

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

Thursday, November 26th, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.” – Jim Davis

Even though this Thanksgiving is different than any other your family has endured, I hope it is still joyous, perhaps in a more quiet and reflective way.

My husband and I are spending this week in a cabin in the woods. We have been hiking, cooking, reading, and watching movies. We will not be with our family but we are thankful for them every day.

Here is a link to my annual gift to you. It is a classic!

Happy Turkey Day to all my wonderful readers, followers, clients and friends. I count all of you among my many blessings! Enjoy and appreciate the day, even if it is different.

  • "Over and over I marvel at the blessings of my life: Each year has grown better than the last."
  • Lawrence Welk

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Too Long

“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” – Barbara Johnson

When you graduated from college and began working at a CPA firm you probably thought you would work your way up to partner someday.

The years went by and you worked your way up the ladder. You became a Senior, a Supervisor, a manager and perhaps, a Senior Manager. Maybe then you were offered something called Non-Equity Partner and you could actually use the title “Partner” on your business card. But, you were not really a partner.

How long did that take? I am guessing way too long!

Starting with the millennials (they are 39 years old now!) and continuing with Gen Z, young people want to become successful much more quickly than the culture of many CPA firms allow.

All this is prompted by some CPA firm websites I have visited recently. “John Doe joined the firm in 1996 and became a partner in 2018.” “Betty Smith joined the firm in 1994 and became a partner in 2017.”

Doesn’t that seem like a long time to you? And, are they equity partners or just the non-equity type? I am not a fan of the non-equity partner slot. It seems like a holding pattern to me.

Becoming a firm owner is not for everyone, of course. But, for those who have the ambition, the dedication and the skills to become a partner, twelve or thirteen years seems like a long time.

There is one factor to consider. The Baby Boomers are retiring at a rapid rate. If they actually retire, then you don’t have to depend so much on firm growth.

As the old saying goes, if you want to become a partner you have to make yourself too valuable to lose. Make yourself valuable more quickly!

  • "I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it."
  • Edith Sitwell

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

Build On Strengths

“When virtues are pointed out first, flaws seem less insurmountable.” – Judith Martin

Recently, I read a tweet posted by Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak). He said, “Why take the wind out of someone’s sails with unnecessary corrections and criticisms? Using criticism to motivate is futile.”

In accounting firms, there is a history of criticizing people, especially beginners. More experienced CPAs believed that people learned from their mistakes and it was up to them to frequently and directly point out those mistakes. They were/are called Review Notes.

Keep in mind, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.

Horror stories exist where the newbies at the firm compare experiences about how many review notes, on a single engagement, they received from Old Frank the seasoned tax partner. They were received in writing and without any human connection or conversation.

Yes, people learn from their mistakes but do you talk to them? Do you mention any of the things they did right?

I also hear stories where this is no longer the case. Progressive firms work with team members to identify their strengths and focus on building them up in those areas.

Have a face-to-face (via video) conversation about their challenges and concerns. Listen to their questions and comments.

No one can be good at everything. That’s why you have a team. If everyone was alike you would have a firm that has plateaued.

  • "The trouble with most of us is that we'd rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism."
  • Norman Vincent Peale

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Expend The Effort

“Don’t let the sun go down without saying thank you to someone, and without admitting to yourself that absolutely no one gets this far alone.” Stephen King

For years I have talked about the value of writing (by hand) a personal note or thank-you to individuals on your team.

Last week I received a handwritten note from a CPA. I did a presentation for a group he chairs. It is a small firm networking group and they met in Key West.

I did not go there. I did it via video from my home office and enjoyed my time with them discussing various practice management topics.

Douglas H. Chaffins of Chaffins, Batdorf & Austell in Georgia sent the note. It made me smile and pleased me so much. It’s been a long time since I received a handwritten thank-you note! How about you?

Read more about the power of this small task below. Expend the extra effort to send one to someone. Make their day!

Client Service – A Simple Thank-you Can Be Powerful

“Wow! You Are Doing Great.” – – Tell Them

  • "We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives."
  • John F. Kennedy

Friday, November 20th, 2020

If You Are Missing The Office

“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” – Steve Jobs

It’s time for some Friday ramblings. Another week has passed by so quickly and things are changing at that same quick base.

I enjoyed my time with PWB CPAs & Advisors in Minnesota this week. Of course, I wasn’t there in person but speaking to their entire team (via Teams) about CPA firm communication was still a joy for me.

If you are missing your teammates and your in-office routine perhaps hearing the normal background sounds of any office (the printer, the telephone, the coffee machine) might be a pleasant change. You can assemble your audio atmosphere via soundofcolleagues.com.

Have a nice weekend. Stay home and stay safe. Next week is a short work week. Take a walk in the woods.

  • "The loudest noise in the world is silence."
  • Theionious Monk