Monday, September 24th, 2012

What Are They Thinking?

Ever wonder what your people are thinking?

In my conversations with various groups of people who work in public accounting firms, I hear all kinds of stories.

Inside some firms they still use the Baby Boomer method of training new hires. I am talking about the way Baby Boomers were trained. It goes something like this….. a Baby Boomer joined a CPA firm in the late 70s or in the 80s. On his second or third day a partner (another “he”) walked up to his desk, dropped a legal size, thick file on the desk and casually said, “Follow what’s in this file and do what we did last year.”

Funny thing is, the Baby Boomers did just that and basically learned from trial and error. Maybe I should describe it as “try to do the work, receive extensive review notes addressing all your errors and then try again.” – – repeat, repeat, repeat.

What has evolved is that we have partners and managers who grew-up in public accounting this way and now they are attempting to manage Millennials who respond differently.

I find most of it is just poor communication. It is compounded by the fact that for years CPAs have spent lots of money on technical training for the people who are now partners and managers and very little on providing education on how to manage, coach and mentor people.

What can you do about this? Find out what your people think. Begin now to build an environment that builds trust between managers/partners and the team. Many experts tell us that to begin building this culture of trust you should begin with the people who know most – the ones being managed – and only then seek feedback from the leaders downward.

Here are some of the disturbing excuses (stories) I hear from people working in firms:

  • The partners refuse to do an upward survey – they don’t care what the people think.
  • Our partners are afraid of what will be said.
  • Our partners really don’t want to change so they don’t see the need for an upward survey.
  • Our managers really got upset when we once discussed asking for upward feedback about them and the partners backed off.

I firmly believe that we get better by a constant stream of helpful information from the people who are part of our accounting firm team. That is why I am pleased to be co-founder of a new survey company, along with Gary Adamson of Adamson Advisory, formed to help CPA firms with the PEOPLE side of the business. Take a look at SurveyCPA and consider if it is time for the PEOPLE managing your PEOPLE to obtain some feedback that can help them improve their performance.

  • "A telephone survey says that 51 percent of college students drink until they pass out at least once a month. The other 49 percent didn't answer the phone."
  • Craig Kilborn

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