Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Managers Must Give Honest Feedback

“Dealing with employee issues can be difficult but not dealing with them can be worse.” – Paul Foster

A person should be promoted to Manager when they are beginning to manage other people. Then, they must hone their skills on exactly how to manage other people.

I find that in CPA firms, people are promoted to manager because:

  • They have longevity with the firm.
  • They are great technicians and producers.
  • The partners are afraid that if they don’t promote them to Manager they will quit.

One of the most important things a Manager does is provide HONEST and timely feedback. Today’s workforce is demanding that they DO receive feedback on a continual basis – you can’t save it up for an annual performance review or even semi-annual or quarterly.  

Here is something I learned long ago when I was promoted and became the boss of my peers. Because of poor performance, we had to fire an administrative person. The MP always did the firing back then. He asked me to sit in. The person became angry and it was not an easy session. (My first firing and I remember it well.)  After it was over, he said to me, “You will never be an effective boss until you have had to fire someone.”

That first “firing” inspired me to never let anyone be surprised about being outplaced. One of the last outplacements I did, the young man came into my office and said, “I know why I’m here. I’m being let go, right?” 

If your managers are struggling with giving meaningful feedback, have them read, It’s Okay To Be The Boss by Bruce Tulgan. Get them each a copy, make reading it an assignment, and then meet with them for a discussion about what they read.

  • The day firing becomes easy is the day to fire yourself.
  • Tom Peters

Thursday, July 22nd, 2021

What Your Team Expects

“Trust me is easy to say, especially when you mean it, but hard to hear.” – Seth Godin

As a result of all the changes firms have faced in the last sixteen to eighteen months, progressive firms are updating their employee handbooks. Many new and changing guidelines need to be explained and documented so that your team members know what is expected as a member of your firm’s team.

Even in your old handbook, is it possible that what you are saying contradicts what they are seeing?

Again, I am talking about setting a good example. I have learned through experience, that the partners are the ones who do not follow the documented processes and procedures that are clearly spelled out in the handbook.

People are now expecting many things to be different but they’ve been taught through experience not to believe that things are actually going to be different.

A quote from Seth Godin: “If you’ve read ten employee handbooks that say one thing when the company does another, you’re likely to not believe the eleventh one.”

Be sure to read Godin’s blog post about this topic. It is titled, Yadda, yadda, yadda.

  • Showing tends to beat telling.
  • Seth Godin

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Words Are Powerful

“Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don’t mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.” -Rachel Wolchin

Early in my career, I remember my firm’s partners providing feedback to me in the form of words. Yes, simple words. I have always remembered those words and I still think that keeping feedback simple is the best policy.

Right now, many of you are involved in providing feedback to your employees about their performance during busy season. Read this Flashback Friday post about evaluating people using words.

  • The secret of being boring is to say everything.
  • Voltaire

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Gossip & Rumors

“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Rumor: A currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

Gossip: A casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.

Have you read about, or watched shows about Henry VIII (like The Tudors, etc.)? I was fascinated with the way the royal Court operated on rumor and gossip. It seemed to be very much a part of Royal life. Current day, just consider all the rumors surrounding Harry and Meghan.

It all brings to mind what I call the “Grapevine” inside accounting firms. I have never encountered a firm where there is absolutely no grapevine. I always advise people new to working in a public accounting firm to stay away from The Grapevine.

Gossip and rumors thrive when communication from the top is inadequate. The is why I consider communication as the root of all evil inside firms. Rumors and gossip begin when someone drops the communication ball.

Always make communication a priority. Your people want to feel included; they want to know what is going on. If leaders do not tell them they will form their own opinions that are usually not true.

Some say that malicious gossip led to the death of Anne Boleyn. Don’t let gossip and rumor thrive inside your firm.

  • Isn’t it kind of silly to think that tearing someone else down builds you up?
  • Sean Covey

Monday, July 12th, 2021

The Good Things

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” – Marianne Williamson

Hopefully, if you had your partner retreat in May or June, you have already scheduled your annual “state of the firm” event. It is a very important event, especially if you are wanting your employees to be “engaged” with the firm.

The annual event is done differently in various firms. Some firms focus on the firm’s performance for the last fiscal year. Some firms use it as a way to obtain feedback from the team.

It is most powerful when firms use it as a way to host a full-firm management day. At this special meeting, the partners report on what they accomplished at their strategic planning retreat and how they think the team members can help them in achieving the strategic initiatives. It is a way to build momentum and focus on the good things the firm has accomplished and the good things that firm leaders want to achieve in the coming year.

At your full firm meeting always review the “good things” that have happened during the past year. Leaders often talk too much and think about the bad things.

At this annual meeting, it is time for positive thoughts and direction. Some firms have a guest speaker to help with motivation and have break-out sessions to explore ideas that can help the firm move forward in the coming year.

Get busy! Focus on the good things!

  • Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.
  • Dennis Prager

Thursday, July 8th, 2021

What One Firm Is Doing

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

Elliott Davis, a business solutions and accounting firm with nine offices across the Southeast,

In the new office, less than 10 employees have assigned workstations while the rest of the firm’s Greenville team members reserve seats a week in advance. By utilizing a reservation system, employees may be able to use a certain type of space at any given time such as a private office, collaboration space or open workstation.

Elliot Davis also added multiple monitors with an integrated web camera in each workstation and equipped meeting spaces with Microsoft Teams video technology to help connect with remote participants.

The above information is from a press release. What is your firm thinking about, planning, and/or doing? Your people will want to know.

  • Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

You Know What I Like!

“Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news travels like molasses.” – Tracy Morgan

I recently heard an old song by someone called The Big Bopper. He died on the famous plane crash with Buddy Holly. It happened on February 3, 1959, and has been called “The Day the Music Died.” It was referred to in Don McLean’s classic American Pie. If you are not old enough to remember or have never heard of Buddy Holly, click here.

Anyway, The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson) had a novelty song that became a big hit titled Chantilly Lace. In the song he says, over and over, “Oh, baby you know what I like.”

I told you all of that so that I could talk about this – a recent article by Dan Hood of Accounting Today – “Accountants need to explain themselves.” Dan was on a recent Zoom session the AICPA leaders conducted last week. They (the AICPA leaders) urged all of us in the meeting and all CPAs to communicate what is good about the CPA profession. Dan’s article will be helpful to you.

They didn’t need to convince me. I love the CPA profession. But, are you, people working in a busy CPA firm, actively talking about all the good things to LIKE about the CPA profession? Talk to your kids, talk to students, talk to your spouse, your aunts/uncles, and especially your clients about the great rewards of being a CPA.

Read Dan’s article and keep in mind, “Oh, baby, you know what I like!”

  • If anyone asks you what kind of music you play, tell him 'pop.' Don't tell him 'rock'n'roll' or they won't even let you in the hotel.
  • Buddy Holly

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

Retention – A Dual Responsibility

“Just imagine how great a workplace could be if employers and employees worked together to improve retention.” – Sharlyn Lauby

We have discussed and discussed the talent wars in public accounting for years. I couldn’t imagine how it could get much worse. But it has.

Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender), in a recent article, acknowledges that retention is on the shoulders of the employer. However, employees should also share in the retention efforts.

“Organizations are unable to put retention strategies in place if they don’t understand what employees want (i.e. what makes them stay with the company). Some of you might be saying that this means the obligation is on the employer. True – but the employee has to give them the information. That’s where the employee plays a part in retention.”

Firm leaders cannot provide what employees want unless employees provide honest feedback. As a person working in a CPA firm do you provide honest feedback when asked? The main reason employees don’t give honest feedback is the fear of retaliation .

Read Lauby’s article to learn about the three basic employee needs:

Power needs are the ability to influence.

Affiliation needs are related to being a part of the team.

Achievement needs are focused on the ability to get things done.

If you wonder why your team members do not provide feedback, ask yourself – Do our employees feel safe giving feedback? Have we always acted upon feedback received in the past.

  • Organizations need to figure out if culture is keeping employees from providing the feedback you’re looking for.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Friday, June 11th, 2021

The Purpose of Your Firm

“A business enterprise has two basic functions: marketing and innovation.” – Peter F. Drucker

It’s Friday again and time for an enlightening Flashback Friday post. Peter F. Drucker’s view on the purpose of a business is something you should consider.  Click here.

  • The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.
  • Peter Drucker

Wednesday, June 9th, 2021

Communicate Your Thoughts On Hybrid

“Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.” – Linus Pauling

So many firms right now are sticking their toe into the hybrid work schedule waters. Do we or don’t we? How will it look? How will we keep communication and culture strong? Maybe we just go to a four-day workweek. If everyone works whatever schedule they want, will it create chaos? Will client service suffer over the long term? What will we do about the administrative team?

Many decisions need to be made and I hope you can make them quickly. The most important things is to communicate to your team. Don’t leave them wondering all summer long what the firm will do in the Fall.

Here’s a message Tim Cook of Apple sent to the team last week:

In an email to staff, Apple CEO Tim Cook has told office employees that they are expected to return to their workspace three days a week starting in September. The iPhone maker said it wants most office workers to show up Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. “For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” he wrote in the email. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

What goes through my mind is how will this building look empty for the long term.

  • For now, let me simply say that I look forward to seeing your faces.
  • Tim Cook