Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Interruptions

“We must stop regarding unpleasant or unexpected things as interruptions of real life. The truth is that interruptions are real life.” – C. S. Lewis

It never seems to end, the constant parade of people outside the door of the managing partner or firm administrator, often standing in line just to ask a quick question. During COVID times, people are seeking a quick Zoom meeting with you. And then, there is the dreaded, huge number of emails in your inbox.

Do you sometimes think this is crazy and it must be something you are doing wrong? I used to think the same thing. However, over the years I’ve developed a new perspective on this “take a number” circus that surrounds a great many firm administrators (or managing partners).

Some of the highest level CEOs in the country have the same challenges with an “open door” for those that depend on them for guidance and they are operating daily with constant interruptions. Just like a CEO of a large company, your people depend on YOU.

Firm administrators, you have built your reputation inside the firm as the “go-to person.” The successful, smooth, day-to-day operation of the firm must constantly be nourished. You have the responsibility of nourishing it via your administrative and support team. It might be a quick 10-minute conversation with the Technology Manager, a 5-minute chat with the firm’s Controller, or even an unscheduled one-hour meeting with the Marketing Director. These interruptions that might drive some managers crazy are the lifeblood of your day.

We all have good intentions of MBWA (managing by wandering around), but how often do we actually work it into our busy schedules? If people aren’t coming to your office – – go find them!

If you are working remotely, don’t wait for people to come to you. Randomly, check-in on people who report to you. It can be done quickly. Ask them, “What do you think?” “How can I help.”

  • Do one thing every day that scares you.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

It Is Inside Every CPA Firm

“Solve drama. Don’t create it.” – Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak

When doing presentations to CPA audiences, I will often ask, “You don’t have any drama inside your firm, do you?” Sad to say, this would get a big laugh from the audience.

What does that say about your firm?

Stay on track to a successful career by following these six rules for keeping your work-life drama-free.

Rule #1: If You Did it When You Were 15, Don’t Do it Now. – It is easy to catch yourself doing things that are more worthy of high school hallways than the office.

Rule #2: Save the Venting for Outside the Office. – Resist the urge to talk about your co-workers and boss while you are in the office.

Rule #3: When in Doubt, Wait to Reply. – An email can set you off! Don’t reply immediately. Wait. Think.

Rule #4: Know When It’s Time to Talk it Out. – To avoid unnecessary drama, you have to realize the point at which it’s better to simply talk to someone, in person.

Rule #5: Have (and Use) a Go-to Escape Phrase. – To avoid getting roped in to a drama situation, be prepared with a go-to-escape phrase. (“I can’t help you with that.” “I’ve got a deadline, I need to get back to work.”)

Rule #6: Never Assume Negative Intent. – To avoid drama, simply work under the assumption that your co-workers and manager are there to help you, support you, and challenge you to do even better work.

These rules come from an article by Katie Douthwaite Wolf, “6 Basic Rules You Need to Follow if You Truly Want to Avoid Office Drama”.

Read the entire article to learn much more about each rule. You might even change it into a No Drama policy to officially adopt for your firm.

  • Don't waste words o people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.
  • Mandy Hale

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

Do They Like You?

“People prefer to say yes to those that they like.” Robert Cialdini 

I hear stories, all kinds of stories.

Working and interacting with hundreds of accounting firms over the last thirty years I, of course, hear stories. I hear, from the partners, what a great firm they have, how progressive they are, and how they do so much for their people. I do believe most of this.

I hear from the professional support team and the accounting staff how, while it is a good firm, they struggle with getting questions answered, getting changes approved and dealing with some of the partners. I do believe most of this.

The question for you to ponder today, as a shareholder, is influenced by the above quotation. Do your people actually like you?

If you are friendly, smile often, show caring/concern for individual team members, and are approachable, they will like you. They will work harder for you and strive to meet your expectations. They will respect you.

I remember when I was new to a CPA firm. One CPA partner would occasionally ask how I was doing and would ALWAYS say thank-you when I completed various tasks for him. That partner’s tasks always ranked higher on my to-do list than the other three partners.

The old English proverb, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, means that it is much easier to get what you want by being polite rather than by being rude and insolent.

  • Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

What’s The Problem?

“If you complain about the same problems everyday… YOU are the problem.” – Brad Lea

Did you ever notice, inside your firm, that the same problems keep reappearing?

Perhaps it is a lack of training. Most likely, it is because that poor decisions or no decisions have been made.

Often the leadership group is in denial. Sometimes they think they have fixed the problem, yet it continues to cause frustration.

There seems to be many opinions as to why the problems continue to exist.

Are YOU the problem?

  • We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
  • Albert Einstein

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Misconceptions

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.” – Mark Twain

I was recently reading an article from National Geographic that explained how our mental maps of the world are probably wrong. I discovered that mine was! There are many common geographic misconceptions. For example, you might think that South America is directly south of North America.

Here’s an excerpt:

For instance, we all know that South America is south of North America, of course. But you may be surprised by the fact that virtually the entire South American continent is east of Florida. There are lots of possible reasons for geographical misconceptions like this one, says cartographer John Nelson. Mental maps are necessarily simplifications, and Nelson suspects the misplaced Americas may be partly a result of their names. After all, it’s not called Southeast America.

How does all this relate to managing your CPA firm? I believe there are many misconceptions flourishing inside accounting firms. Many of these misconceptions are quite large and often resistant to correction.

  • Partners don’t care about people they just want to make a lot of money.
  • Staff don’t care about the firm, they just want to put in 8 hours and then go home.
  • Non-CPAs working at the firm are not as smart as the CPAs.
  • The partners are stingy.
  • The staff are careless.
  • Our firm is the best one in our market.
  • Our firm is the worst one in our market.

I corrected my misconceptions about how countries and continents are aligned and how they appear on maps by education myself, by exploring and reading.

How are you going to battle the misconceptions swirling around inside your firm?

  • If you see a blatant error misconception about yourself, you really want to set it straight.
  • Jimmy Wales

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

The Annual Performance Evaluation

“Be spectacularly great at what you do. Wear your passion on your sleeve and hold your heart in the palm of your hand. And work hard. Really hard.” – Robin Sharma

If you have been keeping up with current trends in firm management, you probably know all too well that the annual performance review is on the verge of death.

Many firms have already abandoned this old-school method of providing team members with information that could help advance their careers. Today’s workforce wants feedback continually – every day – or more often. If your firm does away with the annual performance review, it means that managers and partners need to step up their game. They need to learn how to actually manage people and manage performance. It’s worth the effort.

You might think of it as conversation-based performance feedback. You will probably find that this method will help advance the skill level of your team much more rapidly. These performance conversations can focus on serving the clients, embracing the firm’s core values, and more.

Eliminating those old-fashioned performance rating sheets will create a sigh of relief from everyone involved!

If you can’t eliminate the more structured performance feedback process, at least simplify the one you have. Try the Keep, Stop, Start method and perhaps give this feedback monthly.

  • Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
  • Steve Jobs

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Smile

“Don’t open a shop unless you know how to smile.” – Petteri Tarkkonen

Today’s quote certainly applies to accounting firms.

I have heard so many stories from CPA firm citizens about their partners. Here are a few:

  • Some of our partners never smile.
  • Partners don’t seem to have a sense of humor.
  • Some of our partners walk right by you in the hall and never even acknowledge you.
  • I wish all of our partners would simply say Good Morning.
  • I wish all of our partners would say thank-you more often.
  • When I was hired, they said they have an open-door policy but it seems like every time I need to talk to a partner they seem to be too busy.
  • I need to ask a partner a question but they never answer my emails.

Partners and managers, you may not have a lot to smile about during COVID, during tax season or when client expectations are unreasonable. Your team members don’t know what pressures you are under. That doesn’t mean you can’t smile and be congenial towards all of those people who are often suffering right along with you.

One of my favorite phrases, MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around) still applies. If some of your team are in the office, walk around and briefly check-in on them. The same applies to your remote workers. You can email, call or video chat with them and use the same words – – “How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Did you know that people can tell when you smile when answering the phone?

Smiling is part of simply being polite. Maybe your firm needs a Courtesy Policy.

  • Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.
  • Madame De Stael

Monday, January 25th, 2021

Bernie & What Digital Firms Request

“Focus on being productive instead of busy.” – Tim Ferriss

I think we have all enjoyed browsing the hundreds.. thousands… of Bernie memes. I know I had a lot of laughs these past few days.

Of course, the most meaningful Bernie meme, for all of us working in the CPA profession, comes from Shayna Brooke, Founder & Chief Strategist at Shaynaco LLC in Gallipolis, Ohio.

Shayna kindly allowed me to use her recent Facebook post for this blog. Here it is:

Just a reminder that you don’t have to bring your paper tax documents into our Shaynaco LLC office. We have secure web portals available for you to upload any documents and also retrieve documents from us!

  • Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take are of themselves.
  • Dale Carnegie

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Employee Engagement Matters – Flashback Friday

“Paychecks can’t buy passion.” – Brad Federman

To drive engagement, it’s simple, you have to be proactive.

Read this blog post from 2017 to learn about your three types of employees.

  • I always like to look on the optimistic side of life, but I am realistic enough to know that life is a complex matter.
  • Walt Disney

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Drama, Fear & Conflict

“Leaders do not avoid, repress, or deny conflict, but rather see it as an opportunity.” – Warren Bennis

Accountants, in general, are kind, caring, and sincere. They live their lives helping their clients become successful. They often have difficult conversations with their clients.

Inside their own CPA firm, they ignore conflict and avoid confrontation. Partners and managers often dodge conflict in the hopes that someone else will deal with it. Yet, they readily admit that there is way too much drama going on inside the firm.

Often the conflict is between two or more employees. However, the most troubling conflict is when employees actually fear one or more of the firm leaders, and other leaders hide from the drama, fear, and conflict.

Here’s a quote from Marlene Chism:

“If there are performance problems, workplace drama, or disruptive behaviors in your workplace, it’s because it’s been allowed. Avoiding difficult conversations causes a culture of dysfunction that affects every aspect of business.” – Marlene Chism

Read that quote again. From the mildest conflict to actual fear of an individual continues because IT’S BEEN ALLOWED.

Some issues eventually go away on their own but most do not. YOU must deal with it. Here’s a helpful article from Chism.

  • Difficulties mastered are opportunities won.
  • Winston Churchill