Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

You Are Public. You Are a Professional

“Professional is not a label you give yourself – it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.” – David Maister

Here’s a recent tweet by @LeadersBest:

Every time you open your mouth to speak in public, you are representing yourself and displaying your character. Choose words carefully. Say what you mean… Mean what you say. Be clear and concise.

You are a CPA (Certified PUBLIC Accountant). You are not a CPA but you work in a CPA firm (not certified yet, accountants, administrative, HR, marketing, sales, training, etc.). Never forget that you are in the public eye. People listen to you when you talk, especially when you talk about your firm. They repeat things they hear about you and your firm.

If you whine to your golf group about your work or the firm, they will tell others. If you complain about a project you were assigned to your parents/spouse or other relatives, they will form an opinion about your firm and repeat it.

Never casually talk about a client to anyone outside your firm. What you say becomes public and people will repeat it and it will probably get back to your client.

CPAs and their team members are held to a higher standard than most. No matter what your role in a firm, you are a professional.

Warn your employees, the ones who frequently go out to lunch together, that they should not discuss a client in a public place where others might overhear what they say.

I like this definition of a professional: To most people, acting like a professional means working and behaving in such a way that others think of them as competent, reliable, and respectful. Professionals are a credit not only to themselves but also to others.

  • The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
  • Vidal Sasson

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Enduring Character

“Firmness in enduring and exertion is a character I always wish to possess. I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve.” – Robert Burns

I have observed, in some accounting firms, there is a disproportionate number of people who whine and complain.

Do you have “firmness in enduring and exertion” as a characteristic? Or, do you often find yourself doing what I call moaning and groaning about just about everything? I call it the Eeyore complex.

Even some therapists refuse to allow clients to complain endlessly. They have set time limits on how long a client can stay on a certain topic and have even declared some topics off-limits.

Some people whine because they are deeply distressed by something that they feel powerless to change. Could the whiners in your firm feel that way? Enhancing communication could be a partial cure.

One positive step would be to do an employee survey and seek out the issues that cause people to feel distressed and then take action on those issues.

If you catch yourself complaining, keep in mind nobody likes a complainer. If you don’t believe me, just Google “nobody likes a complainer.”

  • When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change he situation, or accept it. All else is madness.
  • Eckhart Tolle

Monday, June 22nd, 2020

What’s The Problem?

“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.” – Carl Jung

I had to smile at this tweet by Dan Rockwell (@Leadershipfreak):

I asked a group, “What aspects of work suck the life out of you?” Every response pointed to a “P” word – people.

  • Blabbermouths.
  • Office politics.
  • Disconnected management.
  • Constant tweaking.
  • Complainers.

Maybe you should ask the question to your team. It would have to be completely anonymous if you want people to be honest.

I don’t know how many times I have heard CPA partners say, “I just want to help clients. I don’t want to deal with all of the inside-the-firm people problems!”

So, what aspects of work suck the life out of you? If your answer is similar to the ones above, are you one of those people?

  • As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.
  • Andrew Carnegie

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

Strong/Weak

“Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” – Albert Einstein

Take a close look at your partner (owner) group.

What I hope you see is a balanced group. In some firms, all partners appear to be very similar. They went to the same schools, they live in the same suburb, they drive similar cars and even their family lives appear to be very similar.

In the office, I hope they are diverse. Partners become partners because they can’t possibly know everything themselves.

Of course, mid to large size firms have an audit partner, a tax partner, a business valuation partner, etc. But look a little deeper. Do they have a partner who cannot possibly have a tough conversation with an employee? That’s okay if they have a partner who is very at ease at giving bad news or critical feedback. Do they have a partner that is a strong negotiator where other partners are not?

A successful partner group has members who are strong where others are weak, partners who are weak where others are strong. It applies to technical expertise and also to personal behaviors.

  • Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
  • Thomas Edison

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Your Remote Workforce

“Engaged employees are the name of the game if your firm wants to hold on to talent.” – Sandra Wiley

Not that long ago, it was very important to CPA owners (partners) to be able to SEE people working. I always called it the “butts in seats” mentality. If a seat was empty in a cubicle or a manager didn’t appear in their office on a certain day, they were not working!

We have seen gradual change in that thinking in recent years and then in 2020 the big game-changer happened.

Now, partner and managers are faced with the never-before task of Normalizing Remote Work. That is the title of a recent article by Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting.

Per Wiley:

As many firms have learned over the past couple of months, working with remote teams isn’t as simple as handing everyone a laptop. If having your employees working from home recently was challenging, the problem was likely a failure to set expectations rather than remote work itself.

With a remote team, you’re forced to set objectives and establish key performance indicators and communication frameworks. You can’t measure an employee’s productivity by the fact that you’ve seen them working long hours in the office. It’s easy to feel like your on-site team has accountability for just showing up, but directions are less tangible when people are working off-site.

Be sure to read Wiley’s entire article to learn some strategies and tools you should consider when establishing your remote work policies.

  • Accomplishing the impossible means only the boss will add it to your regular duties.
  • Doug Larson

Monday, June 15th, 2020

Followership & Servant Leadership

“Power should be reserved for weightlifting and boats, and leadership really involves responsibility. – Herb Kelleher

I have written about the importance of followership and servant leadership on a few occasions. Most recently on May 18, 2020.

Over my many years working in public accounting, I have observed many outstanding leaders who were, in their formative years, excellent followers. I have also observed many partner teams who were missing good followers.

Last week, I read an excellent article by Sharlyn Lauby (@HRBartender) titled: Servant Leadership: Excellent Leaders are Good Followers.

She shares a quote by a leader I always admired, Herb Kelleher – “To be an excellent leader, you have to be a superb follower.”

Lauby gives us some background on servant leadership and the importance of followership as part of that.

Read her article to learn more about Robert Greenleaf who is credited with starting Servant Leadership. Also, learn more about some basic competencies associated with servant leadership.

  1. Commitment to developing people
  2. Empathy
  3. Listening
  4. Conceptualization
  5. Foresight
  6. Awareness

When it is time to choose a new partner or a successor for your current managing partner, consider their followership and servant leadership skills.

  • Don't assume, because you are intelligent, able, and well-motivated, that you are open to communication, that you know how to listen.
  • Robert Greenleaf

Monday, June 8th, 2020

The Worst

“The worst solitude is to have no real friendships.” – Francis Bacon

As a leader in your CPA firm, do you always consider the worst thing that could happen?

Decisions are deferred because the partner group is afraid of risk. New policies are not implemented because someone might complain.

I offer this quote from Agatha Christie in her novel The Pale Horse:

“Always envision the worst. You’ve no idea how that steadies the nerves. You begin at once to be sure it can’t be as bad as what you might imagine.”

Most decisions made in a CPA firm are not life or death. What’s the worst that could happen? Will someone die? Of course not.

A new idea is approved. Someone complains. Keep in mind that someone will complain no matter what you do.

If the new idea/policy/procedure turns out to be a flop. Simply say, “Oh well, that didn’t work out very well. Let’s try something else.”

(Note: The Pale Horse on Amazon Prime right now is absolutely nothing like the novel. Read the novel.)

  • I am as bad as the worst, but, thank God, I am as good as the best.
  • Walt Whitman

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020

It Takes More Than An Email

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

Accounting firms have been faced with introducing a lot of new technologies recently. Some of it has been in almost an emergency mode.

But think back to how a new technology task was rolled-out BEFORE you were faced with COVID. I have observed that the technology team in accounting firms and the accountants speak two different languages.

Maybe the new technology task is something simple like how to log-in and work remotely. The IT team carefully put together a lengthy and elaborate email to explain how to do it. Simple.

Because the accountants didn’t quite understand all of the detailed instructions in the email, they emailed back with questions. The tech team answered, another email and another answer…. another email (of course “to all”) and another answer.

After about five or six back-and-forths, most people will just quit reading the emails.

Anytime you are implementing a new policy or procedure, whether it is about technology or tax processing, it takes more than an email. Communicate in person. Invite small groups of people to be trained face-to-face. You can do this using Zoom for your remote workers.

When you are all back in the office and can meet in larger groups, have the person responsible for the new tech, tax, or office procedure lead the session and answer all questions. Again, it takes more than an email.

  • I was training to be an electrician. I suppose I got wired the wrong way round somewhere along the line.
  • Elvis Presley

Monday, June 1st, 2020

Oh, No! Another Meeting!

“Meetings are a symptom of bad organization. The fewer the meetings the better.” – Peter Drucker

I hate to admit it but I write about this topic very often. The trouble is, this problem never seems to go away or even improve.

Right now, rather than in-person meetings at the firm, people are becoming exhausted because of too many ZOOM meetings! I hear this from many people who are now working remotely.

This topic has been addressed, very humorously by Dilbert, on many occasions:

Boss: We’re having a meeting to discuss employee retention.

Dilbert: Tell them that employees quit because there are too many useless meetings.

Boss: We won’t be getting into reasons at the first meeting.

Seriously, does your firm have too many meetings? It is an on-going danger inside CPA firms because:

  • Partners want to be sure they are communicating with everyone.
  • Partners want to show their people that they care about their opinion.
  • Partners and managers think that what they discuss is of interest to everyone.
  • Partners have a strong “need to know” about way too many things!
  • Partners think they have to be in on every decision.

Some suggestions:

  • Don’t make most meetings mandatory.
  • Invite and involve fewer people.
  • Invite and involve the right people.
  • Be sure the technology works for everyone.
  • Always have an agenda.
  • Set an end time and stick to it.
  • Leave the meeting with Action Steps.

If you involve people in meetings that are important and they don’t talk or contribute. Don’t invite or involve them again.

The most recent story I heard is that one manager had so many ZOOM meetings that she had to actually conduct the meetings in a closet because it was so disturbing to the rest of her family because her spouse and even her children were also working online.

  • A meeting is an event where minutes are taken and hours wasted.
  • James T. Kirk

Friday, May 29th, 2020

The Power of Recognition

“I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks.” – William Shakespeare

This week for my Friday Flashback post, I hope you will take a few minutes to read about the importance of “Hello. Good Morning. Thank-you.”

It’s a post from April 2014 and it still applies today. You might even find the 3-minute video helpful that is referenced in the post.

You are probably beginning to welcome people back into the office. Keep in mind that your people need appreciation and recognition, in person, and also when they are working remotely.

Have a great weekend.

  • We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.
  • Cynthia Ozick