Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

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

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

Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Stealing Your People

“Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.” – T. S. Eliot

It’s been going on for decades. There are people who get paid to help you steal people from your competitors.

Most of them are incentivized recruiters who use all types of methods to find experienced accountants who might be dissatisfied with their current employment status.

Recently, I heard a discussion among practice managers (firm administrators), that one firm did not feature their team members on their website because it made it easier for head-hunters to find people to contact and entice them away. Others agreed that it was a good idea.

I do not agree. I believe there are more benefits to featuring your team on your website than dangers. Featuring them is saying that you are proud of them and that they are qualified professionals taking care of your clients. It is also a boost for your administrative team. Your new hires (recent college graduates) are thrilled to be able to tell their relatives and friends that they should check out your website and see their picture.

If you are losing people to recruiters, it is your fault.

  • Maybe your culture isn’t clearly defined and protected.
  • Maybe you have an abusive partner/manager or two.
  • Maybe everyone is not living up to the firm’s published core values.
  • Maybe you aren’t keeping pace with salaries for your different levels of experience.
  • Maybe the communication within your firm is poor. It’s the one I hear the most about!
  • And maybe, as leaders, you simply are not saying, “Thank you for your efforts,” enough.

If you are losing good people, look in the mirror.

  • He who steals a little steals with the same wish as he who steals much, but with less power.
  • Plato

Wednesday, November 18th, 2020

More Important Than Ever

“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Will Rogers

Websites are on my mind today. When comes to promoting your firm, yourself, and your people, your website is more important than ever.

As you might guess, I constantly look at CPA firm websites. If you ever send me an email or if your firm is ever in the news, you can bet I will be perusing your website.

There are still a significant number of firms that have not taken action on updating their website. It appears that it has been the same for the last ten or fifteen years. You can tell immediately when you hit their site. When I ‘hit’ one, it makes me sad.

In these times of no meeting and greeting potential clients in person, the only impression they get of you is from your website. Someone should be managing your website daily. You need current articles and high-quality pictures of your partners and other leaders. Your site needs to give the impression that you are modern, future-focused, and extremely knowledgeable. If your website says (without using words) that you are an “old school” firm, you are in trouble.

For progressive firms, a significant number of new clients come to the firm because of their website. How many are coming to your firm because they simply looked at your website and were impressed?

  • You only get one chance to make a good first impression, and yours may be in the hands of the receptionist.
  • Harvey Mackay

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Difficult Clients

“Respect is for those who deserve not for those who demand it.” – Paulo Coelho

In CPA management circles, we have talked and talked about how to deal with difficult clients. Here is a flashback post for this Friday that will give you some solutions.

Upfront, be sure to train your clients. Of course, you know what the final solution is – help them find another accounting firm!

Your team members are way too valuable to be harassed and degraded by rude and unnecessarily demanding clients.

  • I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.
  • Albert Einstein

Wednesday, November 11th, 2020

Hiring & Managing People

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

I certainly enjoyed being involved in the CPAFMA Accelerator Sessions this week. It was such an honor to be on the agenda both days with some very awesome people. The Accelerator sessions caused me to think about my own list of current issues and trends.

  • The digital transformation of work has finally arrived. It is amazing how much firms accomplished in such a short time.
  • Firm leaders have realized that a hybrid model that combines in-person and remote work actually works well and it will permanently lower the number of people in the office.
  • It has been widely discussed that firms will be reducing the amount of office space. Some have already begun this process. See the next bullet.
  • About 77% of respondents to the third-quarter AICPA Business & Industry Economic Outlook Survey said they planned to keep their office square footage. Only about 18% planned a reduction, despite the potential savings.
  • The pandemic caused us to reset and rethink the ways we hire and manage people. A demand for thorough hiring that is probably different from how you have always done it. Interview questions that provide you with meaningful information will become more important. You will need to train your interviewers.
  • Hiring & managing remote people should be done in a consistent manner. You might soon see a new position in your firm “Head of Remote Work” – larger firms already have positions like chief people officer or chief culture officer.
  • Look for people who can self-manage
  • Prospective employees may be talented – people are born with various talents – but are they able to use their talent to build the skills necessary to be successful in public accounting?
  • Trust on both sides – partners & staff – will become even more important.
  • CPA firms are looking for experienced people. One reason is that they aren’t prepared to hire new college grads who are completely green – they haven’t developed a plan on how to train them yet. Some firms have already mastered this!
  • Don't criticize, condemn, or complain.
  • Dale Carnegie