Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Person Fits The Job

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” – Ken Blanchard

It has always amazed me how some CPA firm leaders go to great lengths to avoid firing a person.

Francine, a bookkeeper, has been with the firm 15 years but she has never really embraced the technology that is currently needed for her role.

Fred, a 3-year staff person, has struggled to understand and prepare tax returns.

Bobbi, the administrative assistant focused on the tax area, performs the final processing of tax returns before they leave the firm. Her work has to be continually reviewed “just in case.”

The partners are aware of the shortcomings but rather than be completely honest with the employee, they agree that they should create a different role where Francine, Fred or Bobbi might fit.

Rather than looking at a specific, important role in the firm and finding the appropriate person to fill it, partners struggle to establish a role that a poor performing employee might be able to fill. This way they won’t have to outplace someone.

Are you really doing them a favor?

  • The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.
  • Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Immediate Feedback

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

I have been recommending it for years. Many firms seem to have difficulty implementing it (doing what they say they will do). I’m talking about immediate feedback.

Our younger generation of workers wants immediate feedback at the push of a button. They do not want to wait for an annual performance feedback session or even a quarterly feedback session.

That’s why I loved a recent post by Ed Mendlowitz – Uberize Staff Evaluations:

Uber passengers are asked to evaluate their ride as soon as they get out of the car, and the drivers are also asked to evaluate the riders immediately. This seems like it would be a good idea for accounting firms.

Bruce Tulgan calls it “hands-on management.” Managers touch base with those they manage on a daily basis. Accounting firm managers need to improve and be more proactive with their people-management skills. Read Tulgan’s book, It’s Okay to Be the Boss.

As Mendlowitz and Tulgan (and I) suggest, keep it simple. I still hear stories of beginners preparing a tax return and hearing back from a manager or partner three (or more) weeks later that they did something wrong.

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Expand Your Phrases

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

Do you use the same, stale phrases to attempt to motivate people? One of the standards is, “Just do your best.” When you say that it seems like you really don’t expect much and you are abandoning them.

Suzanne Lucas, @RealEvilHRLady, gives us Ten Things to Say Instead of “Do Your Best” in a recent post for Inc.

If you want to motivate people to do the right kind of work, here are ten phrases you should use instead.

  1. I know you’ll do a great job.
  2. Let me know what resources you need to accomplish this.
  3. We have a strict deadline for X. It will be impossible to do this perfectly in this amount of time. I trust your judgment on which corners to cut.
  4. Let me know what help you need to get this project done. I’m happy to help.
  5. I know you’re concerned that you lack the skills to do this, but I know you can figure it out. I’m here as support.
  6. This project is critical, and it needs your top attention. Make it your priority and let me know what you need to drop.
  7. This is new, and we’re not quite sure how to accomplish it, but I know you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to figure it out. 
  8. This isn’t a huge priority. It does need to get done, but don’t stress out over it.
  9. Give it your best shot, and we’ll correct any errors later.
  10. I just need a rough draft/estimate/outline/whatever.

The reality inside CPA firms is that you do expect a lot from them AND you are not abandoning them. You are there to advise and train.

  • It's not enough to just do your best. You must continue to improve your best."
  • Kenneth Wayne Wood

Friday, September 27th, 2019

It’s Friday – Clean Up Your Emails

“No one got rich checking their email more often.” – Noah Kagan

I have heard it for years. Now, I hear it more from Baby Boomers working at accounting firms.

“I have so many emails! I just can’t keep up.”

Younger generations have found other ways to make contact. One Boomer partner’s comment to me: “My clients are texting me! I can’t deal with that!”

I have known some CPA partners and managers who almost think it is a badge of courage to say they have 1,500 emails in the inbox! Or, “I get 200 emails per day!”

Do you have hundreds in your firm email inbox? Go ahead, delete them all in one bold action and start over.

I like the efficiency practice I learned years ago in dealing with paper items sitting in a physical inbox sitting on your desk. It applies to email now.

Look at the item. You have three choices.

  1. Delegate it.
  2. Deal with it immediately.
  3. Throw it in the trash.

Have a great fall weekend.

 

  • Email is having an increasingly pernicious effect. Not only is it having a perceptible effect on productivity, it's skewing what it is we focus on. The immediate increasingly crowds out the important.
  • Noreena Hertz

Thursday, September 26th, 2019

Men Mentoring Women

“Colleagues are a wonderful thing – but mentors, that’s where the real work gets done.” — Junot Diaz

If you have followed me for a while, or know me personally, you know that I have been a loud voice on the topic of mentoring inside a CPA firm.

I believe it is the foundation of the CPA profession – an older, more experienced person advises and teaches a younger, less experienced person (a new college graduate). That’s the way most CPAs learned their trade.

I attribute all I know and have achieved to having other people mentor, advise, coach and teach me. Almost all of my mentors were men.

In light of the MeToo era, men are becoming hesitant and even confused about how to appropriately mentor younger (or even not-so-young) females.

It is important to initially establish comfort levels and establish boundaries. Here’s an excerpt from a recent post by @leadershipfreak  (How men overcome discomfort mentoring women) as he interviews Joan Kuhl:

Joan Kuhl, author of Dig Your Heels In, offers three practical suggestions for men who feel uncomfortable mentoring women.

  1. You can’t have different rules for men and women. You might prefer public spaces or coffee shops for mentoring conversations. If you take male mentees to sporting events, you must include female mentees.
  2. Establish trust from the start. Be willing to listen to hard feedback about company culture.
  3. Focus on goals and skills. Make the relationship development specific to the business.

Be sure to read the entire post and also watch the video of the interview. It can be used for education/training inside your own firm. Mentoring matters! You don’t want to lose mentoring opportunities just because people are wondering how to proceed.

  • Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, September 17th, 2019

Deal With Toxic People

“If you put good apples into a bad situation, you’ll get bad apples.” – Philip Zimbardo

I am continually amazed at how many accounting firm leaders tolerate toxic employees.

Over the years, it is one of the issues that I discover inside many firms both large and small. It is the classic case where someone’s work product is fine but almost all of their peers dislike them and even fear them. In some cases, the offender ignores firm guidelines and openly belittles people.

They seem to serve the clients okay, but do you know for sure? Have talented people left your firm because you continually protect the “Attila the Hun” personality type?

Now is the time to deal with it before you get into another busy season.

I have blogged about this topic often hoping it will inspire leaders to deal with bad apples. Yet, the situations still seems to flourish. Here’s an informative article from HBR that might convince you to take action – How One Corrupt Employee Can a Whole Team.

  • Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
  • Epicurus

Thursday, September 12th, 2019

Brag About Your Team

“If you done it, it ain’t bragging.” – Walt Whitman

Normally, I would say it’s not good manners to brag. That is not always true.

In the accounting profession, I often find that people DO NOT brag enough!

I especially urge women to “toot your own horn” because men tend to do it much more often than women. Be proud of what you have accomplished.

When it comes to your team, let them know they are very valuable to the firm. One way you can do this is to have a brag book in your lobby.

I am sure you have received compliments from clients about your team members. Some clients even send a letter to the firm communicating their appreciation of the people they work with at your firm. Maybe they send a personal email to individual partners about the good work done by the team.

Make it a project to gather all these types of compliments (in writing), print them out and make a scrapbook to put in your lobby. Give it a fancy cover and title. You might be surprised how many people will look at it. Even co-workers don’t often hear about these kinds of compliments.

Another way is to have the video screen in your lobby scroll through pictures of the team with quotes extracted from communications from clients. Such as, “Joe, was such a pleasure to work with.”

Why not do both… paper and digital communication that you are so proud of your team and want to brag about them.

  • Bragging is not an attractive trait, but let's be hones. A man who catches a big fish doesn't go home through an alley.
  • Ann Landers

Wednesday, September 11th, 2019

Become a Chief Retention Officer

“People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.” – Marcus Buckingham

One way to solve the problem of finding and hiring top talent is to be sure you don’t lose the top talent you already have.

You are well aware of the time, effort and dollars you spend trying to find and hire a qualified candidate. That is why it just makes sense to focus on making all partners and managers Chief Retention Officers.

How do you do that? Have them all read First, Break All the Rules by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman. The authors contend that employees leave managers, not companies. I strongly believe that this is the case in CPA firms. Buckingham and Coffman offer 12 questions that can be used to measure the core elements needed to attract, develop and retain the next generation of CPA firm leaders.

The questions are:

1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
2. Do I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right?
3. At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
4. In the last seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work?
5. Does my supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about me as a person?
6. Is there someone at work who encourages both my personal and my career development?
7. At work, do my opinions seem to count?
8. Does the mission/purpose of my company make me feel my job is important?
9. Are my co-workers committed to doing quality work?
10. Do I have a best friend at work?
11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to me about my progress?
12. This last year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow?

After this fall busy season is over, equip your leaders with these questions and have them meet and talk with the people they supervise. In addition to the questions, be sure your partners/managers can describe what a talented professional’s career path looks like.

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

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Transparency

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama

A couple of basics that your staff desires are inclusion and transparency. They want to know about and be included in what is discussed behind-closed-doors in the partner meetings.

To attract and keep top talent, you need to figure out how to inform and involve them.

Daniel Hood of Accounting Today recently wrote a very informative article – 10 Staff Questions Firms Should Answer Right Now.

Here are the 10 Questions – be sure to read the article to learn more about each one. These are IMPORTANT questions!

  1. How is the firm doing?
  2. What is the firm doing?
  3. What does this mean for me?
  4. What can I do here?
  5. Hoe do I do that
  6. What does a partner make?
  7. How long does it take to make partner?
  8. Will the firm be around in 10 years?
  9. What will it look like? Can I make a suggestion?
  • Speak the truth. Transparency breeds legitimacy.
  • John Maxwell

Wednesday, September 4th, 2019

Build Your Brand – Be Visible

“The power of visibility can never be underestimated.” – Margaret Cho

You have heard it over and over in recent years, you have to be visible on social media to attract and retain clients.

Yes, I agree with that. But, I ask more of you!

Don’t forget the old fashioned way. You must be visible in your business community – up close and personal.

Each person working at your CPA firm helps build a reputation for the FIRM. Remember those elevator speeches (describing what you do in 30 seconds)? Are you still teaching your newest team members how to do that? Remember, when someone asks you where you work you don’t say, “I work for an accounting firm.” You say, “I work for Acme CPA firm, the fastest-growing, most knowledgeable and progressive CPA firm in town! I am on the tax team.” Each person crafts their own story.

All your partners and managers should be involved in a charitable or community organization and eventually take a leadership position in that organization.

A basic visibility activity that partners sometimes forget – you eat lunch outside the office every day. Eat lunch with a client, a banker, an attorney or with another person from the firm. Dine at the most popular business lunch place in town where you will be seen by clients, bankers, and attorneys.

An on-going motto for the firm – “Let’s get visible!”

  • A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labor and there is invisible labor.
  • Victor Hugo