Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Working Remotely Works

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell

I recently noticed a discussion on the CPAFMA discussion board. Someone wanted guidance on designing a remote work policy.  Some firms are really strict about having a documented agreement that outlines the do’s and don’ts of staff working remotely.

I thought a great reply was provided by my friend, Donna Marlarkey, Firm Administrator for KWC in Alexandria, Virginia. The firm doesn’t stress that working remotely is a privilege, it is something offered to everyone. Here is Donna’s reply to the question.

donnaWe have so many staff who work remotely… some even work from other states (we have them in NC, Colorado, North Dakota and Rhode Island). Our staff loves the flexibility of working from home when they need to. We try not to get wound up in whether it is a right or a privilege… as long as the employee is getting their work done.

The courtesy is extended to everyone… from Partners to our administrative staff (to the extent admin staff has work they can do remotely, like billing, setting up new clients, etc.). We are on a cloud and we are mostly paperless, so working from home is no different than working here at the office. We do ask that they update the EIO board to let us know when they intend to work from home so that we can plan for it (the EIO board “electronic in/out” status site that we use to know where our staff are and what their schedule is). 

I had lunch with someone the other day who used to be with BB&T and they worked under the presumption it was a privilege. They made staff sign annual statements that showed their kids were enrolled in daycare, and they had some kind of program that could tell by the lack of keystrokes whether someone was working or not… if someone was home “working” they were supposed to be working, not going to the store, doing laundry, etc.

Our firm takes the position that we want to be competitive, so we want our staff to have options to have work/life balance, so again, as long as the work is getting done, we let them control their schedule. It’s surprising how many of our young staff prefer to work at really odd hours… they will log in at 10:00 at night when they are most productive! 

I wish you all the best with coming up with an agreement that works for you and your firm.

I agree with Donna – I also wish you much success in offering remote work opportunities to your staff.

  • Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too.
  • Voltaire

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Flashback Friday – Keep Focused

“Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.” – Jim Rohn

As you become more experienced you might get distracted by various activities outside the firm. Don’t take your eye off the ball. 

Have a great week-end.

  • If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.
  • Jim Rohn

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

Fight Your Urge to Procrastinate

“Indecision and delays are the parents of failure.” – George Canning

You are working your way through some strategic planning with your partners. An item comes up that has been discussed on many occasions. One or more participants might say:

  • “Let’s put that one in the parking lot for later.”
  • “It is too late in the year to take that one on.”
  • “We can’t deal with that now, let’s wait until after tax season.”

It is the procrastination dance that many accountants know all too well.

From Psychology Today:

Everyone puts things off until the last minute sometimes, but procrastinators chronically avoid difficult tasks and deliberately look for distractions. Procrastination in large part reflects our perennial struggle with self-control as well as our inability to accurately predict how we’ll feel tomorrow, or the next day. “I don’t feel like it” takes precedence over goals; however, it then begets a downward spiral of negative emotions that deter future effort.

Procrastinators may say they perform better under pressure, but more often than not that’s their way of justifying putting things off. The bright side? It’s possible to overcome procrastination—with effort. Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.

I hope you quickly address items that need to be resolved. Either deal with it or take it off the table permanently.

  • Procrastination is the bad habit of putting of until the day after tomorrow what should have been done the day before yesterday.
  • Napoleon Hill

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Hold People Accountable

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

If your partners and managers do a poor job of giving feedback, a culture of accountability probably does not exist.

Many accountants (because they are nice people) are uncomfortable giving feedback even when it is needed desperately.

If you procrastinate on giving feedback when people don’t meet deadlines or are not punctual, others observe and assume deadlines can be pushed back a week and it’s okay to be late for a staff meeting.

The more feedback you give, the easier it becomes. Make it part of your daily MBWA (manage by wandering around).

This also applies to partners and managers. They must be accountable to those they supervise. I have always been fond of a partner commitment statement I learned from Sam Allred: “I will do what I say I will do, on time, without reminders.”

  • Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders.
  • Tom Peters

Monday, August 20th, 2018

Adulting

“When I came into my adulthood, I recognized how fortunate I was to be doing what I loved to do.” – Laurence Fishburne

Have you heard the term, adulting? If you are a millennial, I am sure you have but older bosses might not be so savvy.

The term #Adulting is a hashtag – a social media thing and it is used often by millennials to indicate they did something an adult does, like their own laundry.

There are a lot of experts out there who have had enough of the word. They believe it is actually self-demeaning for millennials (some almost 40 years old) to use it.

Read this interesting article via Cosmopolitan titled “Shut the Hell Up About ‘Adulting’.”

Here’s an excerpt to give you a flavor for the situation:

My boss is an older Millennial who gives me a lot of responsibility at work. She trusts me to manage our interns, make sure reports are sent out to higher-ups, and that her schedule is always up to date. I’m not going to look capable of any of those things if I act like going to the grocery store alone is “adulting,” my biggest accomplishment yet. I want even more responsibility than I have now, and I’m not going to get there by acting like I need a pat on the back for brushing my teeth and showing up to work on time. 

At your firm, I hope you are always treating your millennials like adults. Talk to them about this topic. I am optimistic that most accounting degreed, younger professionals are already acting like adults.

  • Part of adulthood is searching for the people who understand you.
  • Hanya Yanagihara

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Flashback Friday – What’s In It For Me?

“You have to water the flowers you want to grow.” – Stephen Covey

If you are considering taking on the role of Mentor. Or, if you are a Mentee looking for a Mentor – what’s in it for you?

Here’s a post from 2016 that explains the benefits of both roles.

Have a great weekend!

  • To add value to others, one must first value others.
  • John Maxwell

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

We Are Like Family – Maybe Not

“What people really want advice on is the interpersonal weirdness that comes with having a job.” – Alison Green

As I read an article via The New York Times – Your Workplace Isn’t Your Family (and That’s Ok!), I definitely thought about how the article should be read by many of you working inside accounting firms.

The article is an interview with Alison Green, author of a book titled: Ask a Manager: How to Navigate Clueless Colleagues, Lunch-Stealing Bosses, and the Rest of Your Life at Work.

I have heard it over and over from firms of varying sizes over many years – “we are like family.” I have always struggled with this topic. I have seen it used to avoid difficult conversations and to justify continuing to employ a poor performer over a long period of time. I have also seen it used to make unreasonable demands like working unreasonable hours and even seven days per week.

As you work at your accounting firm, always remember that this is business, not family, no matter what some people might think.

From the author: I want people to know it’s all right to treat work like work. We’re being paid to be there, and most of us wouldn’t show up otherwise. We don’t need to pretend that’s not the case.

Employment, underneath it all, is a contractual situation. It is a transaction:  I pay you and you do the work. You pay me and I do the work.

Be sure to read the article/interview.

  • There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.
  • Colin Powell

Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

You Are Good With Numbers But Can You Write?

“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.” – Jack Kerouac

I have observed that many CPAs in public practice do not like to write articles. They seem to love numbers more than words.

I have also observed that there is usually one or two partners who do have a talent for writing. The best ones are those who can explain complex tax and accounting issues so that their average client can better understand the topic and actually appreciate the information.

Many CPA firm marketing directors have voiced their great frustration with the “write an article for our newsletter” dance. The partner promises to write an article for the next issue. The Marketer begins nagging about two weeks before the deadline and continues to nag right up until the drop-dead date for publication. The partner always has a good excuse…. “give me one more day” is the battle cry.

CPAs who write for their firm newsletter – when you volunteer to write an article, write it immediately and side-step the drama.

Offer your articles to your local business newspaper. They are often looking for tax and accounting articles. Articles can be repurposed. Use them for blog posts!

If you want to build your personal reputation – write, write, write.

  • Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
  • Benjamin Franklin

Monday, July 30th, 2018

Credulous

“I can’t tell you the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”  – Ed Sheeran

You are in a leadership role in a CPA firm. You are charged with managing a significant number of people. It’s not easy.

An admin person comes to you to make you aware of a troubling situation with another admin team member.

A staff person comes to you to complain about one of your long-time managers.

A manager comes to you to complain about a first-year staff person.

A couple of managers come to you to let you know that the latest modification to the tax flow procedures is not being well received by a lot of staff members.

Are you too credulous? Do thorough research before acting.

Often, inside busy accounting firms, a change is made and one (yes, one) person complains about the change and partners overreact and might even change things back….. just because one person complained.

You can’t please everyone. I like this quote attributed to Aristotle: “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”  

  • You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all of the time.
  • (Poet John Lydgate as made famous by Abraham Lincoln).

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Drama at the Office

“Don’t waste words on people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.” – Mandy Hale

Some words about drama from Seth Godin’s recent post hit home with me. I have observed SO MUCH drama inside CPA firms, when I worked at one and as I have consulted with many.

Here’s an excerpt from Godin’s post titled, Two Ways to Solve a Problem and Provide a Service.

With drama. Make sure the customer knows just how hard you’re working, what extent you’re going to in order to serve. Make a big deal out of the special order, the additional cost, the sweat and the tears.

Without drama. Make it look effortless.

Talking behind people’s backs, gossiping, cliques, whining, blaming others are just a few of the descriptors. Stop doing it. You are not in high school anymore.

If you must vent, do it outside the office. If you are tempted to send a quick, harsh reply to an email, wait an hour before you type.

Most drama could be reduced if you made it a rule to avoid triangulation. That means if you have an issue with someone, talk only to them and don’t involve a third party.

Reduce the drama inside your firm by practicing The Four Agreements.

  • What is drama but life with the dull bits cut out.
  • Alfred Hitchcock