Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Head of Remote

“The mark of higher education isn’t the knowledge you accumulate in your head. It’s the skills you gain about how to learn.” – Adam Grant

Last year at this time, could you ever visualize needing a person with the title Head of Remote Work?

Darren Murph is Head of Remote for a software firm that has been all remote since 2012. He lives near the Outer Banks in North Carolina and the 700 other employees of the firm are sprinkled around the country. He believes that his title might be the next evolution of the COO (or, in the CPA world, the Practice Manager).

He wears many hats and what he does daily sounds a lot like what a current CPA firm practice manager (firm administrator) does. Other companies are also hiring people who can help the company make the transition to remote work.

What about your firm? For most, it seems, it will become a hybrid model where some work remotely all the time and some work remotely part of the time. It might make sense to have someone devoted to helping and coordinating remote workers so that the firm’s practice manager has more time to focus on the on-site workers and over-all firm initiatives.

It would take somebody with an HR background, strong communication skills and they need to also be highly skilled at technology.

Maybe it is something you should be thinking about. Read the informative article via The Washington Post.

  • Soft skills get little respect, but will make or break your career.
  • Peggy Klaus

Monday, December 14th, 2020

No Whining

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

For years, I have urged CPA firm team members to stop whining.

I guess you could say I have been whining about whining for years! Maybe I should take my own advice.

Last week, Seth Godin did a post on the topic of whining. Take a few minutes to read it here.

  • Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?
  • George Carlin

Friday, December 11th, 2020

Losing Sight

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

You are working remotely most of the time. You see others and interact through technology like Zoom and Teams but it just isn’t the same.

You might be feeling rather isolated whether you are a new hire, an intern or even a partner.

Don’t let acceptance and procrastination get you in their grip.

As a team member, keep focused on your career progression. How are you going to get to the next level? How can you be more visible to firm leaders? Are you volunteering for challenging assignments? Are you helping others when the opportunity arises? Do you speak up in video meetings? Are you asking questions that will further your knowledge and move your career forward?

As a leader, have you lost sight of the firm’s strategic plan? Have you put many important initiatives on hold until “all of this is over”? Have you become too comfortable with the more laid-back culture that has overtaken your firm? Have you been so focused on the work and your direct reports that you have ignored relationships with your other partners?

It is easy to lose sight of your important goals when things change so rapidly. Renew your energy, passion and engagement and encourage others to do the same.

  • It can take years to mold a dream. It takes only a fraction of a second for it to be shattered.
  • Mary E. Pearson

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Constantly Work on Your Communication

“Start from wherever you are and with whatever you’ve got.” – Jim Rohn

If you want your firm to be a place where communication flourishes, then you (no matter what your role) must constantly work on your own communication skills. Sometimes it is called the Art of Communication and that title is meaningful.

Per Jim Rohn, there are many tools available to you as you communicate; you just have to be aware of them and then use them purposefully. The better you become at using these tools, the better you’ll be at communicating.

You communicate through both verbal and nonverbal methods.

Verbal Communication:

Your Words – People will judge you by the words you use. Think about it.

Your Vocabulary – An expanded vocabulary will set you apart. If you are an avid reader and learner you are expanding your vocabulary daily. Keep it up.

Those are just two of the ways you communicate verbally. Also, consider Emotion and Enunciation.

Nonverbal Communication:

Your Hands – Use your hands, for sure but don’t go overboard.

Your Eyes – The eyes speak volumes. It bugs me when people don’t make eye contact.

Also, think about your arms and your speaking position.

Read more about each of these via the Jim Rohn site. You can find so much good information there.

A reminder: Follow me on Twitter for more CPA practice management topics.

  • Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.
  • Jim Rohn

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