Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

Tuesday, July 21st, 2020

COOs, Firm Administrators, Marketing & HR Directors

“That leadership is influence, nothing more nothing less”.  – John Maxwell

In the CPA firm world, if you are a support professional such as a firm administrator/practice manager, COO, HR director, marketing director, or chief information officer, you are not a partner in the firm.

Yet, you are a leader and although you might not have the power that goes along with being a partner, you have something that is just as powerful. You have influence. You gain influence by being a role model.

You can accomplish just as much, and probably more, with influence as the partners can with power. You use positive affirmation and encouragement to get people to do things and to buy-in to change.

You lead with influence by getting to know people. You are the one who knows everyone’s name, their spouse’s name, and even their kids’ names. You always have a positive attitude. You are a mentor to others, officially and unofficially. Recognizing people is something you continually do.

You also use your great power of influence in an upward manner. You might not be able TO MAKE partners change but you can apply constant, gentle, pressure to influence them to change. It works!

So, don’t worry about power. Utilize the influence you have and use it to your advantage and to move your firm and its people forward.

  • Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means.
  • Albert Einstein

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

How Do You Come Across?

“Let us be more simple and less vain.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I recently read an eye-opening article via HBR titled, “Working with People Who Aren’t Self-Aware.” Guess what? It describes many people I have met in the CPA profession!

How many of your partners are not self-aware? HBR discovered that although 95% of people think they are self-aware, only 10 to 15% actually are.

A staff person in a client firm described a partner as being un-self-aware. The partner talked too much, just constant chatter about his ideas and opinions that were more important than anyone else’s. In a two-person conversation with this partner, you could turn your back, go back to work on your computer and the partner would simply continue to talk, talk, talk, never realizing that you had heard enough!

Some of your un-self-aware team members can be helped. First, find out how others feel so you can determine if they are really unaware.

Here’s a list from the article:

  • They won’t listen to, or accept, critical feedback.
  • They cannot empathize with, or take perspective of, others.
  • They have difficulty “reading a room” and tailoring their message to their audience.
  • They possess an inflated opinion of their contributions and performance.
  • They are hurtful to others without realizing it.
  • They take credit for successes and blame other for failures.

There is a big difference between the unaware and the Aware-Don’t-Care individuals. Read the entire article to see if you can help the people in your firm who are not self-aware. You might not cure them but you can minimize their impact.

I believe most CPAs are self-aware and care about others. The people who are Aware-Don’t-Care people usually don’t last long in an accounting firm.

  • Humility is nothing but truth, and pride is nothing but lying.
  • St. Vincent de Paul

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020

Take Care of Your People

“Your employees come first. And if you treat your employees right, guess what? Your customers come back, and that makes your shareholders happy. Start with employees and the rest follows from that.” – Herb Kelleher

I have often written about Herb Kelleher and I used his quotes often in the many presentations I did over the years. The reason is…… he believed in taking care of your people!

It has been very trying times. Your people have done the best they could with the situation that was forced upon them. They worked (and are working) diligently to serve clients fully and passionately.

As a firm leader, it your job to not only take care of clients but also take care of your people. Don’t put them at a lower position on your priority list.

Let them know you care. Let them know you appreciate how hard they are working. Let them see you… use video chats. Some employees would be simply amazed if they got a video invitation from the managing partner.

Other non-CPA professionals… marketing directors, HR directors, firm administrators, technology leaders… touch base with individual team members whenever possible. It would be good for them and also good for you. You don’t want them to forget you exist!

Show your team (and our peers) your passion for life and work. Show them your kindness, your sense of humor and your sense of true teamwork.

How about just simply sending individual emails to team members thanking them for being on your team?

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

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Business Development

“Great salespeople are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Times have changed and the pandemic has caused marketers to rethink their activities and strategies.

Sales calls are becoming a thing of the past. Plus, a prospective client already knows SO MUCH about the firm because they study your website and check you out on social media.

In a very informative article in the July issue of Inside Public Accounting (I hope you have read your copy), Carrie Steffen, founder, and president of The Whetstone Group says relationships can be nurtured even if meetings aren’t in person.

  • Check in with clients (use Zoom)
  • Check in with prospects and referral sources (organize a virtual networking lunch).
  • Move forward (if a prospect check-in meeting goes well, pursue the relationship further).
  • Use technology (be proficient with your video software – no fumbling around! Email is also still a good tool.)
  • Find profitable opportunities. (Revisit your definition of an “A” client and match prospects to the profile.)

Read the entire article for much more information. It is titled, Business Development In A Recession: Outrun The Competition With A Digital Strategy And Strong Relationships

  • Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
  • Thomas Jefferson

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