Archive for the ‘Crafting Your Career’ Category

Friday, December 4th, 2020

Dress Code – It’s Still Business

“You can have anything you want in life if you dress for it.” – Edith Head

Lighten up, it’s Friday. The following comes from Suzanne Lucas (@RealEvilHRLady)

It seems a Judge in Florida was fed up with how attorneys appeared for hearings (via Zoom). The following was added to the Bar Association’s website as a pop-up message.

One comment that needs sharing and that is the judges would appreciate it if the lawyers and their clients keep in mind these Zoom hearings are just that: hearings. They are not casual phone conversations. It is remarkable how many ATTORNEYS appear inappropriately on camera. We’ve seen many lawyers in casual shirts and blouses, with no concern for ill-grooming, in bedrooms with the master bed in the background, etc. One male lawyer appeared shirtless and one female attorney appeared still in bed, still under the covers. And putting on a beach cover-up won’t cover up you’re poolside in a bathing suit. So, please, if you don’t mind, let’s treat court hearings as court hearings, whether Zooming or not.

Per Lucas: “Work is still work. yes, this is an abnormal situation. Yes, you should be forgiving of employees with childcare issues, or space issues, but it’s still work.

Today is Friday, maybe you can consider it casual Friday. Remember those days? They seem so long ago. Stay safe and enjoy your weekend.

Read the entire article here.

Just for fun – The 80 Greatest Fashion Quotes of All Time via Harper’s Bazaar for your weekend reading!

  • Trendy is the last stage before tacky.
  • Karl Lagerfeld

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

Press On

There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no independence quite so important, as living within your means.– Calvin Coolidge

In my presentations and on this blog, I often talk about the value of perseverance.

The following quote from Calvin Coolidge about persistence says it wonderfully.

When you are facing challenges inside your firm, when all the partners aren’t on the same page, keep telling yourself: Press on.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race.” –Calvin Coolidge

  • You don't have to explain something you haven't said.
  • Calvin Coolidge

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

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020

Too Long

“Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” – Barbara Johnson

When you graduated from college and began working at a CPA firm you probably thought you would work your way up to partner someday.

The years went by and you worked your way up the ladder. You became a Senior, a Supervisor, a manager and perhaps, a Senior Manager. Maybe then you were offered something called Non-Equity Partner and you could actually use the title “Partner” on your business card. But, you were not really a partner.

How long did that take? I am guessing way too long!

Starting with the millennials (they are 39 years old now!) and continuing with Gen Z, young people want to become successful much more quickly than the culture of many CPA firms allow.

All this is prompted by some CPA firm websites I have visited recently. “John Doe joined the firm in 1996 and became a partner in 2018.” “Betty Smith joined the firm in 1994 and became a partner in 2017.”

Doesn’t that seem like a long time to you? And, are they equity partners or just the non-equity type? I am not a fan of the non-equity partner slot. It seems like a holding pattern to me.

Becoming a firm owner is not for everyone, of course. But, for those who have the ambition, the dedication and the skills to become a partner, twelve or thirteen years seems like a long time.

There is one factor to consider. The Baby Boomers are retiring at a rapid rate. If they actually retire, then you don’t have to depend so much on firm growth.

As the old saying goes, if you want to become a partner you have to make yourself too valuable to lose. Make yourself valuable more quickly!

  • I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it.
  • Edith Sitwell

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 16th, 2020

Real Skills (Success Skills)

“Some people call these, “soft skills.” That’s because they’re not easy to measure. But for me, they’re real skills. The skills that actually determine how far we’ll go and how it will feel to work with us as we move forward.” – Seth Godin

For many years, in public accounting, we took note of the fact that many accountants dutifully achieved the expert category when it came to technical expertise.

Also, for many years we complained that we employed some very skilled managers but nearly all of them lacked “soft skills.” I like to call them “success skills” because to reach the level of partnership in the firm a candidate had to demonstrate the ability to network in the business community, be a great conversationalist, build relationships, be an adept speaker, manage people and develop personal leadership attributes. I like Godin’s term: Real Skills.

These skills, along with the technical skills, enable a CPA to bring in business to the firm. Some current partners have even developed these skills.

My friend, Guy Gage, @PartnersCoach, has developed the Partner-Pipeline® to assist firm partners to develop the “success skills” necessary to become true firm leaders.

From Guy Gage:

There are five “Contributions” that comprise high-performing partners: strong technical capability; client experience/client relations; new business development; capacity building (talent development), and leadership capability. While no one can be exceptional in all five areas, partner-candidates should be excellent in two and competent in the other three. Since firms have addressed the technical capability, I’ve developed a program that addresses the other four areas.

To learn more about the Partner Pipeline and to download a matrix outlining the program steps that are appropriate for each level in the firm. – Associate, Senior, Supervisor, Manager, and Senior Manager, click here.

It is important to begin the success skills training early in a person’s career so that the firm always has a vibrant and healthy partner pipeline.

  • Firms can only do so much, then it's up to the individual to choose to engage. Teach them HOW with programs and coaching.
  • Guy Gage

Wednesday, October 28th, 2020

Worry & Fear

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

Recently, you find yourself worrying more than ever. You worry about your family, their health, and your personal health.

You also worry a lot about your firm. You worry about your peers, your employees, and your clients.

Soon you find your worries may have evolved into fears.

From Jim Rohn: “What can destroy our ambitions, our fortunes, our relationships—our lives? The enemies lurking inside us, the ones we face from within, the ones we’ve got to destroy before they destroy us.”

Rohn gives us six enemies lucking inside us:

  • Fear
  • Indifference
  • Indecision
  • Doubt
  • Worry
  • Timidity

Every day, you must battle worry and fear and build your courage to fight what is holding you back. Fight what is holding your firm back.

Read Rohn’s full article to learn more about each of the emotional enemies.

  • We have to be courageous in our lives and in our pursuit of the things we want and the people we want to become.
  • Jim Rohn

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

Influence

“Leverage your uniqueness.” Bruce Tulgan

Over the years I have worked with and talked with a lot of support professionals working in public accounting.

They are the firm administrators, COOs, practice managers, HR directors, marketing directors, IT managers, training managers, etc.

What I have told firm administrators for years, and it applies to all the others, is that you may not have power but you have influence – make that influence work for you.

Sometimes it seems like an uphill battle but I have observed some awesome initiatives accomplished mostly through the use of influence to guide a diverse group of partners in the right direction!

Bruce Tulgan tells us:

The problem is that too many people believe influence is about playing workplace politics, building personal rapport, or establishing a quid pro quo with others. That’s what I call false influence. Real influence is a generous, other-centered focus based on adding value in every single interaction.

If you understand the mathematics of real influence—and believe in it—you can make yourself incredibly rich in a very potent source of power by dedicating yourself to serving others, moment by moment, in every interaction.

There are four tactics of real influence.

Read this recent article from Tulgan where he shares the four tactics of real influence: 1) Interpersonal influence. 2) Specific commitments. 3) Rational persuasion. 4) Facilitating success.

I hope you read all of Tulgan’s books. I have shared “It’s Okay to Be the Boss” with many clients and friends over the years. I was fortunate to have him sign my dog-eared copy several years ago.

  • Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
  • Albert Schweitzer

Monday, October 26th, 2020

What Not To Wear

“Dressing well is a form of good manners.” – Tom Ford

Do you remember the TV show, What Not To Wear? It was a makeover reality television series based on the British show of the same name. The show premiered on January 18, 2003, on TLC and ran for 10 years. I watched it for several years and did find it very entertaining. Once the person went through the makeover, the end result gave them a whole new appearance and they certainly made a better first impression.

It came to mind while I was reading a recent article – What to Wear While Working Remotely.

The article goes into a little more detail than I think is needed for a person working for a professional service firm, like a CPA firm.

I get a lot of questions about remote work policies but most of them steer away from how people should dress. Yet, some people do need advice on how to work from home and still feel like a polished professional.

Of course, you should not work in your pajamas! But perhaps a different wardrobe (still very casual) for work and other clothing for your household duties should be something you consider. Recently, I have read where some people were even wearing t-shirts with their political views on display. Of course, that doesn’t happen in CPA firms!

I have worked from home for years and have always put on my make-up, styled my hair, and wore clothes I wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen wearing when I am out and about shopping or running errands. I have different clothes for housework, exercising, etc. That was before Zoom calls! Now, I feel like I need to be even more prepared to be seen!

Hopefully, you will look like the What Not To Wear subject in the “after” mode rather than the “before” mode! Read the article and see what you think. But, basically, use your common sense and wear pants!

  • Elegance is not standing out, but being remembered.
  • Giorgio Armani

Thursday, October 22nd, 2020

Could November Be Bail-Out Month?

“One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.” – Napoleon Hill

The October due date has passed. It has been quite a year! Are your team members completely burnt-out? Will they almost immediately be thinking it’s time to move on?

Already, I have heard about firms losing people. As a firm leader, you should always have a plan on how to retain top talent. I hope you are rewarding your team for the unusual demands they faced so far during 2020.

Research has shown that public accounting loses a lot of good people (and many females) when they believe public accounting will not accommodate their personal and career choices. Women want to start a family so they think they must leave public accounting. Don’t let your young talent make this assumption.

Progressive firms embraced flexibility as a formal part of their culture long before COVID. Now, more and more firms are doing the same

Communicate to your team: If there comes a time in your life whether you are male or female, when you need or want less (or more), a reduced schedule, more regular hours, less travel, more travel, less responsibility, or really want to accelerate your advancement in the firm – talk to us!

  • Some of the worst mistakes of my life have been haircuts.
  • Jim Morrison