Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

Managing a Hybrid Environment

“Workers will fit into new personas, such as a homesteader, office dweller, and coffee shop traveler, and managers will need to properly manage distributed teams.” – Jeff Schwartz, Deloitte Consulting

By now, you have all realized that having a hybrid environment for your workforce will be needed going forward. Some firms have already made great strides and the need will increase once vaccines are available to everyone.

In a recent article via Fast Company, Stephanie Vozza directs us to a book written by Jeff Schwartz, founding partner of Deloitte Consulting’s Future of Work practice.

It is no longer work/life balance. Work and life have become fully integrated and being able to offer choices and manage hybrid workers is a necessity for partners and managers.

You will need to determine what works best for each individual worker and be flexible so that they can change their minds depending on personal situations.

Read the article here. It is only a four-minute read. You should also read Schwartz’s book, Work Disrupted: Opportunity, Resilience, and Growth in the Accelerated Future of Work.

  • Now as we think about what it means to go back to the office, we can’t use an old map to explore a new world.
  • Jeff Schwartz

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

It Is Inside Every CPA Firm

“Solve drama. Don’t create it.” – Dan Rockwell, @Leadershipfreak

When doing presentations to CPA audiences, I will often ask, “You don’t have any drama inside your firm, do you?” Sad to say, this would get a big laugh from the audience.

What does that say about your firm?

Stay on track to a successful career by following these six rules for keeping your work-life drama-free.

Rule #1: If You Did it When You Were 15, Don’t Do it Now. – It is easy to catch yourself doing things that are more worthy of high school hallways than the office.

Rule #2: Save the Venting for Outside the Office. – Resist the urge to talk about your co-workers and boss while you are in the office.

Rule #3: When in Doubt, Wait to Reply. – An email can set you off! Don’t reply immediately. Wait. Think.

Rule #4: Know When It’s Time to Talk it Out. – To avoid unnecessary drama, you have to realize the point at which it’s better to simply talk to someone, in person.

Rule #5: Have (and Use) a Go-to Escape Phrase. – To avoid getting roped in to a drama situation, be prepared with a go-to-escape phrase. (“I can’t help you with that.” “I’ve got a deadline, I need to get back to work.”)

Rule #6: Never Assume Negative Intent. – To avoid drama, simply work under the assumption that your co-workers and manager are there to help you, support you, and challenge you to do even better work.

These rules come from an article by Katie Douthwaite Wolf, “6 Basic Rules You Need to Follow if You Truly Want to Avoid Office Drama”.

Read the entire article to learn much more about each rule. You might even change it into a No Drama policy to officially adopt for your firm.

  • Don't waste words o people who deserve your silence. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can say is nothing at all.
  • Mandy Hale

Friday, February 19th, 2021

A Business – Not A Committee

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.” – Jimi Hendrix

As firms grow, things must change. Every shareholder cannot be involved in every decision.

Here’s my Friday Flashback Post – Run Your Firm Like a Business.

  • Muddle is the extra unknown personality in any committee.
  • Anthony Sampson

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Misconceptions

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little; it’s that they know so many things that just aren’t so.” – Mark Twain

I was recently reading an article from National Geographic that explained how our mental maps of the world are probably wrong. I discovered that mine was! There are many common geographic misconceptions. For example, you might think that South America is directly south of North America.

Here’s an excerpt:

For instance, we all know that South America is south of North America, of course. But you may be surprised by the fact that virtually the entire South American continent is east of Florida. There are lots of possible reasons for geographical misconceptions like this one, says cartographer John Nelson. Mental maps are necessarily simplifications, and Nelson suspects the misplaced Americas may be partly a result of their names. After all, it’s not called Southeast America.

How does all this relate to managing your CPA firm? I believe there are many misconceptions flourishing inside accounting firms. Many of these misconceptions are quite large and often resistant to correction.

  • Partners don’t care about people they just want to make a lot of money.
  • Staff don’t care about the firm, they just want to put in 8 hours and then go home.
  • Non-CPAs working at the firm are not as smart as the CPAs.
  • The partners are stingy.
  • The staff are careless.
  • Our firm is the best one in our market.
  • Our firm is the worst one in our market.

I corrected my misconceptions about how countries and continents are aligned and how they appear on maps by education myself, by exploring and reading.

How are you going to battle the misconceptions swirling around inside your firm?

  • If you see a blatant error misconception about yourself, you really want to set it straight.
  • Jimmy Wales

Tuesday, February 9th, 2021

The Sloth

“In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A few years ago we enjoyed a unique trip to Costa Rica. We didn’t go to a resort or spend time at a tourist beach. We saw the country via land, sea, and air – the middle, the south, and the north.

We were lucky to observe sloths in the wild. The ones we saw didn’t move. We watched one for a couple of hours one afternoon leading up to sunset. No movement.

Is your leadership style like the sloth? Some of your team members might think so. They want decisions made quickly. Do you do that? They are promised that a certain change will happen but it’s delayed and delayed again.

At partner retreats, some important and needed decisions are put off until after the next tax season or put on the list for next year’s retreat.

Sloths are amazing creatures and have been called the world’s laziest animal, slow to do almost everything. It’s not true.

Are your partners viewed much the same? I hope it’s not true.

Here are 10 Incredible Facts About the Sloth – it is very interesting.

  • Sloth is most often evidenced in busyness ... in frantic running around, trying to be everything to everyone, and then having no time to listen or pray, no time to become the person who is doing these things.
  • Eugene H. Peterson

Monday, February 8th, 2021

Smile

“Don’t open a shop unless you know how to smile.” – Petteri Tarkkonen

Today’s quote certainly applies to accounting firms.

I have heard so many stories from CPA firm citizens about their partners. Here are a few:

  • Some of our partners never smile.
  • Partners don’t seem to have a sense of humor.
  • Some of our partners walk right by you in the hall and never even acknowledge you.
  • I wish all of our partners would simply say Good Morning.
  • I wish all of our partners would say thank-you more often.
  • When I was hired, they said they have an open-door policy but it seems like every time I need to talk to a partner they seem to be too busy.
  • I need to ask a partner a question but they never answer my emails.

Partners and managers, you may not have a lot to smile about during COVID, during tax season or when client expectations are unreasonable. Your team members don’t know what pressures you are under. That doesn’t mean you can’t smile and be congenial towards all of those people who are often suffering right along with you.

One of my favorite phrases, MBWA (Manage By Wandering Around) still applies. If some of your team are in the office, walk around and briefly check-in on them. The same applies to your remote workers. You can email, call or video chat with them and use the same words – – “How are you doing? Is there anything I can do to help?”

Did you know that people can tell when you smile when answering the phone?

Smiling is part of simply being polite. Maybe your firm needs a Courtesy Policy.

  • Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts.
  • Madame De Stael

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2021

Superhero CPAs

“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.” – Carol S Dweck

In a public accounting firm, the employees look up to the partners. They want their leaders to always set a good example. They want their leaders to always tell them the truth – good or bad. They want their leaders to be kind but also want them to be tough when tough decisions need to be made. They want their leaders to make decisions quickly. They want leaders to outplace poor performers more quickly. They want their leaders to seek the best possible candidates to join the firm team.

“They” expect a lot. The team wants leaders who are extraordinary. It sounds like a job for a Superhero. Do you represent that for your followers?

  • Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with.
  • Iron Man

Thursday, January 28th, 2021

Loving Tax Season

“Urgency makes the difference between practitioners, proclaimers, and procrastinators.” – Richie Norton

Before my consulting years, I received the best basic training possible for a CPA management consultant. I worked in a firm for 30 years. I walked in your shoes. I guess you could say I’ve seen it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly!

I always looked forward to tax season. I did not dread it. I loved it! The firm was prepared for it and so was the entire team. It was like our “game day.”

The best part was that almost all of the trivial things that were on the minds of the team members disappeared. The entire organization was focused on the clients and the work.

Not that the clients were not always the main focus but during tax season the clients were never over-shadowed by internal disagreements, discussions or squabbles.

During tax season there was a heightened sense of urgency. That was the most gratifying part. We did whatever it took to provide awesome client service and to eliminate worries that our clients might be facing.

No one had time to gossip and complain!

The saddest part about tax season coming to an end was that the sense of urgency seemed to almost disappear. I always wished we could maintain that sense of urgency throughout the entire year.

Maybe you see this at your own firm. Take steps to guard and maintain a sense of urgency throughout the year. Continually talk about it and keep the need for urgency alive and well. Make it an on-going battle.

  • A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.
  • John P. Kotter

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

Think Big

“Go for great. Own your game. Be kind. Get big things done.” – Robin S. Sharma

Working in public accounting, you tend to be driven by due dates.

It is what motivates you. You focus on the little things that hinder the efficient flow of work through the office. You focus on what needs to get out this week or next week. You focus on the immediate challenge, whatever that might be.

When major due dates pass, you spend time recuperating and cleaning-up lots of small things that you have delayed until after the due date.

As for some major decisions that need to be made, you put those on the back burner until after the partner retreat, until the next major due date passes, or until you have enough time.

I have observed that you tend to pay too much attention to little things and too little attention to big things.

When will you ever have time? Some of those BIG things make you uncomfortable. You would rather by-pass confrontation.

Do you need to out-place certain clients, certain employees or even certain partners? Do you need to invest heavily in new technology? Do you need to finally address succession and admit that merging-up is your succession plan?

Don’t wait for summer to come to begin discussing these, and other, big issues with your management group. Pay continual attention to big things, make big decisions and keep moving forward each day, each week, and each month.

  • We forget the little things, so it's no wonder some of us screw up the big things.
  • Neil Cavuto

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Accountants Are Picky

“Invariably, micromanaging results in four problems: deceit, disloyalty, conflict, and communication problems.” – John Rosemond

First of all, I want you to know that I do believe in hands-on management. You can’t leave people in a void, wondering what your expectations are. It’s all about communication and how you go about communicating.

However, I have worked with accountants long enough to know that they tend to be perfectionists. Yes, the work produced by CPAs must be absolutely accurate. How you arrive at that state is another topic.

I remember my first days in a CPA firm. I was amazed at how thoroughly my work (simple typing projects) was proofed and reviewed. I came from an educational and training background where you did it right the first time. You proofed your own work. That seemed to be completely absent inside the CPA firm. I soon learned that it wasn’t just me being scrutinized, it was an important part of the process of achieving accuracy in financial matters.

The goal is still there and accuracy is a given. How you arrive at that point is through extensive training and responsible review of work. There is a fine line between supervision and micro-management. Beware. Micro-managing is not something to be proud of.

A recent article by Suzanne Lucas (@realevilHRLady) certainly made me smile. She featured a tweet that said: “Tell me you’ve worked for a micromanager without telling me you’ve worked for a micromanager.”

The replies would be hilarious if they weren’t so disturbing. They did make me smile because during those first years in the CPA profession I had to change many financial statements several times after each review step and I don’t mean the numbers – it was personal preference about phrasing and punctuation from multiple reviewers.

An example of the tweets featured in the article:

“Sorry, I forgot to tell you that I went to the bathroom.”

“We talked for over an hour about the 1 missing period in the 40 slide deck.”

Read the article – Here Is What Micromanagement Looks Like.

You might recognize some people in your own firm!

  • None of us should wait to be told what to do, or how to do it. Micromanagement kills initiative, judgment and creativity.
  • David H. Maister