Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Friday, March 27th, 2020

Too Many At The Top

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

There are many CPA firm partners who are nearing retirement. They have always dreamed of passing their firm on to the next generation, dreamed of having it survive. Sorry to say, that is going to be an unfilled dream for many small to mid-size firms.

The reason? They are top-heavy. They are counting a few top performers to replace many, including some non-performing partners?

Read this post about the Upside Down Pyramid – it’s Flashback Friday!

Stay safe!

  • The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.
  • William Shakespeare

Wednesday, March 25th, 2020

The New Challenge of Leading People Remotely

“Being supportive is always important—but in times of crisis and separation, it’s critical.” – Dolly Daskal

In my office at work, many years ago, I had a magnetic sign stuck on the side of a metal file cabinet (remember those?) that said in big letters “Shit Happens.” It was where no one could see it but me! One of the partners gave it to me.

That pretty much described my focus back then. I was the firefighter, the policewoman, the physical Wikipedia and lots of challenges came my way. I welcomed the challenges but sometimes it was very frustrating (thus the sign). Things do just happen.

Now, as a leader in your firm (managing partner, HR director, Practice Manager, COO) lots of challenges have come your way (Big S— Has Happened).

If you are seeking help on how to do your management job in a remote environment Dolly Daskal has written an informative post.

Here are some tips:

  • You should be more supportive than ever.
  • You should be more present than ever.
  • You must keep people more informed than ever.
  • Be sure to show that you care more than ever.
  • You should bring more clarity than ever.
  • You should lead by example more than ever.

Daskal gives you more explanation for each of these tips in her post. Be sure to read the entire article.

  • It’s harder to show caring from a distance, but a time like this, when people are feeling anxious and isolated, is when a personal touch is most needed.
  • Dolly Daskal

Monday, March 23rd, 2020

Choose Calm Over Panic

“The language of excitement is at best picturesque merely. You must be calm before you can utter oracles.” – Henry David Thoreau

Seth Godin’s blog post from last Friday is so meaningful during these confusing times.

Here is one passage that spoke to me.

Twitter has been engineered to maximize panic. Calm is penalized, panic is amplified. And if you are hanging out in real life with people who spend a lot of time on social media and news sites, you’ve invited all of those people into your circle as well. – Seth Godin

I use Twitter for communication and for sharing helpful information for CPAs and their teams. So many people don’t. I don’t follow them. You shouldn’t either.

  • He who is of calm and happy nature will hardly feel the pressure of age, but to him who is of an opposite disposition youth and age are equally a burden.
  • Plato

Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Trust Your Leader

“Leadership means that a group, large or small, is willing to entrust authority to a person who has shown judgment, wisdom, personal appeal, and proven competence.” – Walt Disney

The above quote applies to public accounting firms. The firm has rewarded some employees the role of partner. Partner means owner AND leader in the firm.

The group of leaders has spent time and energy on deciding who should be the managing partner (or CEO) of the firm. This person has won their respect and trust.

Often the managing partner walks a tightrope between what is best for the firm and what is best for any individual partner. It is not an easy job. They must go well beyond client service (which most partners should be focused on). They must study current trends, pay attention to all employees, gather productive methods from other firms, be the face and voice of the firm in the local business community, etc.

So, be sure that you are “entrusting authority” to your MP. If the owner group has doubts if they have the right person, stop complaining, wondering, and second-guessing the person in the role. Trust them and give them authority or select a different MP.

  • Fantasy and reality often overlap.
  • Walt Disney

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Don’t Get Too Busy To Provide Feedback

You only have to do very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.” – – Warren Buffett

Inside your firm this busy season you have interns and new-hires, first-year CPA candidates.

During the hiring process for these young, future CPAs you talked to, listened to, entertained them. The firm leaders were on their best behavior.

Then when these young, high-potential employees enter the firm they are often greeted with silence. Sure they go through training but often it’s do-this, do-that, follow-this guideline and so on.

When young people enter your accounting firm, keep the conversations going – – not some sort of formal feedback session after 60-days or 90-days – talk to them daily. Create a culture of communication – clear, concise, honest and often.

Seth Godin says the best way to change long-term behavior is with short-term feedback. The opposite is not true. We rarely change short-term behavior with long-term feedback.

There is a lot of whining surrounding performance evaluation systems inside CPA firms. It creates a culture of dread. If you want to change your culture and attract top talent – start with feedback.

  • How was your day? is a question that matters a lot more than it seems.
  • Seth Godin

Monday, March 9th, 2020

Complacency Is Your Biggest Enemy

“Safety and comfort come with complacency, and that’s never a good place to be working from.” – Elijah Wood

Experienced CPAs who have survived, long-term in public accounting work hard. However, they love the work, it’s not a penalty or a chore. They love their clients and helping them survive taxation and other financial challenges. They love helping clients build successful businesses that will provide for a comfortable retirement down the road.

After doing this for many years, they become a partner in a CPA firm and make a lot of money. They love the work and they make great money doing what they love. Life is good.

Sure, at times they do have people challenges… you know, employees and partners. Maybe even at home.

But, over the years they have become complacent. Often, almost unknowingly, they begin to strongly avoid change. They want to maintain the status quo. They are comfortable.

What are they missing? What more could they do for their people, their clients, and even their family?

If this sounds anything at all like you, here’s the question – – Are you comfortable or are you stuck?

  • One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything's fine today, that is our illusion.
  • Voltaire

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

Managers Play A Key Role In Engagement

“’No news is good news’ should not be an employee recognition program.” – Sharlyn Lauby

Partners and owners in public accounting firms rely heavily on those experienced employees who have significant experience. They have learned and evolved over the years and are now managers in the firm.

Firm managers are on the frontline when it comes to all the other team members (supervisors, seniors, staff, associates, bookkeepers, etc.) who make up the remainder of the accounting/tax team.

Thus, managers play a key role in the training, development, and motivation of others. They make a big difference in the daily lives of your entire staff.

One big issue I have observed is that owners don’t often provide enough training for managers in the art of actually managing. “The firm” sends them to various CPE courses and encourages them in their online training in the technical skills they need to succeed. In other words, they invest in teaching them tax, audit, and accounting. Learning people skills is left to chance.

Lots of articles and surveys have told us that employees do not leave a company (firm), they leave a manager. So, lessening turnover and increasing employee engagement is the responsibility of the manager.

How can your managers create a great day for employees? Sharlyn Lauby (@hrbartender), an HR pro give us eight tips:

  1. Deliver a learning moment.
  2. Use the employee’s strengths.
  3. Tell employees they made an impact.
  4. Recognize an employee’s accomplishments.
  5. Offer inspiration.
  6. Help employees make progress toward their goals.
  7. Create collaborative opportunities.
  8. Let employees make it theirs.

Read more about each of these eight tips in this recent post from Lauby.

  • The goal is with every interaction to provide employees with an engaging experience.
  • Sharlyn Lauby

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

Why Women Leave CPA Firms

“What is not acceptable is watching talent walk out the door.” – Joey Havens 

I recently read a great article via the Journal of Accountancy by Joey Havens, Why Women Leave Firms – And What We Can Do About It. 

He tells us two troubling stories about real-life situations for female CPAs in public accounting.

Havens notes: “I’m making the decision to get up from this gut punch and work even harder to make sure we shine the light on a better path forward. I commit to help elevate our profession until we are known as a place where every individual has an equitable playing field and opportunities to pursue their full potential and dreams.”

Then he goes on to give us some steps to take to prevent women from walking out the door!

  • Many of us in this profession are clinging so tightly to working the way we always have.
  • Joey Havwens

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

Treating Everyone The Same

A quote I recently read from Tom Peters brought to mind some situations I have observed in accounting firms. Here’s the quote:

“Every team in the world is very diverse!!! Think of symphonies or sports teams or classrooms. The good conductors/coaches/teachers treat every member differently every day.” – Tom Peters

Some firm leaders try to make everything fair by treating everyone the same. It is a hopeless struggle. I like the current term we use in managing people in public accounting firms: One size fits one.

Think about the ways you have set yourself up for failure by requiring the same behavior from all your team members. Things such as:

  • All associates must get 1700 chargeable hours.
  • All seniors must pass the CPA exam before they can be promoted to supervisor.
  • All partners and managers must be mentors in our mentoring program.
  • Everyone must be in the office and ready to work by 8:00 a.m.
  • During our busy season, everyone must work in the office on Saturday morning.
  • No administrative people are allowed to work overtime.

Simple solutions: Be more flexible. Allow individuals to do more work where they use their strengths rather than focusing all your energy on trying to help them improve their weaknesses.

  • I've known people who thought that reaching their potential would come from shoring up their weaknesses. But do you know what happens when you spend all your time working on your weaknesses and never developing your strengths? If you work really hard, you might claw your way all the way to mediocrity! But you'll never get beyond it.
  • John C. Maxwell

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

Don’t Be Afraid of Feedback

“Nobody’s perfect. We all have blind spots and perspective gaps. We need negative feedback if we’re going to grow.” – Justin Bariso

Are you afraid of feedback? I hear stories from many CPA firms about the lack of support for upward feedback surveys and client feedback surveys. Once a firm leader told me that her partners were afraid of upward feedback – afraid it would be negative and hurtful. Another leader stated, “Our partners don’t want to do an upward feedback survey. They said they don’t care what our people think.” Oh, my.

Elon Musk recently made the following statement (tweeted) relating to his solar tile product. “Please let us know what improvements we can make to any aspect of Tesla SolarGlass roof! Critical feedback is much appreciated.”

The key statement here is the last sentence: Critical feedback is much appreciated.

Are you, as a firm leader, appreciative of critical feedback?

Tell us what we can do better. – – That should be the statement you are continually making to your clients and to your people. Then, listen and take action.

Read this informative article by Justin Bariso (via Inc.).

  • When the feedback comes, don't view it as an attack. Rather, see it as a gift--a chance to learn.
  • Justin Bariso