Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Friday, August 12th, 2022

Are You The Leader?

“Never assume that people in positions of responsibility are behaving responsibly.” – David McCullough

This Friday, rather than doing a Flashback post. I want to give you something different. I hope you will follow the link (below) and sit quietly for 16 minutes to learn about leadership.

This is directed to firm managing partners or hope-to-be managing partners. It is also vital information for department heads or any other leadership figures inside your accounting firm.

I was saddened this week to hear about the death of David McCullough. I have read many of his books and hope to read more. One of my recent favorites is The Pioneers.

This weekend, find a quiet spot, watch and learn about what made George Washington a great leader.

David McCullough Interview: The Importance of George Washington

I hope you can find some of Washington’s traits within yourself. Have a great weekend.

  • Be courteous to all, but intimate with a few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.
  • George Washington

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

Talking Points

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” – Maya Angelou

  • The partners have just returned from their retreat. Everyone is wondering what significant decisions were made if any. What new initiatives were agreed upon? Has the strategic plan been updated?
  • A new performance evaluation system has been researched, studied, modified, and will soon be unveiled to the staff.
  • Betty, a long-time manager with the firm, has decided to take a position with a competing firm across town.
  • Some new software has been selected. Everyone in the firm will need to know about it and will be expected to use it. What training will be offered? When will it go into effect?

When something happens or changes are made at the firm and the partners and other leaders have been involved in the decision or activity, and it has now been announced to the team, there will be questions. Certain people will go to certain partners and want to know all about it and what is “really” going on.

That is the time to have your talking points ready and distributed to all partners (and other leaders if they are involved). You want everyone to get the same message.

Often, in firms, Joe Tax Partner, Diane Audit Partner, Frank Long Time Partner, and Terry the Managing Partner will have different ways of communicating with team members individually when they are asked probing questions. A brief list of talking points will take a lot of pressure off the partners and help spread the message in a positive, consistent, and informative way.

  • Consistency is always the best teacher.
  • Stephon Marbury

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

Setting The Example

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

Congratulations to all of you who have become a partner in your firm this year. I know it has been a long and winding road! But, becoming (or being) a partner carries a huge responsibility. To me, the most important one is setting a good example.

During my many years working with CPA firms of all sizes, there is always someone inside most firms who seems to get a “pass” or “get out of jail free” card. They don’t follow the rules. They prefer to ignore the guidelines, and they often claim ignorance…. “I didn’t know that’s how we do it!” But, the disturbing part is that others within the firm let them get by with it and the culprit is usually a partner.

In your firm, are the leaders setting the example? I love the quote by Albert Schweitzer: “Example is leadership.”

  • Few things are harder to put up with than a good example.
  • Mark Twain

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022


“I write the music; produce it, and the band plays within the parameters that I set.” – Sting

CPA firms have become VERY flexible and allow employees to do just about anything they want to do regarding how and where they work.

What your team members really need is simply some guidance and boundaries. Communicate to them! Help everyone understand expectations by setting some parameters.

If you do not communicate and leave them to their own devices, life at your firm could become chaotic. One mentor told me long ago: “Most people don’t do what we tell them to. They do what we let them get away with.”

I like to call it setting some boundaries. Of course, with today’s workforce, we must allow a great deal of freedom. But I also think we need to let them know there is a line they do not cross.

It goes back to the fact that young people entering your firm want to know what is expected of them. They want to know what their career path looks like and how they can advance as quickly as possible. Be sure you have defined career paths so you can talk to new hires during their orientation.

Many firms have been adopting remote work policies. These policies set some parameters for working remotely. I hope you have yours in writing by now.

  • I don't control the movies that are offered to me, but I make choices based on certain parameters.
  • Andy Garcia

Tuesday, July 26th, 2022

What Is Your Why?

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” – Simon Senek

Simply giving people more money and perks will not necessarily improve your employee engagement. To motivate, inspire, and retain employees, clearly define why you do what you do.

In many accounting firms, the staff believes they are there so the firm can earn more money and the partners can grant themselves larger salaries.

Sorry to state that fact, but I have heard this opinion from people in firms large and small over the many decades I have worked in the CPA profession.

The big issue for you is whether YOUR people think that is the reason your firm exists.

In reality, CPA partners, having many years of experience, believe that they are there to help people as a firm. Doctors help people. Lawyers help people. CPAs help people, too, in a way to secure financial success.

Sure they help business owners with accounting and tax, but they also act as a business coach and mentor to help the owners and their companies become more successful. Maybe to put it more concisely, CPAs help businesses survive and prosper. Maybe you should adopt the Vulcan greeting as a message to your clients, “Live long and prosper.”

Surveys tell us that people are leaving their current employers because they are questioning the purpose of their day-to-day job.

“An inspired employee comes to work lit up about what they’re doing because they feel they matter, their work matters, and the impact they’re having matters. What burns people out is when they don’t have a sense of the impact or contribution and that it matters,” says Stephen M.R. Covey, author of Trust & Inspire: How Truly Great Leaders Unleash Greatness in Others. 

Has your partner group agreed on your firm’s WHY? If not, you have some work to do because you need to figure it out and share it with your team before more people leave your firm to live long and prosper elsewhere.

  • The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have.
  • Leonard Nimoy

Monday, July 25th, 2022

What Are You?

“You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are.” – Howard Hendricks

Partners and managers teach younger, less experienced CPAs. They teach them tax, audit, and accounting. They guide them in gaining the technical knowledge to advance in their careers.

Old Bob, the firm’s ancient tax guru partner, helps younger CPAs better understand tax. Yet, everyone knows he’s off-limits when it comes to participating in the mentoring program. He rarely leaves his office. He doesn’t market, sell or participate in community and charitable events. Do you want a bunch of Bobs as partners?

So, re-read the quotation above. It applies to many CPA leaders (who are role models). Yes, they have accumulated great knowledge and experience over many years, and they strive to teach that technical knowledge to the young people entering the firm.

Here comes the BUT! But, do they set a good example to go along with their technical abilities. Here are some things that partners do that puzzle the interns and new hires:

  • They don’t have a set schedule and are often absent from the office.
  • They do a lot of personal business during work hours, such as taking care of their “other” businesses and handling financial activities for relatives (non-paying relatives).
  • Play golf quite often in the summer with non-clients.
  • Don’t return client phone calls promptly.
  • They say they have an open door policy, but their door is often closed.
  • They never attend firm functions such as the holiday party or summer picnic.
  • They work from home more than the staff does.

As a firm leader, think about what you are and not just about what technical knowledge you have.

  • The greatest reward for your actions is not the respect you gain from others but the respect you gain for yourself.
  • T Jay Taylor

Friday, July 8th, 2022

Why People Follow You – Flashback Friday

“If you help enough people get what they want, you will get what you want.” – Zig Ziglar

This week I am sending you back to 2014 for a blog post that asks the question, “Do people want to follow you?”

Well, do they? Is it because of your title? Is it because you are a partner? Is it because you are easy to get along with? Is it because you care?

Here’s a list of characteristics that followers are looking for.

Have a great weekend!

  • Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give.
  • Ben Carson

Thursday, July 7th, 2022

Are You There?

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” – Mark Twain

You are expecting your people to begin coming back to the office. You are okay with the fact that they want flexibility and prefer a hybrid type of arrangement.

Many firms have designated two days in the office and three days at home. Of course, there are other variations on this type of arrangement.

But, I often observe that these guidelines do not apply to firm partners. Inside some firms, it is a mystery when the partners will be in the office. They have become comfortable with working remotely, too. Yet, as partners, they don’t subject themselves to the parameters that have been set for the staff.

Just my opinion, but if you are a leader, if you are in charge of people and expect them to be in the office at certain times, you should be there, in person.

The same thing applies to firm events. The “firm” throws a party for the team, a summer picnic, an after-tax season celebration, or maybe, a holiday party. The “firm” is the partners. All partners are the hosts of the party! All partners need to show up.

  • I just feel that the only power I have is setting a good example.
  • Geri Halliwell

Tuesday, July 5th, 2022


“I have a theory that burnout is about resentment. And you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful.” — Marissa Mayer

I imagine you see it with your employees or experience it yourself. It happens and it is not healthy.

A survey of 7,500 full-time employees by Gallup found the top five reasons for burnout are:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

Wow, do these hit home with those of you working in public accounting. I don’t often see the #1 inside many CPA firms but the following four almost describe the way of life in public accounting.

Have your leadership group discuss each one and determine what can be done to address each one and make improvements. I know you will find ways to make things better. You cannot afford turnover so you need to get busy now to make the Fall and 2023 busy season less stressful.

How can management prevent unmanageable workloads? How can management bring clarity to each person’s role? And, so on.

  • The No. 1 cause of burnout is doing the same thing over and over again and not seeing results.
  • Steve Kaczmarski

Monday, June 27th, 2022

Keep It Top Of Mind

“You cannot do kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes we get stressed. The client needs something pronto. We pressure staff to get work done. We are backlogged on review. Many people want our attention. There seems to be question after question from the team. There seems to be interruption after interruption.

Don’t forget to be kind.

I occasionally repost a Seth Godin blog post. Here’s one that is important inside a busy CPA firm. It is titled: The Kindness Bonus

“Please be kind” sounds like a moral imperative. And in some ways, it is.

But behind the theory of the firm and a key building block of successful communities is the idea that kind interactions are significantly more productive.

When people feel seen and respected, they’re more likely to focus on what needs to be done, instead of taking umbrage or being defensive.

When we leave opportunities and pathways for others, they can move forward with less friction.

And when we’re enjoying our days, we’ve created a posture that spreads.

Hockey games aren’t supposed to be kind. But just about everything else works better when we don’t throw elbows.

  • Kindness can become its own motive. We are made kind by being kind.
  • Eric Hoffer