Archive for the ‘Managers’ 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

Friday, February 5th, 2021

Titles & Leaders – Flashback Friday

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” – Publilius Syrus

You have many leaders in your firm. You can’t tell who they are by their titles.

A title doesn’t make you a leader. Read more….

  • The art of leadership is saying no, not saying yes. It is very easy to say yes.
  • Tony Blair

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

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, November 4th, 2020

Bringing In Business

“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” – Sir Richard Branson

For years now, firm leaders have been worrying about what happens when the firm’s best rainmakers retire. Often, firms have depended on one major rainmaker. The ones worrying the most are the partners who have not been rainmakers themselves.

The fact is, the baby boomer rainmakers are retiring now, on a regular basis.

To complicate the situation, how can an experienced business development partner “take along” a young person when talking with clients, attorneys, and/or bankers during COVID? I have always advised experienced partners to take a young person along. Times have changed.

Are your partners involving younger accountants in Zoom meetings with clients and others?

Let the client see the face of the person who will actually be doing the work associated with their engagement. Make that next video (or conference) call your client a 3-way or 4-way meeting.

If you are a partner or manager and about to make a quick video call to a client, stop and think! Who else should be seen by your client? Young people learn by example and now being an example involves a little more thought and effort than it has in past years.

  • You only have to do a few things right in our life so long as you don't do too many things wrong.
  • Warren Buffett

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020

Attendance Policy

Do you have an attendance policy? I have observed that many CPA firms do not have a clearly defined policy and if they do have one, it is doubtful that they are enforcing it.

You need to have an attendance policy and enforce it, especially with so many employees now working remotely.” – Suzanne Lucas 

Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, gives us reasons why such a policy is important in a recent article.

She gives the example of an employee who called in to say that they had 40 hours in as of Thursday and they were taking Friday off and not counting it as PTO. Lucas’ advice: “Say no. Honestly, it’s that simple.”

Per this HR expert: “You are within your rights as an employer to set an absentee policy that makes sense for your business. You need work done, and that’s why you hire employees. This does not mean that your employees should devote their entire lives to your business, nor does it mean you let them walk all over you. When you’re talking about attendance, you need a good policy.”

I have observed similar situations within accounting firms and it seems to always cause indecisiveness and even confusion about how to handle these situations. In these times of being almost desperate to retain skilled people, CPA leaders are often simply afraid to say “No” to anything.

The article contains a sample attendance policy and a lot of other good information. Read it here.

  • Be kind and flexible, but make sure your employees know they need to work every day.
  • Suzanne Lucas

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

Invest In Your Future Partners

“TPI was one of the most meaningful programs in my professional career.” – Jessica Sayles, Managing Principal

How many of your current partners went through any kind of educational program to prepare them for partnership? Your answer might be, “None.” Or perhaps, one or two. Don’t you wish ALL your partners had some basic training on how to be a productive, successful partner in a CPA firm?

Now is the time to register your prospective partners (current partners might need to also register!) for The Partner Institute.

The Partner Institute is a comprehensive three-year leadership development experience designed specifically for the CPA. The program provides participants with world-class training, a continuous learning environment, and a culture of accountability that is unmatched.

The launch of the next program is on January 13-15, 2021 at the Boardwalk Inn at Walt Disney World.

If in-person attendance is not an option for you at this time, you may choose to attend virtually. If less than 12 participants are available to attend in person, they will forego the January start date and launch the program on June 9-11, 2021.

Never hesitate to invest in your firm’s future. More information about The Partner Institute here.

Click here to view testimonials.

  • The path of light is the quest for knowledge.
  • Lailah Gifty Akita

Friday, September 18th, 2020

Let Go of The Past

“There are better starters than me but I’m a strong finisher.” —Usain Bolt

For this Flashback Friday, I want to remind you that most CPA firm partners and managers have very long memories. If you make a mistake, as a young staff person, they seem never to forget it.

Read more here.

  • Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.
  • Napoleon Hill