Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Monday, November 11th, 2019

The Problem Might Be You

“Influence means your behaviors matter. The people around you – to some degree – reflect you.” – Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak

If you are a partner in the firm and it bothers you when people are not punctual yet, you often come into the office late, others think it is okay.

If you are the manager on a review engagement and because you are experienced, you cut a corner or two, others think it is okay.

If you are at the Senior level in a firm and you are not completely accurate and punctual recording your time on jobs, others think it is okay.

If you are the firm administrator and you occasionally take an extended lunch hour for no particular reason, others think it is okay.

No matter what your title, your peers and others observe what you do and are influenced by your actions. What you do and the behaviors you adopt make a difference – you are an influencer.

You can also strive to be a GOOD example. That also influences others.

 

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

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Tune-In To Individuals

“The way management treats associates is exactly how the associates will treat the customers.” – Sam Walton

I follow Bruce Tulgan on Twitter. I have read his books and heard him speak in person. He speaks my language! If you are working in a CPA firm and manage people, he speaks your language, too.

Last week, I sent a copy of It’s Okay To Be The Boss to a young millennial who was just promoted to Manager in one of the “big” firms. She is charged with managing other millennials (even younger) and already realizes the challenges she is facing. So, it is not only baby boomers and GenX who wonder how to manage younger workers.

I hope you follow him on Twitter, also. I hope you also follow me on Twitter!

Here’s a recent tweet from Tulgan:

Customization is the holy grail of effective management today. The more you can tune in to the individual wants, needs, strengths, and weaknesses of each individual, the better you are able to guide and support them.
tulgan

  • Management is nothing more than motivating other people.
  • Lee Iacocca

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Top Heavy

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

When it comes to MAP (Managing an Accounting Firm), one of the many things CPAs have focused on over the years is leverage. Leverage and a well-managed pyramid are key ingredients for a profitable CPA firm.

We have been talking about it for years….. Bill Reeb calls it the Upside Down Pyramid. It’s where partners work and work until they are “full” and then they push down to managers who work and work until they are “full” and only then do they push down to the staff. Meanwhile, staff members are sending emails asking for assignments!

upsidedownMany firms have evolved into a top-heavy culture because:

  • Generational issues, including the Baby Boomer bubble, Gen Xers and Millennials.
  • Lack of a firm-wide people plan with effective, consistent recruiting and staff development processes. Leaders don’t have a process to see enough new faces and they let people hang around too long.
  • Promoting non-partner-track people or sometimes marginal folks to higher positions because “We’re preserving staff continuity” and “it’s best for the client” – – when perhaps it is just the path of least resistance, or you have no one else to fill the role.
  • Partner compensation plans that focus on chargeable time. Partners stay busy first. Managers are doing staff work and no one has an incentive to push work down.
  • It’s just easier to do it myself and, besides, I’m a lot more efficient at it.

Do these sound familiar to you?

  • What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

The Person Fits The Job

“All good performance starts with clear goals.” – Ken Blanchard

It has always amazed me how some CPA firm leaders go to great lengths to avoid firing a person.

Francine, a bookkeeper, has been with the firm 15 years but she has never really embraced the technology that is currently needed for her role.

Fred, a 3-year staff person, has struggled to understand and prepare tax returns.

Bobbi, the administrative assistant focused on the tax area, performs the final processing of tax returns before they leave the firm. Her work has to be continually reviewed “just in case.”

The partners are aware of the shortcomings but rather than be completely honest with the employee, they agree that they should create a different role where Francine, Fred or Bobbi might fit.

Rather than looking at a specific, important role in the firm and finding the appropriate person to fill it, partners struggle to establish a role that a poor performing employee might be able to fill. This way they won’t have to outplace someone.

Are you really doing them a favor?

  • The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity.
  • Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Immediate Feedback

“Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.” – Ed Batista

I have been recommending it for years. Many firms seem to have difficulty implementing it (doing what they say they will do). I’m talking about immediate feedback.

Our younger generation of workers wants immediate feedback at the push of a button. They do not want to wait for an annual performance feedback session or even a quarterly feedback session.

That’s why I loved a recent post by Ed Mendlowitz – Uberize Staff Evaluations:

Uber passengers are asked to evaluate their ride as soon as they get out of the car, and the drivers are also asked to evaluate the riders immediately. This seems like it would be a good idea for accounting firms.

Bruce Tulgan calls it “hands-on management.” Managers touch base with those they manage on a daily basis. Accounting firm managers need to improve and be more proactive with their people-management skills. Read Tulgan’s book, It’s Okay to Be the Boss.

As Mendlowitz and Tulgan (and I) suggest, keep it simple. I still hear stories of beginners preparing a tax return and hearing back from a manager or partner three (or more) weeks later that they did something wrong.

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Life On A Plateau

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” – Dan Rather

Plateau meaning: to reach a state or level of little or no growth or decline, especially to stop increasing or progressing; remain at a stable level of achievement; level off.

The firm has plateaued. It was once growing steadily, and maybe even rapidly. Firm rainmakers retired and the next generation of owners don’t seem to be as skilled or experienced at bringing in new business. They have been making an extremely comfortable living for the past several years (often many years). So life is good at the top.

The “let’s just get the tax returns out the door” mentality has filtered down to the managers and seniors. The firm is paperless, well almost. The firm is doing so may nice things for the team, but haven’t added anything new lately. We’re not a sweatshop firm, so all is well.

We wonder why several of our new hires have left already. Oh, well.

How boring!! If your firm is not growing, it’s shrinking. Get off of that plateau.

  • I'm always improving and I want to get better and never hit a plateau. I find it an amazing adventure.
  • Nigel Kennedy

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Expand Your Phrases

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

Do you use the same, stale phrases to attempt to motivate people? One of the standards is, “Just do your best.” When you say that it seems like you really don’t expect much and you are abandoning them.

Suzanne Lucas, @RealEvilHRLady, gives us Ten Things to Say Instead of “Do Your Best” in a recent post for Inc.

If you want to motivate people to do the right kind of work, here are ten phrases you should use instead.

  1. I know you’ll do a great job.
  2. Let me know what resources you need to accomplish this.
  3. We have a strict deadline for X. It will be impossible to do this perfectly in this amount of time. I trust your judgment on which corners to cut.
  4. Let me know what help you need to get this project done. I’m happy to help.
  5. I know you’re concerned that you lack the skills to do this, but I know you can figure it out. I’m here as support.
  6. This project is critical, and it needs your top attention. Make it your priority and let me know what you need to drop.
  7. This is new, and we’re not quite sure how to accomplish it, but I know you have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to figure it out. 
  8. This isn’t a huge priority. It does need to get done, but don’t stress out over it.
  9. Give it your best shot, and we’ll correct any errors later.
  10. I just need a rough draft/estimate/outline/whatever.

The reality inside CPA firms is that you do expect a lot from them AND you are not abandoning them. You are there to advise and train.

  • It's not enough to just do your best. You must continue to improve your best."
  • Kenneth Wayne Wood

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019

What Kind of Busy Person Are You?

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

If you work in an accounting firm it is almost certain that you are very BUSY. Usually, busier than you want to be. However, what are you busy doing? If you are a partner doing manager work or a manager doing staff work, that does not count as being busy.

I occasionally repost a blog from Seth Godin in its entirety. Here’s one that is right on target for CPAs!

ASK A BUSY PERSON

You might know one.

The busy person has a bias for action, the ability to ship, and a willingness to contribute more than is required. The busy person is wrong more than most people (if you get up to bat more often, you’re going to have more hits and more strikeouts, right?). Those errors are dwarfed by the impact they create.

Being a busy person is a choice.

It might not work for you, but you could try it out for a while.

We need more busy people.

  • I am so busy doing nothing that the idea of doing anything which as you know, always leads to something cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.
  • Jerry Seinfeld

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Be A Great Manager

Bruce Tulgan tells us: Being a great manager requires a lot of time and effort. You cannot treat your management responsibilities as a low-commitment responsibility! You owe it to the people on your team to give them the support, guidance, and coaching they deserve. 

An important part of managing people involves one-on-one conversations. These one-on-one meetings help you create an upward spiral of performance.

There are four basic steps to creating an upward spiral of performance on your team:

1. Define performance standards

2. Spell out expectations

3. Collaborate on next steps

4. Follow up, revise, and adjust

Download Tulgan’s ebook here.

one one

  • It’s the most talented, not the least talented, who are continually trying to improve their dialogue skills. As is often the case, the rich get richer.
  • Kerry Patterson

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Managing People Means Being Visible

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – J. K. Rowling

I know, you love to sit in the stillness of your cozy office and work on tax, accounting, audit and various client matters. It’s comfortable, but don’t forget about one of your important duties as a person responsible for managing people – MBWA – Management By Walking Around.

MBWA is the habit of stopping by and simply chatting with members of your team. The theory came from Bill Hewlett and David Packard and they practiced it at their notable company.

Here are some posts I have written on this topic. Yes, I’m still urging (nagging) you to MBWA.

The MBWA 8.

MBWA for CPAs

It’s More Than A Lot Of Warm & Fuzzy Stuff

  • To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.
  • Doug Conant