Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Thursday, July 23rd, 2020

Helping

“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou

The above quote is another one that immediately reminded me of CPAs.

When you are a recent college graduate with an accounting degree you just want to get hired and begin to explore your career in public accounting. It is an exciting time, a stressful time. You work hard, and often long hours, to become more knowledgeable and to gain skills in dealing with clients, peers and bosses. It takes both hands… and a lot more.

Helping is a word to keep in mind as you advance in your career. When you began, you soon discovered that you were needed to help others. You became the person that new hires came to with questions and depended on for guidance.

When you became a manager and then, perhaps, a partner, you found that you had matured and began to think more like the above quote. You do not sell something to clients, you help them become more successful. You still use one hand to advance your own success but you never forget to use the other hand to mentor and coach your team and to advise and guide your clients.

  • No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
  • Charles Dickens

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

Enduring Character

“Firmness in enduring and exertion is a character I always wish to possess. I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve.” – Robert Burns

I have observed, in some accounting firms, there is a disproportionate number of people who whine and complain.

Do you have “firmness in enduring and exertion” as a characteristic? Or, do you often find yourself doing what I call moaning and groaning about just about everything? I call it the Eeyore complex.

Even some therapists refuse to allow clients to complain endlessly. They have set time limits on how long a client can stay on a certain topic and have even declared some topics off-limits.

Some people whine because they are deeply distressed by something that they feel powerless to change. Could the whiners in your firm feel that way? Enhancing communication could be a partial cure.

One positive step would be to do an employee survey and seek out the issues that cause people to feel distressed and then take action on those issues.

If you catch yourself complaining, keep in mind nobody likes a complainer. If you don’t believe me, just Google “nobody likes a complainer.”

  • When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change he situation, or accept it. All else is madness.
  • Eckhart Tolle

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

Evaluate Using Words

“Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” -Pearl Strachan Hurd

Early in my career, I remember my firm’s partners providing feedback to me in the form of words. Yes, simple words. I have always remembered those words and I still think that keeping feedback simple is the best policy.

That is why I like the Keep Stop Start method of feedback.

The “Words” feedback method used on me was not quite that simple but it gave me more information about how I was viewed. It was a one-sheet form with many descriptive words under the categories of: Planner, Problem Solver, Communicator, Leader, Decision Maker, Trainer, Team Member and Job Expertise.

The people providing feedback would simply circle the words that described me (relating to a Planner, Problem Solver, etc.) and then indicate where I ranked (1 to 5) as a Planner, etc.

I think it is simple and powerful. I believe it must have originally came from the AICPA MAP Handbook, but I am not sure.

If you want to see a copy, you can download it here.

Keep your feedback system simple and remember the power of words!

  • Be mindful when it comes to your words. A string of some that don't mean much to you, may stick with someone else for a lifetime.
  • Rachel Wolchin

Wednesday, May 13th, 2020

Don’t Rescue

“Let others perform. Ego creates silos.” – Dan Rockwell

An on-going complaint by CPA firm managers – “The staff person didn’t finish the job. They sent it back to me!”

What’s rather sad about this scenario is the fact that while the manager complains, they just go ahead and take the work back, finish it or fix it.

The team member almost always sends the job back to the manager, unfinished, because they don’t know what to do next. They came upon an issue that they were unfamiliar with and have learned that if they give it back to the manager, the manager will finish it!

Dan Sullivan (@LeadershipFreak) says, “It’s dangerous to do other people’s work for them. When you rescue competent people, you minimize talent and promote disengagement.”

Managers defend their actions with the excuse of having to get the job moving, out the door and not put too much more time in the job. Don’t rescue them, send the job back, and help them address the unfamiliar issue.

Here is a simple, 4-step training method that seems to make so much sense for interns and new hires working in accounting firms.

  1. I do – You watch
  2. I do – You help
  3. You do – I help
  4. You do – I watch

If you keep rescuing them, they will never gain the knowledge and experience for career success.

  • The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.
  • William Arthur Ward

Thursday, April 30th, 2020

Be Prepared

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

If your are a CPA firm leader, you should always remember the Boy Scout motto:

Be Prepared – The Scout motto means that you are always ready to do what is necessary to help others. It also means you are ready, willing, and able to do what is necessary in any situation that comes along.

Peter Drucker told us – The manager will have to look at her task and ask, “What must I do to be prepared for danger, for opportunities, and above all for change?”

Recently, you have had to face danger and change yet not forget about opportunities. Some firms have done a commendable job of this because they were prepared. Some have struggled because they did not have strong enough technology and procedures.

Going forward it is a great time to make sure your firm is lean and can move fast as our new world of work evolves.

Employing the right talent is always an issue. As you have heard many times, you must have the right people on your bus and have them in the right seats. You must be able to trust your people.

Many of your people are skilled, experienced, and loyal. They can work remotely without someone looking over their shoulder. You can trust them. What are you going to do with the people you don’t trust?

  • For there to be betrayal, there would have to have been trust first.
  • Suzanne Collins

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

Let Go Of The Past

“Treat people with their strengths in mind, not their past offenses.” – Dan Rockwell

We hear and read about lots of different ways to build on your strengths. You should also be guiding others in your firm to do the same.

What really happens inside some CPA firms? The managers and partners have very long memories.

I have heard the stories for years. “Don’t give me Tony for this engagement. Remember how he messed up on that John Doe job?” “I don’t want Brenda for this assignment. She has no clue about (fill-in the blank).”

Tony messed up that job three years ago during his first year with the firm. Brenda had no clue about whatever five years ago!

I think it is somewhat part of human nature. Well, accountants’ nature anyway. People remember the bad things that happen and so often forget to recognize the good things.

Be more in tune with how people progress in your firm. Some beginners catch on fast and some not so fast. Don’t give up on them too quickly. Learn to build on people’s strengths and down-play their weaknesses. Even when giving feedback, don’t always make it constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is a term used all to often within CPA firms. Criticism is criticism and the person receiving the criticism only hears criticism (not constructive).

Take advantage of the great resource of strengths of the people working in your firm. Downplay, and even forget, past mistakes.

There are plenty of resources out there:

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton

Here’s a good article via Forbes.

  • With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, April 24th, 2020

Don’t Forget! – Feedback!

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

So many things are on your mind right now. How will we cope in the new normal? How will we permanently establish a remote workforce? Which team members should be in the office and which ones should stay away? What about the most vulnerable on our team?

Yes, lots of challenges and so much to do. But, don’t forget one of the most important things your team needs… feedback. You don’t see them in person and most of your contact is via email so you might forget that important ingredient to a person’s success in their job.

Here’s a flashback post about feedback – it’s Flashback Friday. Stay Safe.

  • Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.
  • Tim Fargo

Friday, April 17th, 2020

Stale and Repetitive – Flashback Friday

“Repetition doesn’t create memories. New experiences do.” – Brian Chesky

Young accountants entering public accounting are often given the same type of work – it’s repetitive.

They are also asked to work on the same client engagement for several years in a row – it’s repetitive.

Managers often cling to the more challenging work because they need to be productive, too.

Don’t let this happen. Read more here.

  • If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.
  • Thomas Edison

Monday, April 13th, 2020

Work Habits of CPA Partners

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work, one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many non-partner CPAs and others working in or advising the CPA profession have said that partners work too many hours.

Advisors have been saying for years that your young CPAs won’t want to become a partner because they see the partners setting the wrong example – they work too hard and too many hours.

A recent article via HBR stated that, based on a study, top CEOs of public companies work an average of 62.5 hours per week. CEOs are always on, and there is always more to be done. Think about how that statement applies to your partners, especially the managing partner, the executive committee, etc.

If you want to be a partner someday, keep in mind that you will have two roles, owner and employee. Non-partner CPAs in public practice work with clients. Yes, they have some additional roles by serving on committees or special task forces for the firm but mainly, they help clients.

Partners serve clients and their second job – which maybe should be their first job – is running an efficient, effective and profitable business – the firm. They are paid well if the firm is successful. Their employees are paid well if the firm is successful.

If you are critical of your partners, keep in mind, they are always on, and there is always more to be done.

You might find the HBR article interesting – How CEOs Manage Time.

  • I am focused on the work. I am constantly creating. I am a busy girl. I live and breathe my work. I love what I do. I believe in the message. There’s no stopping.
  • Lady Gaga

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