Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Managers Must Give Honest Feedback

“Dealing with employee issues can be difficult but not dealing with them can be worse.” – Paul Foster

A person should be promoted to Manager when they are beginning to manage other people. Then, they must hone their skills on exactly how to manage other people.

I find that in CPA firms, people are promoted to manager because:

  • They have longevity with the firm.
  • They are great technicians and producers.
  • The partners are afraid that if they don’t promote them to Manager they will quit.

One of the most important things a Manager does is provide HONEST and timely feedback. Today’s workforce is demanding that they DO receive feedback on a continual basis – you can’t save it up for an annual performance review or even semi-annual or quarterly.  

Here is something I learned long ago when I was promoted and became the boss of my peers. Because of poor performance, we had to fire an administrative person. The MP always did the firing back then. He asked me to sit in. The person became angry and it was not an easy session. (My first firing and I remember it well.)  After it was over, he said to me, “You will never be an effective boss until you have had to fire someone.”

That first “firing” inspired me to never let anyone be surprised about being outplaced. One of the last outplacements I did, the young man came into my office and said, “I know why I’m here. I’m being let go, right?” 

If your managers are struggling with giving meaningful feedback, have them read, It’s Okay To Be The Boss by Bruce Tulgan. Get them each a copy, make reading it an assignment, and then meet with them for a discussion about what they read.

  • The day firing becomes easy is the day to fire yourself.
  • Tom Peters

Wednesday, July 21st, 2021

Steady On

“Frantic work is never your best work.” – Dan Rockwell

I enjoy reading tweets and blog posts by @LeadershipFreak (Dan Rockwell). His recent one, A Dairy Farmer’s Path to Success, has many good lessons for accountants. I especially liked the following excerpt:

Steady on:

I asked a farmer how he was doing and he said, “Steady on.”

You never see a farmer running around like a chicken with its head cut off. (Apologies to chickens.)

Days are long on the farm, so you pace yourself. Medium speed allows you to work all day.

Frantic work is never your best work.

Read the blog post from Dan to learn more success tips from dairy farmers.

  • The future isn’t predictable. Instead, it’s created by informed decisions, bold action, and agile responses.
  • Dan Rockwell

Wednesday, July 7th, 2021

Engage Your Employees – Don’t Lose Them

“You give loyalty, you’ll get it back. You give love, you’ll get it back.” – Tommy Lasorda

Now, more than ever, it is so important to engage your team members. As you all know, finding, hiring, and retaining people has become even more of a concern for public accounting firms.

Some firms are holding their partners accountable for engaging and retaining valued team members. Firm management is asking each partner these three questions. Leaders need followers. Many people working in public accounting say they stay with the firm because they are loyal to a particular partner. Who are those partners at your firm and why do they deserve such loyalty?

  • A boy can learn a lot from a dog: obedience, loyalty, and the importance of turning around three times before lying down.
  • Robert Benchley

Monday, June 21st, 2021

The Great Resignation

“Your employer brand is your external experience, and your talent brand is the internal experience.” – Cassie Whitlock

Has your accounting firm started to experience the resignation crisis? It is happening to employers now and the prediction is that it will continue.

Last week, I wrote about how the talent pool for CPAs will be shrinking. Now, it seems, you will be facing the fact that your people can work for a firm, no matter where that firm is located. Firms in large cities are willing to pay large city salaries to remote staff that live in more affordable localities.

Per a recent article via Fast Company, Texan A&M University Associate Management Professor Anthony Klotz coined the phrase (the great resignation) during an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

The article also notes:

Employees are also seeking more rewarding work, adds Cassie Whitlock, head of human resources for the talent management software platform BambooHR. “Many have lost a sense of connection to the workplace,” she says. “Even if they’re getting time with their manager, we discovered they’re having fewer interactions, and the quality of those interactions is diminished. They’re not having a feeling of genuine connection. They feel less seen, recognized, and appreciated.”

Remember something I have written about often – people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. Your managers have that first-hand contact with your staff both in person and remotely. It’s time again to help your managers to become very skilled at managing and engaging people.

Whitlock stresses something that CPA owners need to embrace:

“They (managers) spend the most time with employees, and they make or break an organization’s goals, objectives, and outcomes,” says Whitlock. “They carry the water. Invest in growing managers to make sure you have the quality and caliber you want.”

  • You need to be great at telling stories in your organization. How are you making a difference? And are you sharing those successes with team members to help them feel good about the goals and outcomes you’re driving?
  • Cassie Whitlock

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

Contradictions

“The contradictions are what make human behavior so maddening and yet so fascinating, all at the same time.” – Joan D. Vinge

As you successfully manage your public accounting firm, you will encounter many contradictions. Here are a few I have observed:

  • You have to be more flexible.
  • You have to have more structure.
  • You must be able to talk in a way that is inspiring and motivating.
  • Don’t do all the talking, it’s important to be a good listener.
  • You must inspire young people to stay with the firm.
  • You should draw upon the experience of older accountants and not rush them out the door.
  • You have to provide quick turnaround for your clients.
  • You should take your time, you can’t risk making mistakes.
  • You want the team to achieve lots of billable hours.
  • You want the team to achieve great realization.
  • You want young people to be able to take on more challenging work.
  • You allow managers to cling to the most challenging work.
  • You expect the entire team to follow all the policies and procedures.
  • You, a leader, don’t set a good example by adhering to firm policies and procedures.

What I usually observe is that a great number of firms make it all too complicated. They spin their wheels, procrastinate, micro-manage, involve too many people in trivial decisions and make important decisions too slowly. They want the firm to grow and prosper by doing the same old things they have always done.

Make some changes now… before too much of 2021 passes by. Take some risk. It can be fun and exciting (and profitable).

  • I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
  • Pablo Picasso

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

A Great Manager is an Employee Benefit

“Just as a bad manager can ruin a good job, a great manager can make a good job even better.” – Gallup

I have written and talked about the danger of having bad managers in the CPA profession many times and quoted Gallup saying, “People don’t leave companies, they leave bad managers.”

That’s why, when I came upon a recent article from Gallup titled, “The No. 1 Employee Benefit That No One’s Talking About.” Guess what that benefit is…. good managers!

Bad managers can even affect the health of your team members. The stress they feel at work goes home with them and is a factor in their overall well-being.

People leave good jobs because of bad managers then why don’t they look for good managers when seeking a new job? It is because companies don’t advertise or promote the fact that they have great managers.

I hope your firm is investing in the success of your managers. Accounting firms spend significant dollars on TECHNICAL CPE for managers as they advance in their careers. It’s time to spend more money helping them become great people managers.

There are many great leadership programs for managers and future partners in the CPA profession. Make the investment to send your managers. Then find ways to let the world know you have good managers.

Gallup has advice for building a healthy and thriving organization, starting with your managers. Read the article to learn more.

  • Research reveals that about one in 10 people possess high talent to manage.
  • Per Gallup

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

D I Y

“It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project.” – Napoleon Hill

You see the abbreviation all the time now – DIY (Do It Yourself). Many people have learned to do many things (with the help of YouTube) while staying at home during the pandemic.

Doing things yourself is almost always cheaper than buying something you can make or hiring an outsider to fix something that you can fix yourself.

All of this was brought to mind when I came upon a question asked in a novel by Agatha Christie. The question: Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

To me, that translated into CPA firm jargon means…. Why hire people to do the work and keep doing the work yourself?

A partner thinks: I won’t send this back to the preparer, I’ll just fix it myself.

A manager thinks: I won’t delegate this job to a senior. I know my billing rate is higher but I can do it twice as fast.

It’s that ongoing issue inside many firms – younger people do not learn to do more difficult things because more senior people cling to work.

So, not that your employees are dogs, but…. Why keep a dog and bark yourself?

  • Do what you can, with hat you have and do it now!
  • George Washington Carver

Wednesday, April 7th, 2021

Goals

“The only criterion for what makes a good goal is that the person working towards it must set it for themselves, voluntarily.” – Marcus Buckingham

CPA firms, usually on an annual basis, have each team member establish goals for the coming year. This happens after the annual performance feedback exercise. Many firms have now moved beyond the annual tradition and are providing feedback much more frequently: Semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Of course, the best firms provide feedback continually and have even discontinued the annual or periodic formal feedback session.

The current workforce wants to know how they are doing much more often than periodically. It makes me think of taking small children on a drive to a family outing or to a visit with grandparents. They ask, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” about every five minutes. That is how your employees feel; they want to know.

A friend of mine has an online job. They have never met their supervisor face-to-face. There are guidelines and parameters and lots of communication with their supervisor. At the end of each day they get a report on how they did that day. Are you anywhere close to that?

Some firms continue to assign goals to individuals based on their performance. Progressive firms involve individuals in setting goals. The person drafts their own goals and the supervisor advises and approves. Be sure you encourage people to have fewer goals and shorter timeframes. Something like two goals per quarter. I have observed that if a person has six or eight annual goals most of them never get accomplished.

CPA managers and partners need to give more frequent feedback and guidance and listen to where the individual wants to go with their career. They want to know, “Am I there yet? Am I there yet?”

  • Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2021

Be An Encourager

“We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers rather than critics.” Joyce Meyer

Young accountants coming into the world of public accounting might be surprised at the number of critics they encounter.

It seems, in many firms, the experienced CPAs have fallen into the habit of teaching by criticism. Too often, their expectations are not adequately communicated and yet they become critical when new college recruits struggle with the tasks they are assigned.

I have heard many new recruits say, “I never learned any of this in college.” I suppose that is the case with many new graduates entering any profession.

The next time you are writing review notes for a new hire, be sure to consider if you communicated your expectations, clearly and concisely, at the beginning of the assignment. Actually discuss the review notes verbally with the team member and be sure to offer words of encouragement.

When a new hire receives seemingly harsh, written review notes without any personal communication or encouragement, it can be very demotivating and disheartening.

Encouragement builds relationships that can result in long-term career progress. Encouragement keeps people at your firm and prevents them from seeking job satisfaction elsewhere. Read the above quote again.

  • Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you’re willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.
  • Lou Holtz

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