Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Friday, February 10th, 2023

The Way To Coach A Person – Flashback

“It’s not hard to find smart people. It’s hard to find people who inspire and motivate.” – David Maister

It’s Friday again and time for another Friday Flashback. This is one of my favorites about David Maister.

From January 2019:

An Effective Way to Coach a Person

If you never heard David Maister speak in person, you lost out on a memorable experience. He was vibrant and very direct.  He often would stop himself and say, “Okay, I’ve got to calm down.”

One lesson from Maister that I have never forgotten is an example he used in explaining the effective way to coach a person (a partner in a CPA firm, for example). The method is called “the pigeon story,” and he presented it in his humorous and logical fashion. I’ll try to summarize it briefly. 

If you want a pigeon (partner) to progress to another “place” that is too distant from them, they can’t do it in one huge step.

You draw a line very close in front of them and draw them there. You coach them by saying, “Come on Pigeon, you can do it, I will help you.”

When they get there, you celebrate and then draw another line not too far in front of them.

Same with people (partners). It is too hard to make a gigantic leap to an annual goal – it is too far in the distance. Instead, set a goal that is a small step away and continually repeat, “Come on partner, you can do it. I will help you.” After seven or eight lines (small steps, 9 or 10 for tax partners), they arrive at the larger goal.

  • The way to get rich is don’t get sucked into doing dumb stuff for people you don’t like.
  • David Maister

Thursday, February 9th, 2023

Family or Community

“Some family trees bear an enormous crop of nuts.” – Wayne Huizenga

I read a couple of quotes this week that caused me to contemplate life inside a CPA firm.

So many firms proudly state that their firm (that employs people of different ages, backgrounds, cultures, and personal beliefs) is a family. The CPA firms I have interacted with that function as a family is a firm that family members own. And most family firms employ people who are not relatives.

So, does saying you treat everyone working at our firm like family really a true statement?

Here are the two quotations.

“Unless you are a family business, your team is not a family.” – Todd Henry

“A community is a group of people who agree to grow together.” – Simon Sinek

I hope you are building a community.

  • The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going.
  • George Carlin

Thursday, February 2nd, 2023

Know It All

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” – John Wooden

A long time ago, a famous professional service firm management consultant told me that CPAs would not believe anything I said or listen to my suggestions because I was not a CPA. He said they think they are smarter than anyone who is not a CPA. This internationally known management consultant was not a CPA.

Over the years, I have proved that wrong, although occasionally, I have encountered circumstances where this might ring true.

How about you? I hope you are not a know-it-all CPA!

Here are my thoughts:

  • CPAs are very confident and proud of their knowledge, sometimes too much.
  • Be sure your scope of knowledge is very wide and not too narrow and deep.
  • Be a good listener and understand how relationships work.
  • Get to know people more personally, not just about business matters.
  • Understand emotions. Other people probably show more emotion than you do.
  • Respect other people’s knowledge. Many partners think their way is the best way, even better than their other partners.

You know so much about tax, accounting, and audit. In this day and age, that’s not enough to make you successful in the long term.

  • A know-it-all is a person who knows everything except for how annoying he is.
  • Demetri Martin

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

I’m The Boss

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”- Mark Twain

Have you ever experienced it? I have. When a healthy discussion about a process or procedure goes on too long, I am talking about a boss who says, “I’m the boss; you’re the employee!”

What those kinds of bosses really mean is “My way or the highway!” These kinds of conversations did happen in CPA firms back in the old days. I am hoping it is a rare occurrence now.

As CPAs work their way up to a Manager position in the firm, they are often given lots of training and CPE relating to the technical aspects of the job. They are not always given enough training and mentoring about managing people.

Here are some phrases you should never use if you are a manager.

  • I’m the boss…
  • I don’t like surprises (or bad news)…
  • Failure is not an option…
  • I give up…
  • I’ll do it myself, or I have to do everything myself!
  • Don’t take this wrong…
  • I don’t take vacations…
  • I don’t have time…
  • Let’s wait a while…
  • Don’t ask questions…

These phrases are mentioned in an informative article via SharpHeels. Follow this link to read more about each one of these phrases. It is almost a mini-course on how to be a boss.

  • I always tell kids; you have two eyes and one mouth. Keep two open and one closed. You never learn anything if you’re the one talking.
  • Gordie Howe

Friday, January 13th, 2023

Do You Trust? Are You Trusted?

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” – Albert Einstein

For this week’s Flashback Friday, I urge you to consider trust within your CPA firm. Is this something you need to work on? Read this post.

A good book on this topic is The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey.

In the SEARCH box on the right of this page, type in the word Trust. There are many blog posts on this topic.

  • Keep your promises and be consistent. Be the kind of person others can trust.
  • Roy T. Bennett

Thursday, December 15th, 2022

Leadership Flaws

“Leadership is a way of thinking, a way of acting and, most importantly, a way of communicating.” – Simon Sinek

I have done a lot of work with firms on the topic of communication. I have observed that the root of most problems within a CPA firm can be traced back to communication.

In my presentations to firms about communication, I use a list of 10 Fatal Flaws of Leadership from an HBR article by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman.

Use this list to set goals for improving your leadership in 2023.

  • Good leaders organize and align people around what the team needs to do. Great leaders motivate and inspire people with why they're doing it.
  • Marillyn Hewson

Wednesday, December 14th, 2022

Focus On Listening

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

This holiday season, you will be talking to a lot of people. You will be meeting and greeting in both your business and personal life.

Remember these quotes. The first one I read about in a novel. It was mentioned as a saying on the wall of the head of the Secret Service back in the 1960s.

I offer it today for you to keep in mind as you deal with clients, family, and your team:

“You ain’t learning nothing when you’re talking.”

I’m unsure if it is grammatically correct, but I think you get the message.

Here’s the other one from Agatha Christie in one of her novels:

“Speech is the deadliest of revealers.”

  • Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about themselves, and small people talk about others.
  • John C. Maxwell

Tuesday, December 13th, 2022

Your Vibe

“With the right vibes and the right people, it’s easy to create something magical.” – Dinah Jane

Do you have a vibe? Does your CPA firm have a vibe? Yes, to both!

If you talk to accounting students who have interned at different firms, they will tell you exactly which firms have a GOOD vibe and which ones have a BAD vibe.

That is why this phrase, pictured below, caught my attention. I admit it, I love chocolate and can’t resist those small DOVE chocolate candies. You know that they have a quote inside each foil piece covering the candy. Some of them are very insightful. This one applies to CPA firm leaders.

  • You just get the vibes of your surroundings and it rubs off on you.
  • Gordon Lightfoot

Friday, December 9th, 2022

Friday Flashback – Toxic Employees

“Teaching civility is an obligation of the family,” – Stephen Carter

I worry that civility is disappearing in society, in general, and in some workplaces. Here’s a post titled “Toxic & Civility” that I hope you will read. Always set an example for civility in your firm and your life.

  • Play fair. Don’t hit people. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Robert Fulghum, All I Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Tuesday, December 6th, 2022

Building Your Career

“The future depends on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi

Sometimes I include an entire post from Seth Godin. This is one of those days. Read his post below, titled Expertise. I think you might agree with me that this is right on target for a CPA who is building their career.


“In a competition between someone who knows the most and someone who is willing to learn the most, the edge usually goes to the curious and empathic professional, not the one who is simply protecting what’s already known.”

  • Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
  • Seneca