Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Save The Small Talk

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer

In your role in CPA firm management, other people are under your care and guidance.

Partners, managers, practice managers, HR managers, IT managers, marketing directors, and controllers usually have other people looking to them for direction and advice. It might be for some short-term issue with a process within the firm or a long-term career path decision.

You talk to people every day but I imagine it is mostly what could be termed as small-talk. You talk about the traffic or maybe the weather. Of course, you also talk about the work.

Keep in mind that studies have told us that people who take part in more substantive conversations and less trivial chit chat experience more feelings of satisfaction with work and life.

That is why it is important to not let mentoring and coaching conversations fall aside as you make your way through busy season. It is good for you and your team to talk about feelings, sentiments and what makes you happy and makes life worthwhile.

  • You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.
  • Epicurus

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Clarity

“It’s a lack of clarity that creates chaos and frustration. Those emotions are poison to any living goal.” – – Steve Maraboli

Accounting firm partners want their team members to meet their expectations when it comes to job performance. Do the team members know, specifically, what is expected of them? From my many interactions with accounting firm leaders, I have found that they do not provide clarity when it comes to performance.

When an employee is not meeting expectations, almost everyone in the firm knows before that specific employee knows. It seems that partners are very uncomfortable addressing the issues directly with the individual.

Firm leaders must do a better job of clearly communicating what success looks like. Be prepared to tell a team member exactly what you expect them to do and what you expect them NOT to do. Have a private conversation with any team member you observe doing something they need to change. Do it immediately when you observe the undesirable behavior. Don’t discuss it with others and delay the conversation for weeks, months or years!

  • Mystification is simple; clarity is the hardest thing of all.
  • Julian Barnes

Tuesday, February 26th, 2019

Algorithms, Parental Leave & Other Information

“We never know the love of a parent til we become parents ourselves.” – Henry Ward Beecher

I recently read a very interesting article via Fast Company about Stitch Fix and its CEO, Katrina Lake. At age 34, she was not only the youngest female founder to ever lead an IPO but she also stood at the Nasdaq podium while holding her toddler on her hip.

I know many women who have made Stitch Fix a part of their lives. The story of the company is very interesting. You can learn something about how they gather and use data. Also, I think accounting firms could learn something about parental leave from Lake. Here’s an excerpt:

Stitch Fix’s board is more than 60% female, and its tech staff is 35%—still not gender parity, but far better than the industry average and without hiring quotas. Interviewees are informed that the company values “bright” people over the purely book smart and “kind” people over nice. During the application process, instead of having to solve a technical problem alone, candidates are paired with a nontechnical staffer from styling or merchandising to collaborate, which quickly surfaces inventive applicants. Lake has also been adamant about fostering work-life balance. Most notably, she provides 16 weeks of parental leave to all full-time employees who are primary caretakers—whether they work in data science or a warehouse. It never occurred to Lake to create the kind of caste system of disparate benefits for different types of workers that’s prevalent at many tech companies.

She took the full 16 weeks herself this winter after the birth of her second child in November. “There might’ve been times, years ago, where I would’ve felt a little bit more uncomfortable taking the leave,” Lake says during her last full week in the office in the fall. “We have lots of women at Stitch Fix who are growing their families and also doing a great job here. Being able to take a leave is the right thing for your family. It’s also the right thing for your work so that you can come back and be focused and be excited.”

  • Parents are the ultimate role models for children. Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent.
  • Bob Keeshan

Monday, February 25th, 2019

Have A Grateful Week

“You cannot do a kindness too soon because you never know how soon it will be too late.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

I remind you often to remember to simply say, “thank-you” to your team members. No matter what your role in the firm, say it to each other. It means a lot from the boss but it also means a lot from a peer. Sometimes, it is even shocking when an employee says thanks to the boss.

On a recent blog post by Grammarly, they noted that it’s nice to form a thank-you in a different way, rather than the usual thanks or thanks so much.

Here are some alternatives, use them this week.

  • Thank you for all your hard work on this.
  • Thanks again we couldn’t have pulled this off without you.
  • Thank you, you’re amazing!
  • I’m so thankful for everything you bring to the table.
  • Thank you kindly.
  • Thanks a million.
  • Many thanks.
  • Warmest thanks.
  • I truly appreciate your hard work.
  • I truly appreciate you.

Plus, there are more. Read them here.

I am “beyond grateful” that you read this blog!

  • Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.
  • Aesop

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Personal Connection

“Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure.” – Tony Robbins

Many studies are now telling us that the way to fully engage employees is all the usual things like compensation and flexible work hours and also human connection.

Maybe you have observed that accountants are not always the “warm and fuzzy” type. Most are technical, traditional, knowledgeable, professional and conservative in their actions and words.

As firm leaders, it is up to you to help develop a firm culture of caring and trust. Don’t forget to have some fun in your culture, too.

CPAs in public practice are very concerned with time. This sometimes leads to them not devoting enough time to develop a personal connection with their own employees. They seem to do better with relationships with clients because they see that as part of their job.

Often, new college graduates enter a firm and they immediately begin on a regime of grinding out work and putting in the hours it takes in busy season.

There is no time for the warm and fuzzy stuff. Leaders must get past this scenario. That’s one reason why firms need to immediately focus on mentoring relationships with new hires. Each employee needs someone who cares about them professionally and personally.

Fulfillment is the new standard for employee engagement, according to a separate PwC report. The results showed that the hallmark of a positive employee experience is a sense of belonging, progress toward a goal and personal growth.

Read more about this topic and about various studies that support it.

  • It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.
  • Denis Waitley

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

A Typical CPA Firm

“The idea that you will wake up tomorrow and everything that you know to be true about your practice is suddenly gone is a gross overstatement.” – Darren Root

While many profession leaders are warning CPAs that the typical public accounting firm is a dying breed and that its demise will happen rapidly, it is not what I observe in my consulting practice.

In the “typical” CPA firms I work with, there is definitely a need to become more digital and take advantage of the efficiencies that result. Most of these firms still do a lot of compliance work but also do a lot of true consulting work with their clients. I do expect them to make the transition into more of a consulting practice but I don’t expect it will happen rapidly.

That’s why I enjoyed reading Darren Root’s recent article via Accounting Today – The Traditional Is Still Very Much Alive.

Read it and see what you think. How will your firm make its way into the future?

  • Because technology and client demands will continue to push firms to adapt, we know that transformation, at some level, is inevitable.
  • Darren Root

Monday, February 4th, 2019

The Most Difficult

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” – John Maynard Keynes

There is something you should do but it is very hard to do. It is difficult and challenging and easy to avoid.

As a leader in a CPA firm, you read about new trends. Many of you attend one or even more CPA firm management conferences each year. You are involved in your state society and take an active part on committees, etc. During these activities, you learn about what your firm needs to do to move successfully into the future.

You bring these ideas back to your firm. If you are a partner you probably set the date for a firm leadership (or partner) retreat. You spend a lot of money on the venue and the facilitator. You make sure that the new trends are on the agenda of the retreat.

At the retreat, the need for change and the adoption of the new trends into the firm is heartily agreed to by the attendees. A strategic plan or action plan is developed. Everyone is excited.

IntentionsIn the weeks and months following the meeting, nothing happens. You are too busy. It seems everyone else is also too busy.

The most difficult thing is taking action. As I often say when describing change inside an accounting firm, “Good intentions, no implementation.”

  • The best way out of a difficulty is through it.
  • Will Rogers

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Engage Your Team Members With Benefits & Perks

“The main thing that you have to remember on this journey is, just be nice to everyone and always smile.” – Ed Sheeran

I recently read an interesting article in CPA Practice Advisor. It is titled, Virginia CPA Firm Launches Extensive Employee Benefits and Perks Program. 

Some of their benefits and perks are things I have observed often in other firms. On the other hand, some of their benefits and perks are way ahead of many firms.

In this age of hiring, developing and retaining talented young professionals, you need to review your benefit package often and keep pace with current trends.

Read the article and see how your benefits stack-up.

My observation and experience tell me that a long list of perks won’t keep talented professionals at your firm if your leadership group is dysfunctional and doesn’t set an inspiring, professional example.

  • It is nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice.
  • John Templeton

Thursday, January 31st, 2019

There Are Many Ways To Mentor Someone

“The more you lose yourself in something bigger than yourself, the more energy you will have.” – – Norman Vincent Peale

I receive lots of questions about how to make mentoring a successful endeavor in a CPA firm. The following are some ways that mentoring has changed in recent years. It doesn’t have to be an older, wiser man mentoring a young, eager protege. Think of your first memory of being mentored. I bet it was a teacher or coach… someone who thought you could do more than you thought you could.

Old Rule: Mentors and mentees should have a lot in common
New Rule: The best matches are mismatches

Old Rule: Look for your mentor higher-up on the food chain
New Rule: A good mentor is anyone from whom you can learn

Old Rule: Mentoring is one-on-one
New Rule: Mentoring works best when you mix and match

Old Rule: Mentors pick their mentees
New Rule: Mentees pick their mentors

Old Rule: You are either a mentor or a mentee
New Rule: Everyone needs mentors

  • The best way a mentor can prepare another leader is to expose him or her to other great people.
  • John Maxwell

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

An Effective Way to a Coach Person

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