Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

Succession Planning – What Are You Forgetting?

“The truest wisdom is a resolute determination.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

CPAs have been immersed in the process of succession planning for years.

As the Baby Boomers have aged and retired succession planning for firms took on a whole new life. How will the firm survive without me? Who will take over my client relationships? And, the continuing statement made by retiring partners, “We don’t have anyone who can replace me!”

When I hear that statement I always ask, “Whose fault is that?”

As you approach succession planning, I am sure you are making sure that your successors have all the experience and technical knowledge that public accounting demands. But, they need more.

According to Bruce Tulgan, a writer specializing in management training and generational diversity in the workforce, “One of the hardest things about succession planning is what I refer to as ‘wisdom transfer’—passing on institutional knowledge and soft skills to new leaders. How are you tackling wisdom transfer in your organization?”

What are you, as a firm and as individual senior partners, doing to be sure that you are making that “wisdom transfer” to the next generation of firm leaders?

  • Foolishness is a twin sister of wisdom.
  • Witold Gombrowicz

Monday, November 18th, 2019

If Mom Says No – Ask Dad

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” – Henry Ford

Beware of the age-old behavior that kids use – They want something and they ask their mother. Then, if Mom vetoes the activity, they go behind her back and ask their father (without telling him they already asked Mom). Maybe, just maybe, Dad will say yes and they are very happy and proceed to move ahead.

This occurs in accounting firms. An employee wants to do something a certain way. The partner on the project says, “No, do it according to the firm procedures.” The employee seeks out a different partner, perhaps one they work for more often, and whines about having to do the client project a certain way when they can do it faster “the old way.” The second partner, not wanting to get into a big discussion, just says “Do it however you think is best.”

Owners should be united in many ways even in how work is processed. Of course, they should discuss the processes, modify if necessary but then commit to the processes they helped establish.

Partner unity (in all things) is important in becoming a one-firm firm rather than a group sole-practitioners under one roof. I call those firms silo firms. You can be a silo firm and make decent money but don’t call yourself a one-firm firm if you really aren’t one.

 

 

  • Individual commitment to a group effort--that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.
  • Vince Lombardi

Friday, November 15th, 2019

Words Are Currency – Spend Them Wisely

“A fool is made more of a fool when their mouth is more open than their mind.” – Anthony Liccione

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone spews words in a never-ending dialogue that is pretty much meaningless? It seems they just enjoy hearing themselves talk.

I believe that communication within CPA firms needs to be continuous and enlightening but that doesn’t mean too many meetings where certain people ramble on and on. I recently read the following and realized how meaningful it is to CPA firm meetings.

Joe had always considered individual words as finite units of currency, and he believed in savings. He never wanted to waste or unnecessarily expend words. To Joe, words meant things. They should be spent wisely.

That’s why Joe despised meetings where he felt the participants acted as if they were paid by the number of words spoken and, as a result, the words began to cheapen by the minute until they meant nothing at all. In Joe’s experience, the person who talked the most often had the least to say. (C. J. Box, author)

Does this apply to someone at your firm? Is it you?

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

Thursday, November 14th, 2019

Tone It Down

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.” – Zig Ziglar

You are in a firm meeting. It could be a partner meeting, a staff meeting, a committee meeting or an admin meeting. Someone complains (gripes.. bitches…) and another person joins in and soon there are several on the bandwagon.

Think about it. It probably happens all too frequently. In some cases, the person running the meeting (a manager, partner, firm administrator) actually joins in. They feel like they are sympathizing and showing support for the concerns.

If you are leading a meeting that suddenly turns into a gripe session, don’t join in. Tone it down! You might think you are building camaraderie but you are actually undermining your own credibility.

Take immediate steps to turn these bitch sessions into productive, problem-solving meetings. You might simply say, “Wait a minute, I hear the problem. Let’s talk about solutions.” Enlist the entire group into voicing possible solutions.

  • Everyone has to make their own decisions. I still believe in that. You just have to be able to accept the consequences without complaining.
  • Grace Jones

Tuesday, November 12th, 2019

Should Sole Practitioners Have Retreats?

“Stop thinking in terms of limitations and start thinking in terms of possibilities.” – Terry Josephson

If you are part of a smaller firm, with one owner or two partners and are reading this blog – my answer is a resounding YES!

Just because you don’t have a multi-partner firm doesn’t mean you should not devote a special time and place for strategic planning. Try involving your entire team in the planning session. When I have facilitated these types of planning sessions, the employees contribute an amazing amount of relevant ideas and suggestions.

Sole practitioners who include their entire team in sculpting the firm’s future are making a positive difference for their firms. I believe it is a tactic that smaller firms should embrace wholeheartedly. It’s not too late to have this type of session in December or early January. It could even be a half-day event with a follow-up session in late April.

  • Take a chance! All life is a chance. A person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.
  • Dale Carnegie

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, November 4th, 2019

Be Clear About Your Purpose

“It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something.”  Winston Churchill

The partners go away for a couple of days and come back with a firm mission statement. Does that inspire you? I doubt it. In many firms, it is just another “flavor of the month” and soon no one will even be able to recite it.

I like the new trend in calling it (mission statement) a statement of purpose. What is the purpose of your firm? What are you trying to achieve?

Many owner groups struggle with defining and living, their purpose. Some even copy a purpose from another firm and roll it out to their team as if it has real meaning to the owners.

Per an interesting article via Harvard Business Review, a truly powerful purpose statement is one that achieves two objectives: clearly articulating strategic goals and motivating your workforce.

If you want to find and retain top talent, they must know and understand your firm’s purpose – I mean really, not just some fancy words.

Surveys tell us that a large percentage of employees don’t feel fully connected to their firm’s purpose, they don’t see the value they create and that their jobs don’t allow them to fully leverage their strengths.

This adds up to a crisis of purpose. And, what follows along is a communication crisis. As I continue to say – most problems I encounter inside accounting firms can be traced back to poor, or lack of, communication.

Read and share the HBR article with your firm leaders. It is titled, Why Are We Here? Good question.

  • Workers feel lost. And over time, a lack of direction saps motivation; people begin backing away from the challenges required to achieve the firm’s articulated goals.
  • Sally Blount & Paul Leinwand, authors HBR

Monday, October 28th, 2019

Where Is Your Bus Going?

“Good is the enemy of great.” – Jim Collins

We hear it and read about it often – get the right people on the bus!

Getting the right people on the bus comes from the book Good to Great by Jim Collins. Those who build great organizations make sure they have the right people on the bus and the right people in the key seats before they figure out where to drive the bus.

The question is, where is the bus going? Wouldn’t you rather know where the bus was going before you get on?

I like a recent post by Seth Godin. I have included it below. It mentions something that CPA firms deal with all the time. The leader(s) seek to build consensus and try not to leave anyone out. Why not announce where your bus is going first and those who don’t want to go can get on another bus!

From Godin:

Where Does This Bus go?

One approach, which is tempting in the short run, is to wait until people are on the bus and then ask each person where they want to go. Seek to build consensus. Try not to leave anyone out.

The other approach, which works far better if you have a fleet of available buses, is to announce in advance where the bus is going. That way, anyone who wants to go where you’re headed can get onboard.

Enrollment is critical. Enrollment allows leaders to lead. Not by endlessly querying those that they seek to serve, but by announcing their destination and then heading there, with all deliberate speed.

  • Bad decisions made with good intentions, are still bad decisions.
  • Jim Collins

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