Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Tuesday, August 6th, 2019

Sense of Urgency

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Every due date, CPAs complain that the clients are the reason for the last-minute added pressure. They are the reason the team has to work longer hours as the due date approaches.

It’s not all the clients’ fault. Perhaps you have lost your sense of urgency, especially over the summer. Those fall due dates are approaching. How much effort did you and your team spend on getting the clients to help you spread the work over the entire summer instead of the first two weeks of September?

This also applies to the winter busy season. Create a sense of urgency relating to getting the client work out the door before the last minute.

I also see a loss of the sense of urgency by partners when the firm is doing well and they are making good money. They are not hustling to bring in new business and expand services to current clients.

Some of my clients have created “keep the work flowing” initiatives this summer. They made it a priority to continually communicate with the clients to obtain their information sooner rather than later. Each partner was held accountable – it’s wasn’t deferred to the staff.

Did you lose your sense of urgency this summer? Read the quote above again.

  • We have to live life with a sense of urgency so not a minute is wasted.
  • Les Brown

Monday, August 5th, 2019

Effective Communication

“In teamwork, silence isn’t golden, it’s deadly.” – Mark Sanborn

Almost every problem I encounter in working with CPA firms, whether it is a partner group issue, a procedural issue, or a people management issue, can be traced back to poor communication.

Every person working in public accounting needs to have the ability to effectively communicate.

Perhaps the partner group has discussed a certain issue so much and so long that they just assume everyone in the firm is aware of the issue. Many are not.

Managers believe they are so busy that they shouldn’t take their precious time to actually talk in-person to a team member about an issue. They use email or text and end up creating a lot of misunderstanding.

Employees are troubled about a certain aspect of their job but they are actually afraid to speak up and discuss it with the boss.

Open, honest communication should be part of your culture. Ask your team to give feedback to the leaders on the topic of communication. If you rank poorly, it is a wake-up call!

Sharlyn Lauby, @hrbartender, in a recent post gives us 4 Practical Tips for Effective Business Communication. Check out her post to read more about these four:

  1. Clarity
  2. Commitments
  3. Documentation
  4. Interaction

 

  • The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.
  • Peter F. Drucker

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Managing People Means Being Visible

“Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike.” – J. K. Rowling

I know, you love to sit in the stillness of your cozy office and work on tax, accounting, audit and various client matters. It’s comfortable, but don’t forget about one of your important duties as a person responsible for managing people – MBWA – Management By Walking Around.

MBWA is the habit of stopping by and simply chatting with members of your team. The theory came from Bill Hewlett and David Packard and they practiced it at their notable company.

Here are some posts I have written on this topic. Yes, I’m still urging (nagging) you to MBWA.

The MBWA 8.

MBWA for CPAs

It’s More Than A Lot Of Warm & Fuzzy Stuff

  • To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.
  • Doug Conant

Wednesday, July 24th, 2019

Leadership Wisdom

“Too many managers spend too much time focused on the wrong things.” – Dave Christiansen

As a partner or a managing partner in a CPA firm, do you cultivate your leadership wisdom? Do you realize that you are watched closely and that everything you do sets an example?

So many accounting firms are desperately struggling with succession, the constant chant being, “There’s no one who can replace me!” Whose fault is that?

Bruce Tulgan, in a recent LinkedIn post, featured Dave Christiansen, President and CEO of Mid-Kansas Coop (MKC). Christiansen spends the majority of his time clearly communicating expectations and vision to, establishing a culture for, and developing future leaders from roughly 400 full-time employees.

Aging CPAs have found themselves in need of future leaders but have spent minimal time focused on developing leadership skills in others (or even in themselves). Most CPA partners have spent considerable time developing CPAs possessing amazing technical skills.

Christiansen has great tips on hiring and developing today’s top talent:

  • Remember that you will end up with the staff you deserve
  • Staff for the company you want
  • Paint a picture for top talent
  • Most formal “coaching” or “mentoring” programs are ineffective
  • If you want to retain people, find out what they value
  • Invest in your people until it hurts
  • Have a structured approach to high-potential identification
  • Don’t hire people you have to motivate
  • The emerging young workforce will put more pressure on managers

Read more about each of these tips here. This is a great article to share with your partners and other management leaders.

  • If you’ve spent your time wisely defining what you’re looking for in an individual, recruited well and created a picture in the new employees’ mind as to how they fit into your organization, what their role is, and how they’ll make a difference, you’ve won 80% of the battle.
  • Dave Christansen

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

The Busyness Paradox

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” – Peter F. Drucker

I love the above quote from Drucker. It certainly applies to some of the work inside a CPA firm.

I have observed that in most CPA firms, there is a culture of busyness. It creeps into how you talk and how you act or react.

You need to do this but you get distracted by that. Just having to quickly check your email turns into an hour or two. You become focused on the immediate rather than the important.

I just read an informative article via HBR by Brigid Schulte – Preventing Busyness from Becoming Burnout.

The author states: “I largely blamed myself for not making the time to do more ambitious, high-priority work, or managing to get it all done within reasonable hours and have more time for life. It’s only recently that I’ve begun to see how I was trapped in a busyness tunnel.”

Here’s an excerpt that explains the Busyness Paradox:

Here’s how the busyness paradox works: When we’re busy and have that high-octane, panicked feeling that time is scarce — what one participant called the “sustained moment of hecticness” through the workday — our attention and ability to focus narrows. Behavioral researchers call this phenomenon “tunneling.” And, like being in a tunnel, we’re only able to concentrate on the most immediate, and often low value, tasks right in front of us. (Research has found we actually lose about 13 IQ points in this state.) We run around putting out fires all day, racing to meetings, ploughing through emails, and getting to 5 or 6 PM with the sick realization that we haven’t even started our most important work of the day.

I am sure much of this sounds all too familiar to all of us who have worked, or who are currently working, inside a “busy” CPA firm! It is a serious issue in the CPA profession and one that drives young workers away from public accounting.

Take a few minutes to read the entire article. The author gives you “3 Ways to Break Your Employees Out of the Busyness Paradox.”

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

Partners Doing Partner Work

“Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like.” –Will Rogers

Many CPA firm partners do manager work, client service manager work. Many CPA firm partners do internal management/administrative work, firm administrator/COO work.

Don’t get caught in these traps.

Some partners use management/administrative work to fill idle time when they should be:

  1. Bringing in new business
  2. Training/Mentoring/Sponsoring younger team members
  3. Building stronger client relationships

Your COO/Firm Administrator should be continually taking non-billable work away from the managing partner and the other partners.

Here’s how much money a COO could save partners annually. The BIG issue is, the partners must use the saved hours to create revenue!

Save Ptr money

  • Money often costs too much.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Don’t Complain, Do Something

“Complaining about a problem without posing a solution is called whining.” – Teddy Roosevelt

There is a lot of complaining and what I call drama going on inside accounting firms. That’s why the quote, above, inspired this post.

Most of us have learned this one: When a team member comes to you for an answer, redirect them and ask them to come to you with the question and also with a suggested solution.

When leaders identify an issue, a challenge, an idea… they often fail to act. It is the classic failure to implement. It turns into a session of whining.

whiningMaybe it is time to buy a sign. You can get one for $1.39.

 

  • You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.
  • Shirley Chisholm

Friday, July 12th, 2019

Flashback Friday – There Are Many Ways to Mentor

“Do your little bit of good where you are. It’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Archbishop Desmond Tutu

I have observed that many experienced CPAs seem hesitant when it comes to mentoring younger accountants. They want to know:

  • What exactly do I say?
  • What shouldn’t I say?
  • How often should we meet?
  • Where should we meet?
  • And, the list goes on…

Here’s this week’s flashback post: There Are Many Ways to Mentor Someone.

  • To add value to others, one must first value others.
  • John Maxwell

Thursday, July 11th, 2019

The Importance of the Firm Administrator

The majority of people in the accounting profession operate at Levels I and II. – Gary Boomer

There is a good article by Gary Boomer via Accounting Today – Leadership, Management, and Administration: What’s the difference”

Here are some tidbits:

Boomer refers to Jim Collins’ five levels of leadership from his book “Good to Great.” He defines the levels as:

  • Level I: Capable individual
  • Level II: Contributing team member
  • Level III: Competent manager
  • Level IV: Effective leader
  • Level V: Executive

Administrative personnel are often expected to have all the skills, especially in smaller firms that have a part-time managing partner or CEO. This is a monumental task, and often people are set up to fail in the role of firm administrator. People in these positions require professional development, peer networks, and management resources to succeed. The biggest risk is they are viewed by many accountants, including some partners, as overhead, rather than as a strategic asset.

It’s a great article – Read the entire article here.

  • People leave firms because of bad managers, not because of the firm.
  • Gary Boomer

Wednesday, July 10th, 2019

5 Hidden Challenges

“I’m not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.” – Machiavelli

I followed a link via Twitter by Joey Havens, the Executive Partner at Horne, LLP. @JoeyHavensCPA

It led me to – 5 Hidden Challenges.. that are drowning the accounting profession.  – These challenges are what we call, cultural quicksand. Firms that understand and avoid hidden cultural quicksand will experience an abundance of growth and enduring prosperity. What got us here as a profession will not get us where we need to go. Do not let challenges that slow us down remain hidden.

Check it out and share it with your partners.

 

  • Pessimism doesn't grow your business or even maintain the status quo. The pessimists on your staff make the job harder for everyone around them. They make difficulties out of opportunities.
  • Harvey Mackay