Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

Are You Overworked?

“Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

Partners and managers complain that the firm needs more experienced people. Every firm wants experienced people; they are very difficult to find.

Rather than whining and complaining, delegate. Partners, make sure your managers are delegating. That way, you will have experienced people to delegate to.

The old advice still applies – – – Push work down to the lowest billing level.

If you are really honest, you know that some of the client work you are doing could be done by someone with a lower billing rate.

In the CPA world, young people learn by having more difficult work continually assigned to them. Don’t let higher-level people get too comfortable with their workload. Complacency leads to mediocrity.

  • Jealousy is the tribute which mediocrity pays to genius.
  • Fulton J. Sheen

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

Another Upside Down-Pyramid

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” – Warren Buffett

Last week, I wrote about an upside-down pyramid. This week, I want to remind you of another type of upside-down pyramid that we see in many CPA firms.

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!

It usually comes about because the firm is top-heavy. Read more about it here.

  • You never know how a horse will pull until you hook him to a heavy load.
  • Bear Bryant

Wednesday, September 7th, 2022

The Daily Briefing

“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” – Ernest Hemingway

To improve communication and to help balance workloads, many firms have a quick morning briefing. Some firms call it the daily huddle. It is a quick, stand-up meeting aimed at enhancing communication. It is said that John D. Rockefeller and Steve Jobs both utilized the daily huddle.

If you have a smaller firm, everyone can meet for 15 minutes each morning. If you are a larger firm, you can do it by department. Keep it short.

Read this article – The Potent Power of the Daily Huddle – via the Growth Institute. I hope you are already doing this!

  • Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.
  • Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Thursday, August 25th, 2022

Promotions & Training

“One of the true tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency.” – Arnold Glasow

Growing CPA firms, promote people to the manager position. There is a definite need for people at the manager level.

The problem is that when a CPA Senior (the level below a manager) is promoted to Manager, they simply continue to perform as they always have performed, just with a new title.

If you want to improve employee engagement in your firm, look at your managers first. One of the most important decisions the partner group needs to make is who they promote to manager. In most firms, people are named managers because of longevity with the firm, not because they are skilled at inspiring people and nurturing the career growth of others.

Keep in mind…. 70% of people leave a company because of their manager.

If you want your firm’s employee engagement to improve, focus on your managers. Offer them resources to improve their management skills and provide workshops and training on managing people.

I have also observed that a skill that most managers need to develop is delegation. Managers need to be training their replacements. In a CPA firm, young people learn by getting assigned to more complex engagements.

  • Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Thursday, March 24th, 2022

Gen Z Management

“Spend time advising and training your team. Be positive, patient, and practical.” – Mike Monroe

It seems you just got used to managing the Millennials and now you are faced with Gen Z. Gen Z is defined as those aged 10 – 25. Here’s a recap:

  • Gen Z – born 1997 – 2012 – Ages in 2022 10-25
  • Millennials – born 1981 – 1996 – Ages in 2022 26-41
  • Gen X – born 1965 – 1980 – Ages in 2022 42-57
  • Boomers II born 1955 – 1964 – Ages in 2022 58 – 67

*Please remember that there are slightly differing opinions as to the exact years but this recap gives you a general idea.

Some sources say that the disillusionment that has driven the Great Resignation has been caused by mediocre management. I think that is partially true. Not all managers are mediocre.

An interesting article by Mike Monroe via SmartBrief will help you understand all of this much better.

According to McKinsey & Co., employee-manager relationships are the top factor affecting employees’ job satisfaction. Workers will stay at a so-so position if their managers are great. But people won’t stick around for mediocre managers — even if the job is otherwise fantastic.

Monroe offers two mindsets that may help you be a better manager.

  1. Be the manager that you would have benefited from in your past.
  2. Check your narcissism at the door.

Read the brief article and see if anything applies inside your firm.

  • If you’re a middle manager, you’re one of the intangible benefits of working at your company. You need to learn how to attract, interview and supervise up-and-coming workers.
  • Mike Monroe

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

A Culture of Checking In

“The more you check in with your people the more love-filled your team will be, and so the more productivity, creativity, resilience, and collaboration you will get.” – Marcus Buckingham

When I read the above quote, it brought to mind the 12 Questions to measure employee engagement first introduced by Marcus Buckingham in his book, First Break All The Rules. By now, I hope you have read the book.

I have written about the 12 Questions several times. You can read them here in a post I did in 2018.

Buckingham, along with many other experts, is telling us that great managers perform check-ins with their direct reports frequently. It is how managing people has evolved. The annual performance appraisal is dead. Today’s workforce wants to know how they are doing daily. A check-in can be monthly or weekly but I think it should be more often. The old description of a manager: A person who gets work done through other people. That is not what happens in CPA firms. A manager spends too much time working and not enough time checking in.

Checking in doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Watch this short video from Buckingham and become a better manager of people.

You are a leader if and only if, you are restless for change, impatient for progress, and deeply dissatisfied with status quo.- Marcus Buckingham
  • The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person's trigger.
  • Marcus Buckingham

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

Wanting To Be Served

“We live in the age of entitlement, as opposed to enlightenment.” – Bill Bailey

Do you need to listen to a parenting expert? Yes.

As John Rosemond, a widely-read parenting expert wrote this a few years ago:

People with high self-esteem want to be paid attention to and served. They believe in their entitlement. On the other hand, folks with high regard for others pay attention to others and look for opportunities to serve them.

It is unarguable that culture is best served, preserved, and advanced by folks who fit into the latter category. Entitlements weaken, and a culture-wide entitlement mentality weakens the entire culture. Along these lines, every single manager, employer, and supervisor with whom I’ve talked in the last decade or so has told me that today’s young college graduates, by and large, are not looking for work; rather, they are looking for benefits packages (i.e. entitlements).

I must admit, I have heard from many CPA firm partners that they have some partners who are definitely on the high self-esteem wagon, demanding attention and not caring about the feelings of others. Think about the future if ALL of your partners were without humility and a sense of caring for others.

Set the example for your entire team by always demonstrating a high regard for others. Counsel others, if you need to, about their attitude of entitlement (wanting to be served).

  • It is true that, when an entitlement begins to be enjoyed by people, they like to keep it.
  • Jon Kyl

Monday, February 28th, 2022

Are They Succeeding?

“Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

You have scrambled to hire enough qualified people to help the firm make it through tax season. Now that you have them, will you be able to keep them?

Workers want to know how they are doing. Are they making progress quickly enough? What does their career path look like? What more can they do?

Sad to say, CPA firm partners and managers don’t often communicate continually, with clarity, about a person’s job performance. Some tend to save their comments until it is time for a more formal feedback session. That doesn’t work any longer.

This topic came in recently in a discussion with one of my clients. The topic was scheduling. Were they doing enough to keep everyone busy? Some staff members didn’t speak up when they didn’t have enough work. The firm does have a person in charge of coordinating the scheduling function, that’s the first step.

Here’s what I tell young people working in a CPA firm. If you don’t have enough work on your schedule, you should be worried. Here’s how it goes:

Tony Partner informs the scheduler that John Jones Excavating Company’s work has arrived and he needs a Senior to do the work. He would like Betsy but don’t give it to Terry. Others often say they don’t want their work assigned to Terry. No communication has been directed to Terry. It is the simple fact that word has spread throughout the firm that Terry’s work is sub-standard yet, no one has told Terry.

If someone is not performing well, CPAs tend to shun them. Definition of shun: “to avoid deliberately and especially habitually.”

Managers and partners – be very honest and tell them exactly what you tell each other about them. Give them guidance on what to do about it, mentor them and if that doesn’t work – deal with it.

  • Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better.
  • Jim Rohn

Tuesday, February 15th, 2022

Role Models

“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

In a public accounting firm, there are a lot of young people, new college graduates, just beginning their work life.

“Partners are the ultimate role models for new college accounting graduates just entering the workforce. Every word, movement, and action has an effect. No other people or outside force has a greater influence on a new hire than the partners.” – Rita Keller

You can see what came to mind when I read the quote by Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo).

It is true. I have observed that interns, within two weeks, can tell you the way this partner wants something and the way that partner wants something. I have seen, first-hand, how skilled interns are at doing personal imitations of certain partners for the entertainment of their peers.

When in discussions with CPA firm team members, talking about the importance of clearly defined policies and procedures, I always ask, “Who doesn’t follow the firm’s procedures?” The immediate answer is always the same, “The partners!”

If you are a partner, a manager or other leader in a firm never forget that you are being watched with a magnifying glass. Yes, you are the ultimate role model.

  • Each person must live their life as a role model for others.
  • Rosa Parks

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

Are You Meeting Their Needs?

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Be sure you are aware of what your employees really need. Firms are trying all kinds of creative and unique ways to attract people and to keep the talented people they already employ. Some of these ways are not so creative and unique, nor do they have to be.

You might think that more money will solve the hiring and retention dilemma. I agree that it will certainly help. I have observed that many firms are offering new recruits nearly the same salary that my firm offered about twelve years ago! For small to medium-size firms, beginning salaries are still not very competitive. Owners make the excuse that they are small and that they are located in areas where the cost of living is less than major cities. Location isn’t an excuse any longer. You are competing with every CPA firm everywhere.

In a recent article, Suzanne Lucas (@realevilhrlady) notes that 77% of employees say they would prefer to work for a company that gives them flexibility rather than work for a company with a fancy corporate headquarters.

Flexibility has been discussed extensively in the CPA profession but it is still a challenge for managers and for those being managed. Managers are uneasy about having people work from home. How do they know they are working? Well, trust is the answer but that is a topic for another day.

It is true that some managers micro-manage and want to track time on the employees’ computers (keystrokes) and want them to have their cameras on all the time so they can be seen working. Thankfully, I don’t see those extremes in very many accounting firms.

Read Lucas’ article and learn how ER (employee relations) can help managers focus on results and outcomes, rather than availability when a manager reaches out to them.

  • The man who wants to lead the orchestra must turn his back on the crowd.
  • Max Lucado