Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

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

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Don’t Do It

“Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to error that counts.” – Nikki Giovanni

Busy season is unfolding. The workload on managers and partners will steadily increase. You will be in a hurry to get jobs out the door.

It has happened many times before, whether it is February and March or July and August. You review a tax return and find a couple of oversights by the preparer. You fix the mistakes and, as mentioned, get it out the door. You don’t even take the time to notify the preparer about their mistakes.

This practice has been going on inside busy CPA firms for decades. Don’t do it!

Return the tax return or project to the preparer so they can learn from their mistakes. If you don’t, they will continue to make the same mistakes, and you will continue fixing mistakes for the remainder of your career.

  • What is done cannot be undone, but at least one can keep it from happening again.
  • Anne Frank

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Setting Angels Free

“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” – Michelangelo

Years ago, someone saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

The first person I remember doing this for me was a teacher, a role model I admired. Then, there were several mentors I had over the years who saw something and encouraged me. They cared and they carved.

Contemplate the Michelangelo quote above. Did someone see something in you that you didn’t see in yourself? Did that person (teacher, coach, or mentor) change the trajectory of your life?

You are a leader in your firm. You are a role model. You are a mentor. It is your responsibility to think of leadership development as setting angels free. Keep carving!

  • Genius is eternal patience.
  • Michelangelo

Monday, October 24th, 2022


“Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded, not dwelled upon and stored.” – Tim Fargo

Here’s a real-life story from inside a CPA firm.

Tim was going through his first tax season with the firm. He was doing well, and then on one client engagement, he made a fairly significant (and stupid) mistake. From that day on, managers and partners in the firm just couldn’t forget about Tim’s mistake. He would be assigned to a project, and the comment would be, “Remember when he made that stupid mistake!” Regarding scheduling, a manager would say to the scheduler, “I need a Senior on this job, but don’t give me Tim.”

Tim went on to be successful and stayed at the firm, but probably for five years; his first-year mistake would come up in conversations. CPAs have long memories.

I have heard similar stories from multiple firms. Has this ever happened at your firm? That is why today’s quote at the beginning of this post made me think of a CPA firm.

  • To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.
  • Elbert Hubbard

Thursday, October 20th, 2022

Feedback – Then What?

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

In a CPA firm, the staff would receive performance feedback annually. Thank goodness we have advanced to where feedback is quarterly, monthly, and, as it should be, daily. The new workforce wants to know how they are doing immediately.

Firms are better at giving ongoing feedback, but most firms still have an annual or semi-annual, more formal feedback system.

No matter how you give feedback, what follows? If there is no system of follow-up, the feedback is worthless. I like to see goal-setting as part of any feedback session. What steps are necessary for them to expand what they are good at and enjoy? What steps are necessary for them to improve in some weaker areas? What has happened as a result of their last feedback session? What suggestions and advice (mentoring) accompany feedback sessions?

Give feedback often. Make giving feedback an important of every manager’s performance standards. Your managers are on the front line with staff. They should have meaningful feedback to give.

  • Make feedback normal. Not a performance review.
  • Ed Batista

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