Archive for the ‘On My Mind’ Category

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Managers Must Give Honest Feedback

“Dealing with employee issues can be difficult but not dealing with them can be worse.” – Paul Foster

A person should be promoted to Manager when they are beginning to manage other people. Then, they must hone their skills on exactly how to manage other people.

I find that in CPA firms, people are promoted to manager because:

  • They have longevity with the firm.
  • They are great technicians and producers.
  • The partners are afraid that if they don’t promote them to Manager they will quit.

One of the most important things a Manager does is provide HONEST and timely feedback. Today’s workforce is demanding that they DO receive feedback on a continual basis – you can’t save it up for an annual performance review or even semi-annual or quarterly.  

Here is something I learned long ago when I was promoted and became the boss of my peers. Because of poor performance, we had to fire an administrative person. The MP always did the firing back then. He asked me to sit in. The person became angry and it was not an easy session. (My first firing and I remember it well.)  After it was over, he said to me, “You will never be an effective boss until you have had to fire someone.”

That first “firing” inspired me to never let anyone be surprised about being outplaced. One of the last outplacements I did, the young man came into my office and said, “I know why I’m here. I’m being let go, right?” 

If your managers are struggling with giving meaningful feedback, have them read, It’s Okay To Be The Boss by Bruce Tulgan. Get them each a copy, make reading it an assignment, and then meet with them for a discussion about what they read.

  • The day firing becomes easy is the day to fire yourself.
  • Tom Peters

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

Fear of Failing

“Don’t let your failures break your enthusiasm.” – Tom Bilyeu

CPAs are obsessed with not making mistakes. They strive to never make even one mistake. When it comes to compliance work for clients, they have all kinds of safety nets (review steps) to avoid mistakes. That’s a good thing.

When it comes to internal operations the fear of making mistakes still applies. That’s a bad thing. I like the following quote from Scott Cochrane (@WScottCochrane) and it applies to firm leaders:

“When the team misses a goal, secure leaders say, ‘Let’s learn from this and do better next time.’ Insecure leaders say, ‘It wasn’t my fault.'”.

Leaders, if they want their firm to move forward, must be willing to try something new. Are you too comfortable with the status quo? To take the danger out of trying something new, I always recommend that you test it. Experiment with a new idea in just one area of your firm. If it works out and seems beneficial, roll it out to the entire firm.

Don’t let the fear of failure hinder your firm’s progress toward efficiency. Don’t always wait for other firms to discover something new and then follow in their footsteps.

Now more than ever, firms need to be willing to nurture innovation and creativity. Periodically, ask your employees what the firm needs to do to make the firm more efficient and productive. Also, ask them what the firm can do to make it a better place to work.

  • The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure.
  • John C. Maxwell

Thursday, July 15th, 2021

Learn From History

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” – Abraham Lincoln

My husband and I are history buffs, especially Civil War history. We have visited many battlefields and other sites. Ken Burns’ Civil War has taught us so much and a movie I always recommend is Gettysburg. It tells the story from both sides and is quite informative. It was actually filmed on the National Battlefield site in Gettysburg, one we have visited many times.

At Gettysburg, you, of course, think of Lincoln. Last week we did a road trip (the first one since COVID) and visited Lincoln’s birthplace in Kentucky (and Jefferson Davis’ birthplace, also in Kentucky). Here’s the memorial at Lincoln’s birthplace.

Our road trip also took us to Graceland and Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo. We visited Shiloh National Military Park and Vicksburg National Military Park. I refer to this road trip as the birthplace and battlefield trip.

Now, think back on the history of your accounting firm. How has it evolved over time and what can you learn from your triumphs and your failures? I have observed that some firms that historically had a more dictatorship type of leadership changed to a very laid-back culture when new leaders took over. I have also seen the opposite happen. A very casual, and honestly disorganized type of leadership changed to a very structured and even rigid culture when the next generation took over.

What is your culture like now? Is it the type of culture you are proud of? Does your culture (and your brand appear attractive to potential employees and potential clients? Exploring your firm’s history might be quite eye-opening like American history is to me.

More pictures – the Jefferson Davis birthplace and, of course, Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo MS.

  • America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
  • Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Keeping It Simple

“How difficult it is to be simple.” – Vincent Van Gogh

CPA leaders working in public accounting have a bothersome skill. I have observed on many occasions that they have the ability to complicated almost anything. Maybe it is their inquisitive nature. Rather than just try something, test something to see if it works, they research, investigate, question an idea over and over and usually end up NOT trying something new.

They have high expectations for the team members but don’t often clearly (and simply) communicate them.

Here is some simple advice intended for a high school marching band as they depart on a road trip. I hope you can see how it could be used to communicate with your own team members. It also applies to your partner group.

  • You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior.
  • Gavin Newsom

Tuesday, July 6th, 2021

You Know What I Like!

“Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news travels like molasses.” – Tracy Morgan

I recently heard an old song by someone called The Big Bopper. He died on the famous plane crash with Buddy Holly. It happened on February 3, 1959, and has been called “The Day the Music Died.” It was referred to in Don McLean’s classic American Pie. If you are not old enough to remember or have never heard of Buddy Holly, click here.

Anyway, The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson) had a novelty song that became a big hit titled Chantilly Lace. In the song he says, over and over, “Oh, baby you know what I like.”

I told you all of that so that I could talk about this – a recent article by Dan Hood of Accounting Today – “Accountants need to explain themselves.” Dan was on a recent Zoom session the AICPA leaders conducted last week. They (the AICPA leaders) urged all of us in the meeting and all CPAs to communicate what is good about the CPA profession. Dan’s article will be helpful to you.

They didn’t need to convince me. I love the CPA profession. But, are you, people working in a busy CPA firm, actively talking about all the good things to LIKE about the CPA profession? Talk to your kids, talk to students, talk to your spouse, your aunts/uncles, and especially your clients about the great rewards of being a CPA.

Read Dan’s article and keep in mind, “Oh, baby, you know what I like!”

  • If anyone asks you what kind of music you play, tell him 'pop.' Don't tell him 'rock'n'roll' or they won't even let you in the hotel.
  • Buddy Holly

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

A Long Weekend – Time For Contemplation

“The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival.” – Aristotle

Beginning today and through the long weekend. I hope you take some time to think and reflect.

Every day, in your leadership position, you create works of art. It might be a simple process, a procedure, valuable insight for a client, a smile for a co-worker, or a helping hand for your team.
Remember leadership is not a position, it is a state of mind – anyone can be a leader.

I like this one:

“It is about leaving a mark that I existed:
I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated.
I was happy. I was sad. I was in love.
I was afraid. I was hopeful.
I had an idea and I had a good purpose
and that’s why I made works of art.
– – Felix Gonzalez-Torres

  • Contemplation is the root of awareness and creativity.
  • Sandra Chantry

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

Improve Your Productivity & Focus

If you want to be more productive, you need to become master of your minutes.” – Crystal Paine

Have you heard of the Pomodoro method? According to an article I read, it has helped millions of people to become more productive and improve their time management skills.

Plus, according to a very efficient friend of mine who has worked in the CPA profession for years, it has really worked for her.

Also from the web: The Pomodoro Technique is a time management system that encourages people to work with the time they have—rather than against it. Using this method, you break your workday into 25-minute chunks separated by five-minute breaks. These intervals are referred to as pomodoros.

It reminds me of a method practiced by my former marketing director. She would have a pressing task and would be down to a deadline. She would say, “I’m going to play Beat the Clock.” That meant she would completely focus for one hour (usually typing or researching something) and get what she could done in one hour. I have tried it at various times and it worked for me. Sometimes you just agonize over things too long!

  • Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
  • Paul J. Meyer

Wednesday, June 30th, 2021

Your Current Challenge Certainly Isn’t New

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

I’m not sure where I got the quote, below, and I don’t know if it is really true. However, it seems to me that what this person said was probably true at the time.

Finding, hiring and retaining talent professionals is at the very top of the list today. The AICPA is concerned, state societies are concerned, practitioners are concerned and HR managers are exhausted.

Here’s the quote from 1961. It kind of puts things in perspective. The current talent challenge is nothing new and CPAs have been trying to solve it for 60 years!

“The public accounting profession can, in the years just ahead, expand its role in our economy to levels never before reached… The problems of the profession in meeting the demands of the future are centered in its ability to attract and keep within its ranks qualified professional personnel.”
 —John Jones, Georgia Society Magazine – 1961

  • If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.
  • Abraham Maslow

Tuesday, June 29th, 2021

High Regard

“People who end up as ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be first. They set out to do something they love.” – Condoleezza Rice

I am reading The Pioneers by David McCullough. I love historical books and McCullough has provided many.

Living in Ohio, The Pioneers is of interest to me cause it is about the first settlers that crossed the Ohio River and settled what they then called the Ohio country. It was really part of a larger area called the Northwest Territory where the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan would thrive.

Manasseh Cutler, a 45-year old pastor from Ipswich Hamlet, a tiny Massachusetts village led the “Ohio Cause” seeking to be able to buy land and settle in this beautiful and plentiful country.

At that time, Congress met in New York. The Constitutional Convention was still meeting. There was, as yet, no President, and Cutler had to bargain with Congress directly to get permission about the Ohio settlements.

Cutler described meetings with many influential people, including James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. Eventually, he met with William Duer, secretary of the Board of Treasury.

I am early on in the book but a certain passage brought CPAs to mind. What do your clients think of you? What kind of person do they think you really are? What do your employees think of you, honestly? What would they write about you?

Cutler’s description of Duer:

“He is a gentleman of the most sprightly abilities and has a soul filled with the warmest benevolence and generosity. He is made both for business and the enjoyment of life.”

Of course, for some of you, replace “he” and “gentlemen” with the feminine reference. Then, as a CPA, would people say something similar about you?

Interestingly, there is more to Duer’s story.

  • What does it take to be the first female anything? It takes grit, and it takes grace.
  • Meryl Streep

Friday, June 25th, 2021

Where Is Your 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

It’s Friday and time for a Friday Flashback post. I think this one is definitely needed right now.

It’s Friday and you probably have very few people in the office or even working remotely. Many firms actually close on Fridays during the summer months. Hopefully, Monday through Thursday there is a real sense of urgency within the firm and a lot of creative client service is happening.

Click here for a quick read about a sense of urgency.

  • Without a sense of urgency, desire loses its value.
  • Jim Rohn