Archive for the ‘performance evaluations’ Category

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

The Value of a Partner

Aquila“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

In a recent newsletter, August Aquila of Aquila Global Advisors, LLC, shared the Factors Determining the Partner’s Value.

Here’s an excerpt:

In an accounting firm, profitability is generally the result of the firm’s combined talents, business management skills, internal systems, and value proposition to its core clients. Therefore, many factors must be considered when determining the value of a partner to the firm, for example

  • What are the technical competencies of the partner?
  • Are the partner’s technical competencies up to date?
  • Are these competencies needed by the current client base?
  • Does the partner add value in other areas, such as leadership, mentoring, and so on?
  • Can he or she bring in business—the lifeblood of any organization?

Skills alone do not make a good partner. You must also look at the character of the partner, for example

  • Does the partner live the firm’s core values?
  • Do staff members want to work with the partner?
  • Is the partner ethical in his or her dealings with both staff members and clients?

Most firms are too small to have a partner justify his or her existence as solely an administrative, marketing, or human resources partner. Partners need to increase the economic value of the firm.

He goes on to explain that many firms do not conduct formal partner evaluations. They do not require partners to set goals.

Partners need feedback, including the managing partner, if they want to improve their performance….. or NEED to improve their performance.

  • Excellent firms don't believe in excellence - only in constant improvement and constant change.
  • Tom Peters

Friday, December 9th, 2016

The Importance With Setting A Good Example

Over the years I have observed that many accountants, as they move up the ladder inside growing CPA firms, actually believe that once they become a partner, they will have it made.

As a partner, they will be able to do what they want and will not have to experience those horrible performance evaluations and goal setting sessions.

Maybe this viewpoint applied in the “old” days and perhaps inside some firms it still appears that partners have the privilege of doing things their own way and not being held accountable for following firm processes and procedures.

Inside the best firms, this is no longer the case. Partners hold the weight of the entire firm, it’s clients, it’s people and their families on their shoulders.




Inside the best firms, the managing partner coaches the other partners. They receive performance feedback, and they are expected to set goals and achieve them every year. In these firms, there are consequences for poor partner performance.


dynamosRemember, inside your firm, per David Maister, you have two types of partners.Which one are you?

If you are a partner, which one are you?

If you work for partners, you might be able to divide them into these two categories.

  • Things work out the best for those who make the best of how things work out.
  • John Wooden

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Approach Performance Feedback With A Growth Mindset

In case you haven’t heard GE (General Electric) is changing their performance feedback system. Many large companies are doing the same thing. The are looking at a fresh approach to feedback that is more continuous and helpful.

GE has been known for it’s “rank and yank” system made famous by long-time CEO Jack Welch. You rate and rank your employees from top to bottom and then get rid of the bottom players – year after year.

Gone are those days thanks to the Millennials. Now, employers are focusing on growth (career growth and helping people get there).

Companies are doing something I have been urging CPAs to do for several years now…. set-up shorter goal periods and have fewer goals, then change the dialogue to growth conversations that are not tied to compensation.

Millennials, because of technology, are accustomed to having continual feedback – it’s a fact of life for them and employers are getting wise to that fact.

For your firm, it might mean a culture change and a plan on how to implement that change. You have to help partners and managers make the transition from a competitive process to one that is identified by its emphasis on growth.

GE’s slogan…. “inspire connection and develop people.”

Not a bad thing to consider for your firm and your people.

Read more about the GE transition here.

  • The people who get on in the world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can't find them, make them.
  • George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Forget About The Goof-Ups.

“Inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it.” – Sigmund Freud

Many of you working at accounting firms have recently been through some sort of performance feedback process. While I urge firm leaders to provide feedback more frequently, most still have a once-a-year, larger, more significant feedback session.

While these sessions are supposed to happen in May or June, they usually get delayed and are often not wrapped up until September. These conversations almost always focus on what you can improve. That’s a good thing to know and it should be valuable information for you to receive. Hopefully, you also received some praise for what you are doing well.

So, while that performance conversation is still rather fresh in your mind, begin preparing for next time.

Begin now – today – tracking the positives. Track the good things, the wins, the great learning moments, the times you helped someone else… the new technology you mastered… all the skill enhancing moments that occur on a daily basis.

I mean it. Keep a long list of the positive moments. Spend less time making note of minor setbacks. Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Be prepared to share all of this good news during your next performance conversation and also be the one that identifies some areas where you need to improve. Be the one to guide the conversation.

You are the one who owns your career-enhancing journey. Make it a positive one!

  • Little minds are tamed and subdued by misfortune; but great minds rise above them.
  • Washington Irving

Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

Expand The Feedback For Your Firm Administrator

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has take place.” – George Bernard Shaw

Here’s the issue: The firm’s long-time, experienced and valuable firm administrator receives their performance feedback from the firm’s managing partner.

Year after year the same person gives feedback to the same person. Very often I hear from firm administrators that they no longer receive formal performance evaluations nor on-going feedback about their performance because they are doing a good job and nothing has changed.

I could give you a very long list of why this is a terrible situation…. for both sides. But, I would rather give you a solution to improving this situation.

Every year, have a different partner gather input and conduct the face-to-face feedback conversation with the firm administrator. If you only have two or three partners, continually rotate this duty.

The value of this activity is two-fold. The “other” partners get to see and hear, first-hand, the volume of duties and challenges faced by the firm administrator and the firm administrator gets to hear comments and advice from several sources within the firm.

The dual-value comes from all partners and the firm administrator getting to know and understand each other better.

  • "Employees who report receiving recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased productivity, get higher scores from customers, and have better safety records. They're just more engaged at work.
  • Tom Rath

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Giving Upward Feedback

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

I facilitate a lot of surveys for CPA firms. It is a very valuable activity for firm leaders. You want to know what your people think and what your clients think.

But, that’s not enough. You have to act upon the information you receive.

When conducting an upward feedback survey, one very important step you need to take is to take away any fear they may have. Some employees are truly afraid of repercussions or retaliation of some sort, which I rarely ever see from partners. It is important to assure them of the firm’s desire for honest feedback and that each partner will use that feedback to establish improvement goals for the future.

I also ask firm leaders to help educate the employees about how to give feedback. Many people do not really understand the process. I explain that they should limit their suggestions to their own opinions and not convey feedback that comes second or third hand.

Here’s a good way to frame feedback: Describe the action, the result and the solution, such as, “When you (do this), it (causes this). Going forward, I would recommend (fill in the blank.)”

Here’s an example: “When you take a very long time to get back to me with review comments, it causes me to use a significant amount of time to refresh myself about the tax return. If you could improve turnaround time, even slightly, it would help me be more efficient and learn from my mistakes.”

Now is the time to schedule your upward feedback project for 2016. Contact me for information about how I can help.

  • I think it's very important to have a feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better. I think that's the single best piece of advice: constantly think about how you could be doing things better and questioning yourself.
  • Elon Musk

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Feedback Is The Breakfast Of Champions

I love the quote attributed to Ken Blanchard: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions.”

Another valuable piece of advice comes from Dr. Stephen R. Covey: “Leaders, beware! The higher you go in an organization, the less likely people are to give you straight feedback. Feedback is your life-support system. Without it, you will eventually fail. Do everything you can to create a culture where it is safe to give you feedback.”

Enhance the communication in your firm by finding out what your people think. Begin to build an environment that builds trust between managers/partners and the team. Many experts tell us that to begin building this culture of trust you should begin with the people who know most – the ones being managed – and only then seek feedback from the leaders downward.

Here are some of the disturbing excuses (stories) I hear from people working in firms:

  • The partners refuse to do an upward survey – they don’t care what the people think.
  • Our partners are afraid of what will be said.
  • Our partners really don’t want to change so they don’t see the need for an upward survey.
  • Our managers really got upset when we once discussed asking for upward feedback about them and the partners backed off.
  • Our people wouldn’t be honest. They are afraid.

I firmly believe that firm leaders get better by a constant stream of helpful information from the people who are part of the accounting firm team. I have facilitated many upward feedback surveys and the information is overwhelmingly positive. I find the employees of accounting firms have a great deal of insight and helpful suggestions. While it is helpful to know any negatives about the partners or firm, it is also beneficial to know that your partners are respected and appreciated

Take a look at my Upward Feedback Survey Services and consider if it is time for the PEOPLE managing your PEOPLE to obtain some feedback that can help them improve their performance.

  • Mistakes should be examined, learned from, and discarded; not dwelled upon and stored.
  • Tim Fargo

Monday, January 18th, 2016

Helping CPA Firm Managers Succeed

0 Avatar slide for blogOnce again I remind you…. the people filling the “manager” role inside your firm have enormous power. People will stay or leave because of them.

Partners need to be great managers themselves so they can coach the people with the manager title to become more skilled at developing people and engaging them in what the firm is all about. This is really just one step in solving succession issues.

Here’s a quick exercise for managing partners or department heads. Do it in January!

Meet briefly with each manager. Ask them to describe one personal challenge they are currently facing… as they enter tax season. Talk about some possible ways to address this challenge and make it their ONE goal for tax season. Keep it simple, please – just one challenge to address and solve during the first 4 months of the year. If they can’t do that, you might have a bigger issue.

  • Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. it is hard to make something simple.
  • Richard Branson

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016

The Ideal Partner – Good Advice From August Aquila

AquilaMy friend, August Aquila, provided us an insightful look at what the ideal partner looks like in his recent newsletter.

I hope your firm has already defined the role of a partner by now. Many firms have not taken this step. What an ideal partner looks like would be a healthy discussion for your January partner meeting.

Here’s Aquila’s top five characteristics that today’s great partner should possess.

  1. We all work for the same firm and there is only one.
  2. We believe in good intentions so there is no finger pointing.
  3. We encourage feedback from our fellow partners, employees and clients since we know we can always do better.
  4. No matter what we say, it is always what we do that counts at the end of the day. If we say we are going to do something we do it. Our word is sacred.
  5. We spoil our clients by providing extraordinary service.

You can reach August Aquila at

Need feedback for your partners?  I can help with that via my Upward Feedback Survey services.

  • Better to fight for something than to live for nothing.
  • George S. Patton

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015

Cannot Afford To Leave

Today’s post is sort of a follow-on to yesterday’s Sacred Cow post (people who are protected, cannot be fired). There’s probably at least one of those inside your firm, probably more.

What about the people who really don’t want to stay at your firm but, over the years, they have performed adequately (but maybe not) and you have given them annual pay increases and now they make a VERY good salary. They are not passionate about the firm any longer (this could even be partners) and are just “putting in their time”.

EGHQ7ZDZI8I hear it all the time….. “There’s no where else in my area where I can make as much as I do here.” And from the other side, “She’s doing a pretty good job for us and it’s so hard to hire people now.”

Develop a “grow your own” culture where you are continually hiring new college grads and developing them. That way there is always someone who can stretch and fill a spot vacated by a more experienced person. People love challenges and promotions.

Identify your middle stars, people who are not all superstars but they are not falling stars either. Many middle stars are passionate about the firm. Challenge them and help them meet your expectations. If they are unwilling, and too comfortable with status quo, offer them the opportunity to work for another firm.

If you have someone who is working at your firm just because of the money – it’s time to deal with it. Give them a nice severance. Long-term, it’s the right decision.

From the other side, if you are that person, working for an accounting firm although it’s depressing, unchallenging, chaotic and poorly managed, don’t stay just for the money. Life is too short.

  • There's no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there's no excuse for boredom, ever.
  • Viggo Mortensen