Posts Tagged ‘checklists’

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Describe What You Are Trying To Achieve

Many CPA leaders will soon be gathering for the annual retreat, summit, planning meeting – whatever your firm calls it. The partners, key functional area leaders and accounting managers will gather and discuss and debate where the firm is going and what they all need to do this year to keep moving forward.

Once it is over, the group will return and tell the rest of the team what to do to help achieve the firm goals. This plays out in smaller ways by managers and partners telling the team what to do relating to their daily duties that involve serving clients.

While I believe in lots of communication with your team – – continual, brief conversations on how they are doing and if they need your help – – I don’t think you should tell them every single step in great detail. You should not expect them to do it exactly how YOU have always done it.

Give them some room to explore and to actually THINK about what they are trying to accomplish. There is a difference between active, hands on management and micro management. I think you get the picture – hands-on means you are available and helpful. Micro means you are breathing down their neck and hovering.

Yes, checklists are a good thing when you are training young, inexperienced accountants but don’t develop a culture where if it is not on the checklist we don’t do it.

Do you have a team of box-checkers or entrepreneurial thinkers?

Here’s a good story from HBR about sharing what you want to achieve versus telling someone exactly what to do. It’s titled, Stop Telling Your Employees What To Do.

  • Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.
  • Arnold Glasow

Monday, March 26th, 2012

Be More Creative

Sometimes inside accounting firms, people are not very creative. What I am referring to is that employees are taught and expected to follow checklists and firm leaders manage the firm based on what other CPA firms are doing.

Seems pretty confining, right? I don’t mean you should discard your checklists (they bring efficiency, accuracy and quality to the work you provide clients). I don’t mean you should never refer to another MAP survey. What I want you to do is encourage your people to THINK and challenge the status quo.

I was reading my March issue of FAST Company and a headline about brainstorming caught my eye. FAST Company talked to Jonah Lehrer (author of Imagine: How Creativity Works) about the types of creativity and how brainstorming doesn’t work. Some of his comments follow – be sure to read the one about brainstorming.

How Does Creativity Work? –¬†We use creativity in the singular as if there is only one way the brain creates new connections but there are probably three neurologically distinct forms of creativity. One is when you have these moments of insight that come out of the blue (when you are in the shower). Another form is really working hard at solving a problem and the third is spontaneous improvisation (what Miles Davis did).

Can a person choose which kind of creativity to use? – The type of process we should use really depends on the type of problem we’re solving. I think we have to do a better job of diagnosing where we are in the creative process and adjust our thought process accordingly. When I’m stuck, I realize now I need to let myself relax, because the answer will arrive only when I stop looking for it. (Keller comment: Hasn’t this happened to you many times when trying to solve an accounting problem?)

You say brainstorming doesn’t work. Why? – The reason is it’s main rule: Thou shalt not criticize. (Keller: We tell our people, team, committee, task force, partners at a retreat – “spit it out, no idea is too dumb, we won’t laugh or make fun of anyone, i.e., criticize.) As long as criticism is constructive, it forces people to engage on a deeper level. The problem with brainstorming is free associations are really superficial and constricted by language. Criticism is important to get past that.

At your partner retreat this year, dig deeper into a few issues rather than superficially looking at many of the firms challenges. If a good idea surfaces, attack it! Use confrontation as a tool, don’t hide from it.

In my experience, when really tough issues come up, CPA partners tend to look at their laps rather than open their mouths. Get over it and be more creative at your firm.

Read more about Jonah Lehrer: the prodigy who lights up our brain.

  • To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.
  • Albert Einstein