Posts Tagged ‘mentor’

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Getting It Straight – Mentors, Coaches and Sponsors In The CPA Profession

photoInside CPA firms we do a lot of talking about mentoring but often we demonstrate very little action. When I ask participants in my presentations if they have a mentoring program most of them say, “Yes”. However, when I ask how these programs are working I usually get “So-so” as an answer.

There seems to be some confusion about the difference between mentoring and coaching. If you Google these words you will get a lot of differing opinions on what they mean and how to go about being a mentor or a coach in the business world. I will add my voice to the masses and tell you how I think it plays out inside a successful CPA firm.

I believe that a mentor is a listener, a sounding board, a wise resource to guide and steer you as your evolve, develop and gain experience in your career.

I believe a coach is someone more active. Think of a basketball or football coach – they actually show you (run down the field or court beside you and give you detailed instructions….”keep your elbows in and head down!”

In a CPA firm both roles are needed.  I like to see mentoring programs have a foundation of coaching.  The first year or so, beginners really need a coach (or buddy), someone who knows how to actually do the work, use the software, etc. and then they evolve to where they need more of a mentoring situation (and this usually is a different person) who is more of a career counselor.

As with everything, mentoring is under-going some changes in the professional service firm world. If a mentor and a coach aren’t enough, we are now reading and hearing more and more about having a “Sponsor” as your develop your career.

Honestly, I think that what we have inside CPA firms is really more of a sponsor relationship.  It is more of an “I will help you and in return you will help me” type of relationship.  A Sponsor builds a relationship with people (by helping them succeed) and they give back to the sponsor by helping them (and replacing them) so they can go on to bigger and better things.  It’s like succession – – – I will teach you, train you and promote you and you will help me handle my clients and responsibilities better and eventually replace me.

Here’s how an article on FAST Company  describes it:

“You might be tapped for development, but you’re not going to be given a ride on the coattails of anyone who doesn’t see you pulling your weight (and then some). Mentors may pick you, but you pick your sponsors by committing yourself to their best interests.”

Read this entire article (it’s short) and you’ll see what I mean.


  • I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
  • Robert Frost

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Remembering A Role Model

The following is a reprint of a blog I did on November 3, 2009:

Sometimes, inside CPA firms, we tend to talk about what’s not working a whole lot more than what is working.

I believe it is for a good reason. CPA firm leaders want to continually improve things and to do this they need a thorough checklist of what appears to be broken. While I encourage your continual march toward a forward-thinking, well-managed firm, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses! 

Talk, talk, talk about the good things at your firm and encourage your leaders to cite examples of positive forces in your firm. It’s funny how you will see others begin to do the same. Positive talk and positive actions creates positive energy and it is imitated.

Just such an action happened yesterday at the Alpern Rosenthal’s annual leadership retreat in Pittsburgh. We were having a discussion guided by Holly Fuller and Steve Feldbauer on why the firm’s mentoring program needed improvement. There were lots of great ideas and comments on how to “fix” it, when Frank Duzicky spoke up. 

The room got very quiet when Frank began to speak…. “My firm mentor is Dave (David Charnock, COO, of Alpern). I have benefited so much from Dave’s guidance and counsel. He is so patient and never hesitates to spend time with me. I am a better professional, better employee, better manager, better husband and just a better human being because of Dave.”

Wow…… the quiet room erupted in applause. That’s what it is all about. I am so proud of Dave and fortunate that he is my friend and role model, too.

Inside your accounting firm – be sure to talk about positive things today.

Footnote:  Dave Charnock passed away on Monday of this week after a two-year battle with brain cancer. This is a picture of Dave with his lovely wife, Cathy, taken at one of the annual Association for Accounting Administration national conferences. Yes, I was very fortunate to have known him and I will miss his wit, advice and friendship. We need more leaders who actually demonstrate what it means to be a role model in public accounting and in life.

  • A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.
  • Oprah Winfrey

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Helping Women to Compete

Yesterday was a special day for me. I had the honor to speak at the first ever Tennessee Society Women’s Career Summit. The room was filled with females who want to make a difference – for themselves, for their employers and for the people they supervise.

I also had the great honor of hearing Joan Cronan, the Women’s Athletic Director at the  University of Tennessee for the last 29 years, do an opening keynote presentation that was truly motivating and moving.

When she was 12 years old, she was told by the little league coach that she could not play because she was a girl. She could be bat girl, water girl, team manager but she could not compete on the field.

That story set the tone for her life. She relates, “It made me so mad! Since that day I have had a vision the I wanted to help women learn to compete.”

In the world of public accounting, that is what I want to stress for the many females who are still facing challenges. You must learn to compete. It comes through passion, hard work, and developing self-confidence.

Here are 3 tips from Ms. Cronan:

Competition:  Be willing to face your competition, you must compete. It doesn’t have to be basketball or tennis. It can be tap dance, cheerleading, speaking or getting promoted. Set goals for yourself. I thank my competitors, because my friends won’t always tell me my weaknesses but my competitors will. If I had no competition, I might become lazy. Competition makes us all better.

Mentor/Coach:  You need one or more than one. Find good ones and listen. Ask them to help you develop confidence – your must get it and use it!

Communication: Her pet peeve is people who do not say thank-you. How hard is it to say those simple two words that carry so much weight. Show your appreciation by communicating. Also, always be direct in your communication. If you are supervising others, it is your responsibility to tell them their weaknesses and help them get better.

Picture above: Joan Cronan, is that you with Rita?

  • You have to start your own engine.
  • Joan Cronan