Posts Tagged ‘mentoring’

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Engage & Retain Talent With Mentoring

I have talked about, written about and helped firms implement mentoring programs for years. Still, I am receiving lots of feedback about the lack of dedicated mentoring inside CPA firms.

I contend that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession. An older, more experienced accountant guides and teaches a younger, less-experienced accountant. It has been going on for decades. It is how young CPAs have always learned their trade.

Take that basic approach and incorporate more recognition, honest feedback, skilled listening and career advice and you have a mentoring program.

Engaging and retaining talent is a hot topic for the accounting profession. Mentoring can be an important tool.

Experienced CPAs question me…. Where do we meet? How often do we meet? What exactly do I say? What do they expect of me? It will take too much time…. on and on.

Please keep in mind, when it comes to actually implementing a mentoring program, KISS – Keep It Simple Sweetheart. You can actually mentor and guide someone with two words. Here’s how, from a presentation I did for Boomer Consulting:

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

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Mentoring – Make It More Meaningful Inside Your Accounting Firm

I’ve been helping CPA firms establish and/or renew mentoring programs for years. Back in 2008, The Journal of Accountancy featured one of my articles on mentoring for CPAs. The interesting thing is that mentoring is the foundation of the CPA profession:

An older, more experienced accountant teaches a younger, newer accountant how to be a CPA.

That’s how I’ve seen it work for years and years inside CPA firms. Yet, so many experienced CPAs ask me:  What do I say? Where do we meet? How long do we meet? Do I help them set goals? Do I help them achieve goals? What if I don’t know the answers?

This week’s blog posts will be all about mentoring in the CPA firm world. Let’s start with a history lesson.

The Story of Mentor – Greek Mythology

The story of Mentor comes from Homer’s Odyssey. Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus.

After the war, Odysseus is condemned to wander vainly for ten years in his attempt to return home. In time, Telemachus, now grown, ventures in search of his father. Athena, Goddess of War and patroness of the arts and industry, assumes the form of Mentor and accompanies Telemachus on his quest. Father and son reunite and cast down would-be usurpers of Odysseus’ throne and Telemachus’s birthright.

The word Mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. History offers many examples of helpful mentoring relationships: Socrates and Plato, Hayden and Beethoven, Freud and Jung. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person.

One thing that Mentor said to Telemachus might apply to some situations inside your accounting firm as you truly begin to mentor your less-experienced accountants:

“You must not keep acting like a chid – you’re too old for that now. You are fine and strong, I see. You should be brave, so people born in future years will say good things of you.” – – Mentor

Stay tuned this week for more on mentoring. I will be sharing some practical steps and examples/samples that are focused on both roles:  The Mentor and the Mentee.

  • Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.
  • Margaret Mead

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Mentoring Programs Today – It’s Not Something Forced Or Formal

“I have been mentored to death and it hasn’t helped.” – – That’s what we hear from so many young people working inside CPA firms. Even experienced people, especially women.

I always say that mentoring is something that is the foundation of the CPA profession. An older, more experienced person teaches, nurtures, coaches a younger, less-experienced person.

That’s how the profession of public accounting has been taught to young accounting graduates for decades. It is something that happens naturally, feels comfortable and is actually helpful.

rebeccaryanYet, inside many firms we try to make it too hard, too structured and it turns into an uncomfortable conversation every 6 weeks, or a free lunch every month that is very superficial.

Watch this 2-minute video from my friend, Rebecca Ryan of Next Generation Consulting. She says it so simply.

We don’t need to match people… we need to just lift everyone up.

We need to think about how we bring-up our up-and-comers in a way where our partners’ reputations are on the line.

Make mentoring helpful inside your firm. Support it, plant the seeds, water them, give them sunshine and kind words and let natural mentoring flourish.

  • The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.
  • Benjamin Disraeli

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Performance Reviews & Mentoring Sessions – A Way To Communicate

I have worked with many CPA firms to establish and/or re-engineer their mentoring system and their performance review process.  These two things are such an important part of the culture within public accounting firms.

Of course, there is a lot to talk about and a way to communicate in these areas. In fact, communication is one of the most challenging issues consultants to the CPA profession are seeing inside CPA firms.

I find that partners don’t communicate enough OR they have way too many meetings. I also get lots of questions about exactly how to communicate with a subordinate about their performance or how to give meaningful advice to someone you are mentoring.

At your accounting firm, as you enter the season of performance reviews and more frequent mentoring sessions, please keep in mind that you have a special power.  Silence is power.

Inside your firm you probably know of situations where “the squeaky wheel gets the grease,” but if you really want to increase the power of your voice, silence can be a powerful tool.

In summary, inside accounting firms communication needs to be enhanced at all levels. In conversations inside your accounting firm, often silence is golden.

  • After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.
  • Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Trusting What We Are Told

In the July 12 issue of Fortune magazine, I read an interview with Paul Harris the Harvard professor who has written a controversial new book, Trusting What You’re Told.

Harris says most of what kids know, they learn from others. He believes that rather than seeing kids as “scientists in the crib” learning from observation and research, they actually learn more from the “testimony” of “informants.”

Think about your own childhood. If it was like mine, you learned so much from what adults and friends “told” you. Harris goes against what happens in today’s classrooms; instead, it demands verbally acute teachers as well as patient parents. Per Harris, children left to be hands-on experimenters is too narrow of a vision.

Harris: Children get their information from teachers, parents and experts. They’ll learn to trust some more than others. But I’m not just offering a portrait of young children. We’re all stuck with the fact that the amount of knowledge we can gather for ourselves is minuscule compared with the amount we gain by listening to experts, whether it’s how to invest or what to do if we have a cancer.

An issue – Pre-school teachers are mostly selected for their ability to be “nurturers” rather than for verbal or intellectual abilities. The student-teacher ration needs to be much lower.

Does questioning become less important as children age? Harris: No. It extends to elementary school and even high school. I don’t know about your children, but mine complain that often when they’ve asked questions in school, there’s not been time to deal with them. It’s the curriculum that dictates the pace of learning.

Why did I tell you all this? Because, hopefully, as you live your life inside an accounting firm, you learn from me and other “experts.” I learn a whole lot by reading (and I share that with all of my readers). I like to say “I read so you don’t have to.” While I learn from reading, I must admit that most of what I have learned over my many years in the accounting firm world, I have learned from listening to others; people more experienced in CPA firm management. Isn’t that why you belong to CPA associations, so you can learn from others?

Turn the focus to YOU. People hire you because you are an expert in taxation, accounting, auditing, bookkeeping, financial affairs, etc. They listen to you and learn.

Who else listens and learns from you? Yes, your staff members! Most one and two-year people tell me, “I didn’t learn any of this in college!” It’s about on-the-job training. It’s about individual counseling. It’s about mentoring others.

Accountants are known, for the most part, for being introverts yet so many people are relying on you to talk to them, to verbally convey your knowledge and experience about financial affairs.

Reading this interview shed some light for me on the fact that communication is the root of many problems inside accounting firms.

Don’t make it difficult, keep it simple and talk to your people and your clients. So what if your formal mentoring program isn’t working 100%, are you taking individuals to lunch and simply answering their questions? My advice is to take more individuals to lunch and answer questions – verbally convey your wisdom. Clients will gladly pay for it and your people will prosper.

Contact me if you need ideas for improving communication within your accounting firm.


  • It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.
  • Albert Einstein

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Talking CPA Firm Management And Then Doing Something About It

I missed posting a blog entry yesterday. Sorry about that. It is rare. I have been blogging every business day for 6-1/2 years on the topic of CPA firm management.

So, it’s not difficult for me to “talk” CPA firm management for two solid days – to me it’s fun. Some say it’s weird.

Wednesday and Thursday, on behalf of the Massachusetts CPA Society, I facilitated workshops on the topic. Wednesday it was focused on engaging your people (mentoring them, managing them, understanding the generations in the workplace and building on that culture of understanding). Thursday was focused on MAP (Managing an Accounting Practice) – things like recruiting, orientation, marketing, communication, running an efficient, profitable firm and building a culture where people will stay and build their careers.

Bottom line…. we had a good time each day. It was two separate workshops so some people attended both days and some just attended one. We covered a lot of ground and most important of all, the attendees learned a lot from each other.

They all agreed that they need to go back to their firms and Do Things.

When I asked each participant to share how they felt at the end of the day and what they were going to do, one young gentleman had a thought-provoking comment for all of YOU….

He said (paraphrasing), “I realize that I can make a difference. I’m not going to worry about what everybody else thinks or if all leaders are on board, I can do things on my own.”

Long holiday weekend ahead – get refreshed and take some time to THINK about what you are going to do to make your CPA firm a magnet for talent and clients.

  • Whether you think you can or think you can't. You're right.
  • Henry Ford

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Keep Important Firm Initiatives On The Front Burner

I hear from people – various positions – in the public accounting profession:

  • Our partners are too busy, they are never available for questions.
  • We have a retreat every year but we should just video it and play it again next year since we always talk about the same issues year after year.
  • The managing partner is more focused on clients than he/she is on firm initiatives.
  • The managing partner is our best rainmaker – we don’t want him/her focused on the day-to-day issues.
  • We are trying to identify our next managing partner but no one seems to want the job.
  • Our partners and managers never seem to have time to truly mentor us.
  • There is definitely a communication problem inside our firm.

What’s the answer to a lot of these questions and the following: How do you enable your partners to be focused on client service, client relationship-building and business development? How do you enhance the communication inside your firm? How do you create a mentoring program that really inspires young people? How do you investigate your processes and procedures and make them more efficient? How do you make sure you are following all of the most current trends in human resources? How do you create a cool culture, a fun culture and move your firm into the digital world?

Hire a qualified, professional firm administrator. Make it their responsibility to keep important initiatives, key to the inside health of your firm, off of the back burner and on the front burner!


  • You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
  • A. A. Milne