Posts Tagged ‘question’

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Asking The Right Questions

How many times have you heard one of your newly hired interns or entry-level accountants remark that what they are being asked to do in the work environment is not something they learned in school? The typical remark that I heard from new grads was, “Boy, they didn’t teach us this in college!”

Because people learn so much more from other people than they do from reading and experimenting on their own, maybe it is time for you to work with your partners to develop a culture of answering questions. So, if you as a leader are going to answer questions, YOU have to create the opportunity for your new employees (and even experienced employees) to ask questions.

Dan Rothstein is the cofounder of the Right Question Institute, a Cambridge-based nonprofit that exists to promote an idea he’s been nursing for more than a decade (that asking good questions is a life skill far more important than we realize). He believes that learning how to ask questions should be considered as critical as learning how to read, write and do basic math. He thinks the ability to use questions strategically can make people smarter and better at their jobs.

The skill of asking questions is not deliberately taught, we assume that anyone can do it. I think this describes a lot of what really goes on inside accounting firms. Communication suffers because so many people do not listen, so many people do not ask questions and so many experienced, skilled, experts in tax and auditing/accounting don’t talk about what they know and open themselves up for questions from others. They might be quite skilled at asking questions and answering questions when it comes to clients, but don’t practice that same skill with their team members.

Younger accountants inside CPA firms are afraid to ask questions because they might appear dumb to their peers (and bosses). Older accountants are afraid to ask questions because it just might create some form of confrontation. Remember when I talk about “the partner nod?” They nod their heads in silence rather than speak up and say what’s really on their minds or to ask pertinent questions so they better understand.

I love the team members in firms who speak up and ask the “dumb” question. Most firms have one of these, maybe two (because so many others are afraid of looking dumb).

My advice to experienced firm leaders and young new hires? Get over it. Ask questions.

  • The key to wisdom is knowing all the right questions.
  • John A. Simmone, Sr.

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Accounting Profession Rebels

During 2011, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with a few CPAs who, to me, represent what the future is going to look like. I’m beginning to think of them as the accounting rebels.

Also, in 2011, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with hundreds of traditional, conservative, highly-skilled CPAs who are embracing change at a snail’s pace. They represent what the CPA profession still looks like, for the most part.

We need more rebels. And, all of those highly-skilled, traditional accountants CAN become one!

If you follow this blog, you know that my world is all about the massive change barreling toward the accounting profession. It has been rolling down the track for several years but the majority of practitioners haven’t actually heard the loud whistle on the train of change.

This whole “keeping up with change” thing has been on my mind more than ever recently because I have had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of CPAs during the last few months and most of them were from small to mid-size firms.

When I speak at conferences, I always try to attend as many of the other session as possible. The questions that CPAs ask during these various sessions helps me better understand their challenges. This fall some of the questions surprised me and helped me see that many practitioners are yet aware of the rapidly changing management, marketing and technology trends in the profession.

For example, during a social media presentation, three highly-qualified professional service firm marketers were discussing the merits of Pull marketing. As they were talking, one partner attendee slowly raised his hand and inquired, “what is Pull marketing? I don’t understand what you are talking about.”  I truly admired the panel, they immediately refocused and turned their discussion toward a more educational theme. I also truly admire the CPA, he asked the question that many in the room wanted to know.

How do YOU become an accounting firm rebel? You, like the CPA mentioned above, must be curious, rather than complacent. You must begin reading everything you can about the current trends in the profession. But, that is not enough. You must read everything you can about trends in business, in general, especially small business if that is your firm’s focus. Plan now to attend MAP conferences and sessions, state society meetings, join a CPA firm association and, most importantly, talk to your own clients. Ask them questions about the challenges they are facing.

The most important thing you can do, if you are an owner or work inside a CPA firm, is to speak-up. Ask the dumb question. Question the status-quo. Embrace change and thrive. Avoid complacency. Too many CPAs just go along with the pack doing what other firms are doing, rather than being creative and unique.

Urban dictionary – A rebel is a person who stands up for their own personal opinions despite what anyone else says. True rebels know who they are and do not compromise their individuality or personal opinion for anyone.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes – the ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can praise them, disagree with them, quote them, disbelieve them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing that you can’t do is ignore them – because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~ Jack Kerouac (1922 – 1969)

  • A populace never rebels from passion for attack, but from impatience of suffering.
  • Edmund Burke