It’s absolutely true that missteps, mistakes, blunders, and outright errors can lead to wonderful insights. But there is no law that says that you have to be the one making these mistakes – you’re free to learn from the mistakes of others.
We’ve worked with more than our fair share of firm owners, CEOs, and management execs and we’ve managed to compile a list of some of the more common errors we see all the time.
You don’t play your role.
This is especially true for people who are promoted, but also applies to accountants who are starting their own firms and are the boss from day one.
The mistake is that people in this position believe that they are still the same accountant they were before, except now they get to shunt their least favourite work off to their team, put their name on a business card with a new title, and hopefully nab the swankiest office.
Leadership is a job on top of your accounting duties. As such it requires that you put effort into learning and utilising a whole additional skill set, as well as acquiring and maintaining a “big picture” mentality to go along with your day-to-day duties. If you feel like nothing has changed, then chances are you’re doing it wrong.
You’re still trying to do everything yourself
This one is especially true for people who started up their own one-person firm and have now expanded, but can certainly still apply to people granted a management role in larger firms.
It can be difficult, and maybe even a little bit scary, to hand off essential work. This work is what feeds your fledgling firm baby (not to mention your family).
But it has to be done. Why? Because as a leader you have a whole new set of responsibilities. You’re going to be working out your firm’s yearly goals and sub-goals, building your firm’s culture, instilling your firm’s values in your employees, pitching profitable projects to A-list clients, hunting for more A-listers, and so on.
As the boss you simply won’t have the time to do all of this and compliance, tax, or bookkeeping as well. As nerve-wracking as it may be, you need to free up some of your time to be a leader. It’s essential. Your firm is going to be fine if you’re not dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s. It will however flounder and fail without someone doing a proper job of being the leader.
The other flip-side of this is that you do delegate, but then you don’t stay in touch. It’s one thing to delegate work out. It’s another to completely wash your hands of a file. The latter case can lead to work being done in an incorrect manner, and that’s your fault, not your employees’ – you didn’t check in to make sure things were being done in a proper fashion.
The solution? We’ve talked about this in other posts – document your workflows. Have a documented procedure that your employee can follow step-by-step with clear explanations. Not only does this act as a guide for your employee, it also allows you to know precisely where in a process things went wrong.
You don’t set the proper example
Be what you want your employees to be. It’s monkey-see monkey-do when it comes to leaders and employees – if you’re seen playing solitaire on the office computer then your employees are going to think it’s okay to goof off too.
You rush your hiring practices
If you have the happy problem of too much work it can be mightily tempting to blast through the hiring process in order to keep up.
But we suggest that you do not rush it, no matter how heavy the workload. Why? Because settling for just anyone can have a tremendous negative impact on your workload quality.
First of all, you’re going to be out a lot of time and money (thanks to the hiring process), and if the person doesn’t work out, you’re going to have to pay severance and then go through the whole process again.
Second, by hiring “the best you can find at the moment” instead of simply “the best” you’re going to be spending a lot of time insuring the quality is up to your standards. That means you’re negating the point of the hire – to increase the speed of your workflow.
Third, you’re not just hiring the person – you’re hiring every interaction they will ever have with you, your other employees, and depending on their position, with your clients. If those interactions are negative then you’re going to lose the solid members of your team who can’t deal with the new employee, and this in turn will result in lost clients as your quality suffers a downturn.
You don’t understand what your employees want from their job
Not everybody is in it for the money (or not only the money). Don’t ignore the other things that your team may want – satisfaction from having input in the firm’s overall direction, telecommuting, a family atmosphere, even just a pat on the back from you from time to time.
You don’t set milestones
Putting definitive goals on the company calendar gives structure and meaning to an employee’s work. Without a goal work is just, well, more work.
So set out concrete yearly goals with monthly sub-goals, and then share these milestones with your employees.
If Becky knows that her hard work is going into impressing an A-list V.I.P. client by showing how quickly your firm can turn around a file with top tier quality then she’ll know that she’s working to improve the firm as a whole. She’ll be sharing in the success of the firm that she helped you build.
You’re not there for your employees
As a leader not only do you have your own duties, but you’re going to need to have an open door for your employees.
This doesn’t just apply to strictly work situations – for example an employee might be going through a tough personal time and will want to explain why they need a couple of days off.
They might also bring you new notions for your workflows or how to attract clients. Why would you want to shut your door in the face of a great new idea?
So at the very least make it a part of your weekly schedule to check in with your team, via group meetings or select one-on-ones.
You’re afraid to make course corrections
Believe it or not, your employees want to do their jobs well. They want to take pride in their work. To do so, they need to know when they could tweak their performance to do a something a little better.
Don’t be afraid to give an employee a nudge in the right direction. And do it as soon as you see the problem, don’t let it linger. The sooner you help an employee improve his or her performance, the sooner they’ll be making you happier, and that will make them happy in turn.