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8 Common Leadership Missteps to Avoid to Help Improve Your Accounting Practice

When it comes to gaining insights and learning, making mistakes and experiencing failures is often a part of the process. It is widely accepted that missteps, mistakes, blunders, and outright errors can lead to valuable lessons and breakthrough discoveries. However, there is no requirement for individuals to be the ones solely responsible for making these mistakes. The beauty lies in the fact that we can also learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. By observing and studying the errors committed by different individuals in various roles, we have had the opportunity to work closely with numerous firm owners, CEOs, and management executives, and through this collaboration, we have been able to compile a comprehensive list of some of the most prevalent and recurring errors that we regularly come across. By identifying these common errors, we aim to assist others in avoiding these pitfalls and ultimately achieve greater success in their respective endeavours.

You don’t play your role

People who are promoted, as well as accountants starting their own firms and becoming the boss, need to understand that their role has changed significantly. It’s a common mistake for individuals in these positions to believe that they can simply delegate tasks and enjoy the perks of their new title. However, leadership is a separate job that requires additional skills and a broader perspective.

Being a leader means dedicating time and effort to develop and utilise a whole new skill set. It also involves adopting a “big picture” mentality while still managing day-to-day accounting duties. If you find yourself thinking that nothing has really changed, then it’s likely that you’re approaching your leadership role incorrectly.

You’re still trying to do everything yourself

This is especially true for individuals who have transitioned from running a one-person firm to managing a larger organisation. It can be challenging and even daunting to delegate crucial tasks, as these tasks are vital for the success of your growing business (and supporting your loved ones).

However, it is necessary because as a leader, you have a whole new set of responsibilities. You will be setting annual goals and subgoals for your firm, cultivating its unique culture, instilling your firm’s values in your team members, pitching lucrative projects to top-tier clients, actively seeking out more high-profile clients, and much more.

As a business owner, it can be overwhelming to handle all the responsibilities of running your company, including compliance, tax, and bookkeeping. However, it’s crucial for you to prioritise your time as a leader. Your firm will continue to thrive even if you’re not personally overseeing every detail. But without effective leadership, it’s at risk of floundering and failing.

On the other hand, delegating tasks is not enough if you don’t stay connected. Simply assigning work and washing your hands of it can lead to mistakes that are ultimately your responsibility. It’s important to check in regularly to ensure that things are being done correctly.

So what’s the solution? We’ve discussed this before – document your workflows. Create clear step-by-step procedures with explanations for your employees to follow. Not only does this provide guidance for them, but it also allows you to identify where things went wrong in a process.

You’re not setting the proper example

Leaders in any organisation serve as role models for their employees. The saying “monkey-see-monkey-do” perfectly captures the influence that leaders have on their team members. Employees tend to emulate the behaviour and attitudes displayed by their leaders. Therefore, leaders must lead by example and embody the qualities they wish to see in their employees. For instance, if a leader is frequently caught playing solitaire on the office computer, it sends a message to their subordinates that goofing off is acceptable during work hours. This can negatively impact the productivity and overall work culture within the organisation. On the other hand, leaders who demonstrate professionalism, discipline, and a strong work ethic create an environment where employees are motivated to do their best. When leaders set a positive example, employees are more likely to follow suit and strive for excellence with their own work. Thus, leaders have a significant responsibility to be conscious of their actions and ensure they align with the qualities and values they expect from their team members.

You’re rushing your hiring practices

When faced with the happy challenge of an overwhelming workload, it may be tempting to rush through the hiring process to keep up. However, we strongly advise against this approach, regardless of the workload’s weight. Why? Because settling for just anyone can have a significant negative impact on the quality of your work.

Firstly, you will end up investing a considerable amount of time and money in the hiring process. And if the person doesn’t work out, you’ll have to bear the costs of severance and start the entire process again.

Secondly, by settling for “the best you can find at the moment” instead of striving for “the best,” you’ll spend a significant amount of time ensuring that their quality meets your standards. This essentially defeats the purpose of hiring someone – to increase workflow efficiency.

Thirdly, remember that when you hire someone, you’re not only bringing them into your team but also every interaction they will have with you, your colleagues, and potentially your clients depending on their role. Negative interactions could lead to losing valuable team members who struggle with dealing with this new employee. Ultimately, this will result in lost clients as well as a decline in overall work quality.

You don’t understand what your employees want from their jobs

It’s important to recognize that monetary compensation is not the only motivating factor for everyone. Take into consideration the other desires your team may have, such as the satisfaction of contributing to the company’s overall direction, the option to work remotely, fostering a close-knit work environment, or simply acknowledging their efforts with occasional praise and recognition.

You haven’t set milestones

Establishing clear goals and deadlines on the company calendar provides a sense of purpose and structure to an employee’s tasks. Without defined objectives, work can become mundane and monotonous.

Therefore, it is crucial to establish specific annual goals with monthly sub-goals, and then communicate these milestones to your employees.

When Becky understands that her dedicated efforts contribute to impressing a high-profile VIP client by showcasing the firm’s ability to deliver outstanding quality within tight timelines, she will recognize that her work contributes to overall firm enhancement. In this way, she becomes invested in the success of the firm she has played a significant role in building.

You’re not present for your employees

As a leader, it is essential to not only fulfil your own responsibilities but also to maintain an open-door policy for your employees. This principle extends beyond work-related matters. For instance, an employee may be facing personal difficulties and require a few days off. They may also bring forward fresh ideas on workflow improvements or client acquisition strategies. Why would you want to dismiss a valuable new concept? Therefore, it is highly recommended to schedule regular check-ins with your team, whether through group meetings or individual one-on-ones.

You’re afraid to make course corrections

It is important to recognize that employees have a desire to excel in their roles and take pride in their work. By providing timely feedback and guidance, managers can assist employees in making small adjustments to enhance their performance. It is crucial not to hesitate in addressing any issues that arise; rather, promptly provide assistance. The sooner an employee’s performance improves, the sooner both parties will experience greater satisfaction and fulfilment.

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