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Passion, People and Principles

How Not to Manage People

post # 342 — March 30, 2007 — a Careers, Managing post

CCH (a provider of tax information, software and services) have a new whitepaper, “Recruiting and Keeping Up-and-coming CPAs at Your Firm” which provides insight into what’s important to young accounting professionals in the workplace today, how firms are measuring up and what firms can do to recruit and retain top talent.

The whitepaper is based on the findings of a survey of CPAs with four to seven years of experience, asking them what they wanted most and asked them to rate how well their firms were meeting these needs.

The results are the same old sad story. Fewer than one-half of firms received a very good rating on their ability to deliver on the attributes most important to up-and-coming professionals.

Amazingly, only 39% of the respondenst rated their firms as very good in providing “comprehensive resources to get the job done.”

How about that for convincing your staff about your commitmtent to quality and giving them a good work experience!!

Interestingly, the three most important atrributes of firm culture in the eyes of the respondents were:

Ethical leadership in the firm (only 55% of firms were rated very good!)

Work / Life Balance — Family friendly Policies (38% of firms rated very good)

High quality feedback, supervision and performance management (13% of firms rated very good!)

What ARE these firms thinking of? What IS going on out there?

I’m close to giving up in disgust. why bother writing and taling about sensible management if these results reflect the real world?


Larr said:

David, as a managing partner of a 58 person firm having membership in an international association of firms, i think the reasons for the appearance of lack of enlightenment are complex. 1) you would be amazed at how poorly partners keep informed about what is going on about what firms’ are really facing. 2) there continues to be an attitude among many member firm partners that “no one held my hand and showed me the way—I don’t see why I should have to do it for them”. 3) most partners/firms refuse to take responsibility for why “we have no people who are willing and able to take over my practice and retire me”. 4) it truly is difficult to manage a larger partner group even under the best of circumstances-as our parner groups get more diverse, so do their opinions and ideas. It takes a lot of energy and fortitude to persist in this changed environment.

posted on March 30, 2007

David (Maister) said:

Sad, sad, sad!

posted on March 30, 2007

evden eve nakliyat said:

very very nice .thanks your informaiton.very nice blog..thanks…

posted on March 31, 2007

Steve Roesler said:

David, the frustration is understandable and rings true.

Your headline grabbed me as I was beginning to formulate my own post for today. And it was timely. Today marks the 30th year of the incorporation of my consulting practice, so I began reflecting on why I started and what is different now. Your post expresses the biggest frustration of all.

Thirty years of research, seminars, graduate schools, internal programs, external programs, consultants, trainers, coaches, “how to” books. . .and there remains in the managerial ranks the choice to ignore employee feedback, employee surveys, and just plain common sense.

Which leads me to your final statement about giving up. After 30 years, I am in the midst of re-thinking what makes sense professionally. There isn’t a lot of satisfaction looking back and saying, honestly, “Wow, I apparently haven’t made a bit of a difference.”

Yet when I sit with clients at the end of an engagement they will describe with great specificity how my presence has made a difference. And I am absolutely , 100% sure that that is also true in your case.

So I am concluding that, while we set out to influence organizations, we can only legitimately influence the individuals with whom we come into contact. If that leads to one of our clients standing up and making a huge difference in a large organization, “field goal!” If not, then perhaps we need to determine whether or not our focus and sense of fulfillment should really be on “one person at a time.”

Perhaps that’s not such a bad way to live life. Our decision then becomes, “Am I willing to change how I see myself and my practice?” and then move in that direction.

And, delayed gratification is a price to be paid for wanting to change the world.

May I offer encouragement by noting that your practice, your books, your blogging and your articles have, indeed, multiplied your impact. There are influential people behaving in positive ways they never would have known were possible had you not walked the path that you have.

posted on March 31, 2007

David (Maister) said:

Thanks, Steve. I’m not really giving up, and I wasn’t only thnking about my own work when i bemoaned the lack of change. As you indicate, a lot of good ideas and wise thoughts have been offered from many sources, and so much is common sense. As human beings, we all change so slowly and so infrequernlt, don’t we?

posted on March 31, 2007

Mark D said:


Thank you for the great website and blog. I understand your frustration. As someone given a copy of “Managing the PSF” as a rite of passage upon making partner at my first firm over 10 years ago, can you imagine the frustration felt by those among ‘the managed” in firms where the managers pay lip service to your work. My experience tells me that all things being equal most people want to or are at least willing to embrace your teachngs but all things are not equal. As soon as your teachings conflict with short term financial gain, people begin to throw out the teachings which they view as costing them money. I know I am skeptical and somewhat jaded but there is no stomach for anything that risks immediate profits. Ethics can become very flexible when the “right” decision costs money and their is any possibility to rationalize the other choice. Likewise, the feedback and supervision people want so bad takes unbillable time. I think the rejection of family friendly alternative is not so much a short term profit problem but my post is too long already. Thank you for your body of work. It has made a positive difference.

posted on March 31, 2007

Wally Bock said:

I think we all know the frustration. I’ve been crusading for improving supervisory skills for new leaders for over a quarter century. On the one hand, I come across study after study that says that the immediate boss is the primary influence on both productivity and morale.

Then I see statistics like the one you share with 13 percent of surveyed CPA firms doing a decent job on basic supervision. And ASTD noting that first line supervision gets less than 10 percent of the training budget.

It’s frustrating, but it’s also incentive to strap on the gear and keep moving up the mountain. So is the practice of “counting the yes votes.” I treasure the comments of people who went through training and took time to tell me that they do a better job because of it, the comments of senior execs who appreciate the difference good supervision can make, and, in the last few years, the contact from people I trained twenty and twenty-five years ago who are moving into senior management and want to make sure their company makes sure there’s leadership everywhere.

posted on April 1, 2007

Carol Bergeron said:

Companies spend a boat load of time assessing their customer value proposition which has a huge impact the business. What is preventing companies from performing the same type of assessment on the employee value proposition? I frequently ask the questions – Why do employees choose to join your firm? Why do they choose to remain with your firm? The answer I get far too often goes something like “we have a competitive pay and benefits package.” When I respond “Oh, is that the reason why you joined and choose to stick around? the pay and benefits package?” it can prompt reflection (though not a guarantee). There are ways to discover the employeee value proposition so that it can be genuinly be leveraged in recruiting, succession planning and retention programs. But it takes executives who are receptive to this concept and are willing to do something about it.

posted on April 4, 2007

Joseph Heyison said:

Is it irrational to invest the minimum possible in employee development if 50% to 90% of the juniors are going to leave the firm?

posted on May 14, 2007