The Extra Mile
Feb 12,2016
We are often reminded (and usually by someone in charge) that if we want to succeed, we have to “go the extra mile.” While this is true, I have found that an extra mile looks very different from person to person. As with any other clichéd instruction, clarification and a mutual understanding of what the extra mile means is critically important for success. As a leader, you have some pretty strong responsibility on the front end to define and guide that “extra mile” and to help others understand what an extra mile looks like to you.Culture is the foundation. You should already have created a culture that sets a high standard for quality, whether it is quality in product development, creativity, service or professionalism. Your high standards – as part of the overall company culture – are not part of going the extra mile. Those things are the mandatory miles. Teaching people that corner-cutting is not allowed is not the same thing as teaching them how to go the extra mile.Lead by example. If you expect people to willingly and enthusiastically go the extra mile, they need to have seen you do the same. How often have you been the first...
Thank Your Mentor (And Be One)
Jan 15,2016
In October 2015, I wrote about how instead of (or in addition to) being a boss, leaders might want to consider being a mentor. At the time, I said, “Though not every boss can or will be a mentor, I believe that adding a mentoring aspect to one’s role of boss is one of the most positive things you can do for your career and for those with whom you work.” January is National Mentoring month and January 19, 2017 is Thank Your Mentor Day. I thought this would be a good time to circle back around to how important it is to be a mentor (and how fortunate you are if you are or have been a “mentee”). A mentor is “a wise and trusted counsel or teacher” and “an influential supporter.”  While we have practiced mentoring for our entire history at Smith & Howard, we recently put together a group of our managers to develop a more formalized mentoring program. As this group has developed the guidelines for mentoring and being mentored, we’ve learned a lot about what employees think mentoring is and what it should be – and sometimes we have changed our direction – because they have...
Resolutions: an argument against them and a case for goal setting
Dec 29,2015
A resolution is “a firm decision to do or not do something.” If you made a resolution and someone told you that you had only a 10% chance of actually seeing it through, what would you think? I would think that my resolution was probably not realistic. And I would be right.Many of us make obligatory, though well-intentioned, New Year’s resolutions. I urge you to stop and reconsider. Statistics show that only 8-12% of New Year’s Resolutions are actually accomplished. And almost all New Year’s resolutions fail by January 15. Not exactly a record of success, is it?Instead of making a New Year’s resolution, I encourage you to look at the year ahead. What do you hope to have accomplished by this time next year? Set a key goal that names it and put a written plan in place to achieve it. Written goals have a 50% higher chance of achievement.The plan: Decide what actions have to occur to make your goal happen. Are there 12 steps, one relying on another to get you to your goal? Or are there 2 steps? Consider whether help from other people (friends, families, coworkers, trainers, service providers, and teachers) is necessary to help...
Leaders Develop Leaders Who Develop Leaders…
Dec 10,2015
Leaders develop leaders who develop leaders who develop… get the drift. One of Smith & Howard’s values is Perpetuity and Leadership: We desire that the firm transcend generations and be a place where future partners can succeed.  This was in full display at our holiday party last weekend, where our founding partners, a retired audit partner, current partners, emerging leaders and future partners all gathered to celebrate a great year. Jim Howard and Joe Smith spent their careers serving clients and cultivating the future leaders of the firm. We continue to do this today, working to make sure our current leadership keeps our values top of mind in all things, and helping our future leaders develop and learn what has made Smith & Howard such a great firm. I thought you might like to see a clip from the party where those first partners were recognized. Click the image below to view the video.   
What’s a boss and why celebrate the role?
Oct 16,2015
Today (October 16) is National Boss’s Day. What an odd thing, to make celebrating one’s boss an obligatory day. Of course, there are national just-about-anything days, including National Bagel Day, National Candy Corn Day and National Coffee Day (now there’s one I can learn to appreciate, as many of you who know me well see me with a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee daily). While I don’t think employees should ever feel obligated to celebrate their boss because there is a national day for bosses, I do think it’s worth the boss’s time to consider what would make him or her worth celebrating.By definition, a boss is “a person who employs or superintends workers” and “a person who makes decisions, exercises authority, dominates, etc.”While those responsibilities can bring up negative connotations to some people, if one “bosses” with the right intentions and motivations, the result can be happy, productive employees who grow professionally and personally and who learn the qualities of a good boss. And what might follow from that could be a business that thrives and succeeds. Win-win.Though not every boss can or will be a mentor, I believe that adding a mentoring aspect to one’s role of boss is...
Patience, Perseverance and Conflict: Lessons From Anne Frank
Jun 22,2015
Leaders come in all shapes, sizes and from all walks of life. Their experiences and paths to leadership are as varied as their histories. And many leaders, as I’ve discussed in previous posts, are atypical leaders. They don’t lead companies or divisions or departments. Sometimes, as in the case of Anne Frank, they lead by saying what others can’t or won’t say and often in daunting circumstances. That Anne Frank did so beginning at the young age of 13 is impressive. And that her set of circumstances were the worst that humanity have seen make it all the more remarkable.Along with her family, Anne spent most days – from 8:30 in the morning until after 5 in the evening – in near utter silence. An outgoing girl, she struggled more than others with the cramped space, confined schedule and inability to be expressive. Hence the diary. It was a way for her to say what she was thinking and to talk about what went on in that cramped space each day.In addition to being the ultimate documentation of the hiding, fear and discovery that was the Holocaust, her diary was also a two year lesson in patience, perseverance and ways...
Leadership Lessons: Let Them Play Their Symphony
Jun 02,2015
I am very pleased to present a guest post by Steve McCullough. I have known and worked with Steve as a client for over 8 years.  We have a common interest – Georgia Gwinnett College – where I serve on the Foundation Finance Committee and Steve is an accounting instructor. As you’ll understand when you read Steve’s post, he is a natural teacher and extends his passion for teaching beyond the walls of a classroom to every employee at every level of the companies he works with. (John Lucht)Let Them Play Their SymphonyI’ve never been one to ever consider myself successful in my career, but I guess I would have to say that since I’ve somehow worked for 32 plus years with some amazing companies and have had the opportunity to do so many interesting and satisfying jobs, I must be doing something right.  I guess the reason that I never had considered myself successful is that so much of it really isn’t me, it’s the people that I have had surrounding me. Over my career, I’ve entered into various situations upon accepting positions.  In some cases, I’ve replaced someone who has left, but in many cases, I filled a new...
When to Let Others Lead
May 28,2015
I think many leaders – especially those new to leadership roles – feel that they need to maintain a tight hold on their role as leader. They sometimes think that relinquishing leadership for a project or over a customer or client matter to someone else may indicate a lack of confidence, knowledge or even disinterest. In my experience, it is almost always quite the opposite.It takes a tremendous amount of confidence (in another person and in one’s own “skin”) to be able to turn over leadership of something to a colleague. Why? Because 1) There is risk involved in failure. The person could fail to lead well, and the project could fail. This could put business relationships, employee confidence and even company revenue at risk. 2) There is risk involved in success. What if the appointed leader succeeds wildly, bringing private and public accolades to themselves and to the team, while the original “leader” isn’t mentioned and/or is overlooked? What if some people see the success of the project and think the project leader is better, smarter, more of a leader than the original leader?It takes a great deal of confidence in oneself to be able to see and understand...
Bully Bosses (More on Leaders as Tillers vs. Bulldozers)
May 08,2015
A recent article in Accounting Today talked about “Bully Bosses.” This ties directly to my earlier post about leaders who are either bulldozers or tillers and applies to all businesses, not just accounting firms. The article’s author lists a series of questions for leaders to ask themselves to find out if they may be viewed as a bully leader.  For starters:Do I…1. See my employees look at their shoes when I ask for input?2. Notice that my employees are anxious when I enter the room?3. Find that employees avoid me or act guarded around me?The full article is here.  
Not Everyone is a Leader. Or Are They?
May 03,2015
As I thought about this topic, I did what I usually do when I need a kick-start for writing a post: I Googled it. My Google search term was “not everyone is a leader.” As you see from the screenshot below, that search brought up 111 million (yes, million) results. That told me two things. 1) The topic had been well covered and I was probably wasting my time; and 2) I found myself disagreeing with my own topic after I reviewed many of the articles I read.Here’s my perspective. At Smith & Howard, we have about 100 people. We have quite a few official leaders: leaders of departments, leaders of committees, and of course my role as leader of the firm. Do we expect “everyone” to be able to assume one of these leadership roles at some point in the future? Certainly not. Not only is not everyone capable of that, not everyone wants to take on those roles. However, looking at all the projects, initiatives, committees and day-to-day tasks that are accomplished here in serving our clients and keeping the firm running efficiently and profitably, I think I could name something that every single person here has been...