Cabin Fever
Feb 17,2014
This weekend, Georgians shook off the cabin fever (and an earthquake tremor, to boot) and settled back into our daily routines. What a crazy spate of winter weather we’ve had in Atlanta. Like other businesses around the city, we officially closed our offices for two days to make sure our employees were not on the road during the snow and ice storms.While we have to admit we were frustrated that not one, but two winter storms arrived just as our audit and tax busy seasons were gearing up, most of us made quick adjustments and managed to throw in some fun time along with working remotely. I was one of those people, venturing out to create my own snowman…bringing highly honed snow sculpting talent from my years in Chicago.  Leaders can (and should) have fun, too!Along with my snowman, we’ve included some of our employees’ snapshots from their time at home with the snow and family or pets or just beautiful snow scenes. Enjoy!  
Collaboration is Everything
Feb 04,2014
I recently returned from a conference with other CPA firm CEOs. The conference, “Winning is Everything,” sounds like a bunch of overly competitive, high achiever, Type A personality types that think to win at all costs is first and foremost in being successful in business.  As it turns out, the name of the conference was deceiving. We discussed topics including getting in the mind of the buyer, developing an inclusive workplace and encouraging collaboration.  Now, those sound like topics that required focus on others, not me, me, me.I was particularly intrigued by the discussion on “Collaboration – a Secret Weapon for Retention, Engagement and Motivation” that was presented by Sandra Wiley.  She reminded us of the Helen Keller quote, “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. That this was spoken by a blind person really put it even more in perspective for me.  One of the statistics on the workforce Sandra shared with us particularly bothered me: 74% of US workers over the age of 18 are not engaged in their work.  And who did she say was responsible?  The leaders of the companies they work for.  And what was the overarching reason?  The leaders...
Letting Go
Jan 07,2014
Letting go is as much as part of leadership as is being involved. In an article in Forbes magazine, Mike Myatt said, “A leader simply operates at their best when they understand their ability to influence is much more fruitful than their ability to control. Here’s the thing – the purpose of leadership is not to shine the spotlight on yourself, but to unlock the potential of others so they can in turn shine the spotlight on countless more. Control is about power – not leadership. Surrender allows a leader to get out of their own way and focus on adding value to those whom they serve.”At Smith & Howard, we have specialty groups that focus on key industries or specialized services that benefit our clients. For many years, our Managing Partner and the Marketing Department developed annual plans for each group. Those plans seemed never to quite take hold with the teams, and the goals were often met only in part or not at all, while other projects not in the original plans were fully realized.We finally decided to let each team create their annual plan. But as a part of that privilege comes the responsibility of owning the...
Having Difficult Conversations
Dec 19,2013
At some point in our careers, we will experience both sides of a difficult conversation. Having these conversations is one of the biggest challenges many leaders face. I have found the following tips from the Harvard Business Review (HBR) invaluable. They have been condensed and edited for space and to reflect my opinion, but the original HBR piece can be read here.Don’t DelayIt’s often difficult to have conversations about sensitive subjects. Whether the issue is behavioral or simply a disagreement about an approach, it may seem easier to put the conversation off. As the HBR says, “You’ll be better off if you stop procrastinating and make the conversation happen. Request a time to meet.   Use a non-threatening medium, such as email or voicemail, to ask what time would be best to discuss a sensitive matter.” Adapted from “How to Overcome Communication Fears” by JD Schramm.Make Communication About Them, Not YouIt is easy to make a conversation about what YOU need. But that approach is not effective. HBR suggests, “Instead of reacting, ask yourself a question: what is going on for the other party? Then, ask yourself another: what can I do or say to help? By focusing on the other...
So you want to be a leader? (part two)
Dec 03,2013
I came across a list of "15 Things Leaders Need to Know" in INSIDE Public Accounting, a national accounting journal. This list was from Mark Sanborn, a best selling author (The Fred Factor) and noted authority on leadership. Since I just recently posted my own thoughts about what it meant to be a leader, I thought the perspective of Mark Sanborn would be a good addition. Here are Sanborn's 15 Things Leaders Need to Know:Leading is harder than being a leader. Many aspire to be leaders only to find out that doing leadership is challenging.If you don't have compelling reasons to lead, you won't last as a leader.If it benefits only you, it is ambition, not leadership.There are many excellent guidelines but few good recipes. Beware of cookie cutter approaches to leading.No matter what you choose to do, you will bring your uniqueness to it.All business is personal (despite the old cliche that it isn't).Focus is important but shared focus is critical.True followers follow out of commitment, not compliance.If you use your title to get things done, you're not really leading.Don't ignore your inner life. Your inner life will support your outer life or bring you down.The soft skills are...
So you want to be a leader?
Nov 12,2013
So you want to be a leader. Where do you start? One thing is for sure: no one proclaims you a leader and poof! you’re a leader. Instead, leadership begins in one place – with you. It is not the responsibility of your boss to “make” you a leader. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from my career:Don’t wait. Don’t wait for others to tell you what, why or how. Instead, articulate your goals and vision then gather and collaborate with a team of people who have an equally committed stake in the success of the project or the company and begin to lead them forward.Build a shared purpose and vision. Leaders are able to build a sense of purpose and a clear vision of a project or the company’s goals and mission. Communicate that vision constantly, give and receive feedback constructively.Start small; think big. Leadership often comes in small packages. Lead a small project first. Make mistakes, learn and grow. Jack Welch, former CEO of GE, worked as a junior chemical engineer at a salary of $10,500 with GE. He was almost fired after an explosion at a plant, but persevered with encouragement from other leaders at GE...
The Elephant in the Room: “Trust Me”
Oct 04,2013
I recently took a family vacation with my wife, Dianne, and my two adult children, Elizabeth and Daniel and their significant others: a once-in-a-lifetime, three-week safari in the southernmost African countries of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe.While sleeping among wild elephants and leopards, riding elephants, walking with grown lions and navigating mokoras (canoes) among hippos and crocodiles, we trusted our lives to our guides – complete strangers. It was an amazing and exhilarating experience, but it also created a lightning bolt moment for me. It takes a long time to gain the trust of clients and coworkers; why did my family and I so easily put our lives in the hands of these strangers?My conclusion: we were told by people we trusted that these guides were experts at what they did and we had no idea how to protect ourselves from the wild animals with whom we had voluntarily come to walk among.Now, I could draw many parallels between the vast knowledge auditors and tax professionals have and how it is critical for clients to put their trust in us because we know what we’re doing. And that would be a pretty good parallel. But perhaps the more compelling...
Accentuating the positive
Jul 24,2013
As part of Smith & Howard University, we host an employee book club once a quarter. The book discussions give employees at all levels an opportunity to provide feedback on the selected book and to provide illustrations of how the principles of the book apply, or should apply, in our day-to-day work environment. This quarter’s selected book was Whale Done!, by Ken Blanchard. A short but effective read, Whale Done! provides insightful tips on accentuating the positive to build employee confidence and morale. He talks about the difference between the GOTcha approach (catching people doing things wrong) and the Whale Done! approach (catching people doing things right). Four of the top tips for achieving this are:Praise immediatelyBe specific about what was done right or almost rightShare your positive feelings about what they didEncourage them to keep up the good workRealistically, daily deadlines, competing priorities and different personalities can make this a challenge for all of us to do consistently. However, I believe employees and employers alike reap far greater rewards when they consistently focus on the positive. My next post will provide some reflections on leadership in the wild – a look back at my recent trip to Africa.
Lollipop Moments in Leadership
Jun 05,2013
We constantly focus on leadership development and what leadership means at Smith & Howard. Sometimes, we lose sight of the larger picture of leadership – what it looks like on a day to day basis. In this powerful video by Drew Dudley, a leadership educator, viewers are reminded that leadership is not something we are going to deserve “one day.” Rather, leadership often comes in moments, or lollipop moments, as he calls them. In Dudley’s experience, the biggest impact he ever had on anyone’s life was a moment he can’t even remember. I highly recommend watching this six minute video and thinking about the ways others have influenced your life and vice versa.
Guest Post by C.D. Moody, Jr., CEO of C.D. Moody Construction Company
May 23,2013
Finding Balance While In Organized Chaos I started my construction business April, 1988. My wife and I were broke with two young kids. I had worked for both large and small contractors. My wife and I decided we were so broke that we had nothing to lose, so, we might as well give it a shot. Well 25 years later, we are still in business. The journey of 25 years in business is where I learned the importance of balance.First balance means a lot of things for different people. Some people think it means giving equal time to business, family, personal and religion. What I learned is that you can rarely give equal time to everything in your life. Also, the unexpected will always throw the balance that you think you have way out of whack, for instance company downsizing, childrens’ illnesses, relocation, etc. For me, the unexpected event that threw off my balance was when, in 1992, I revealed to others that I had been sexually abused as a child, and had kept this secret buried for 26 years. This event led to panic attacks, anxiety and PTSD.Now finding balance, while trying to build a business, raise a family, be involved in my...