It’s my ambition to have my name on the front door of the firm someday. And I’m not the only one. There are many other ambitious young professionals out there and firms may be in danger of losing them if they don’t groom them for the leadership positions to which they aspire.
I began my career by working in several firms, but continued to face a reoccurring problem. I felt that I was mainly involved in production, with no clear career path ahead of me. I wanted to take on a leadership role and I saw an opportunity for greater development at my current firm, where I am currently a tax manager. This firm provides a great program to support and train future leaders. Among other things, the program involves monthly meetings between supervisors and managers and outside leadership consultants. The consultants teach professionals how to be more people-oriented and we have fully embraced their concepts at our firm.
In working with the consulting group, I received feedback in my evaluations about some of my communication styles and how they are received by others. The consultants did a great job of providing examples of different alternative approaches that would work better. Their advice was not presented as a correction for something I had done wrong, but as a way to improve because their entire approach is based on building you up rather than tearing you down. I’m continuing to learn from this advice and I can rely on others within my firm to hold me accountable and look for ways that I can continue to improve.
Firms can also assist their ambitious young professionals by implementing early training and simply through leading by example. Most staff don’t naturally possess the leadership skills and business acumen necessary to advance, so proper guidance is definitely important. Firms should offer continuous learning opportunities within the firm. For example, bring young professionals to client meetings and show them how they are run. The second time you meet with each client, give the young professional an even bigger role in the meeting so they have a chance to grow and take on greater responsibilities.
In addition to our own program and internal learning opportunities, I also attended the AICPA Young CPA Leadership Academy, an intensive three-day program where participants learn leadership theory and strategic planning techniques. Because of my interest in the development of future leaders, I was also happy to become a member of the AICPA Women’s Initiatives Executive Committee. Their work involves understanding why roughly 50% of the profession is female, but only 19% of CPA firm partners are women. There are many reasons why this may be the case, but it’s obvious that the retention of talented women in the profession has become an issue. However, whether male or female, offering sufficient flexibility along with opportunities for advancement and leadership seem to be extremely important characteristics in the race to retain quality talent.
My firm is focused on its young professionals and I think we’re taking the steps necessary to hold on to talented people and nurture future leaders. What are you doing at your firm?
Michael Maksymiw, Jr., CPA, CGMA, is a tax manager at Filomeno & Company, P.C., a medium firm in West Hartford, CT.