5 Tips for First-time Managers
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5 tips for first-time managers

5 Tips for First-time Managers

1 year ago · 2 min read

Early in CPA David Fabian’s first management role, he ran a project with a team that included two friends.

Fabian, who is a partner and member of the management committee at The Bonadio Group, a firm with offices in New York, Texas, and Maine, said the two accountants weren’t productive and were taking advantage of their friendship with him.

“I eventually sent them back into the office and asked them to meet with the partner to explain why things were not going as planned in the field,” Fabian said. “It was a difficult decision, but things turned around on that engagement as well as future projects — and we are still close friends to this day.”

Having difficult conversations with friends or former peers is one of the challenges that first-time managers may encounter. Along with a new title and higher pay, accountants new to management will also face new challenges and find they need new skills to be successful.

Here are five tips for accountants preparing for or starting out in their first management role.

Manage your responsibilities. Being a manager can mean a bigger workload, with more to do and new expectations from partners, clients, and subordinates. Being organized and communicating clearly are key.

“Organization can look very different to different individuals,” Fabian said. “Some people respond better to having a written list; others prefer an electronic list or calendar reminders.”

The day-to-day discipline of getting work done and being responsive is critical, Fabian said. “Keeping to your schedule, not procrastinating, answering calls and emails in a timely way — these are all things that can help with balancing a heavy and diverse workload,” he said.

Learn to listen. While being a manager may mean that some people listen to you more closely, listening to others — teammates, peers, clients, and partners — can be even more important for managers.

“One way of teaching the act of listening is by setting the example during meetings with partners and more senior leaders,” Fabian said. “This allows the opportunity to build trust in the relationship, which leads to better communication and understanding, as well as individualized planning, coaching, and goal-setting. These skills can be used by the new managers in their client relationships, as well as relationships with team members and partners.”

Get to know your team. One of the best ways to put those listening skills to work is by learning more about your team, said Marc Federbush, CPA, CGMA, a partner at New York City-based Anchin, Block & Anchin LLP, where he leads the fashion group.

Understanding your team’s professional skills, what motivates them, and obstacles they might face is critical for effective management, Federbush said.

“It is often said that people don’t leave companies, but rather they leave poor leaders,” he said. “Especially in this pandemic-impacted environment, you will want to be supportive so that your team will reciprocate and want to make you look good.”

Embrace mentorship. Young managers may find themselves acting as mentors to less-experienced colleagues; they should also seek guidance themselves.

“Embrace a mentorship mentality,” Federbush said. “This will not only help your colleagues that you are managing but also help you keep the momentum in your own career by continuing to grow and learn.”

(The AICPA Private Companies Practice Section offers mentoring and coaching guides. Member login may be required.)

Kill inefficiencies and improve processes. Brand-new CPAs are often focused on “learning the ropes,” Federbush said. Once an accountant has jumped into a management role, there may be an opportunity to improve how things are done.

“Identifying processes that can be executed more effectively or with less room for error or administrative burdens and building a better solution can help set you apart and demonstrate your potential,” he said.

Mark Tosczak is a freelance writer based in North Carolina. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Chris Baysden, a JofA associate director, at Chris.Baysden@aicpa-cima.com.

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