When I ask CPAs about their biggest operational challenge, their answers are remarkably similar. Nearly all have to do with how to deliver less-than-stellar news involving employee performance.
One of my friends who leads a small CPA firm expressed regret about hiring a bright young man who just couldn’t seem to get the work done on time. When I asked the managing partner how he handled the issue, he said, “Well, I gave him a very harsh review at the end of the year.” “How’d he take it?”, I asked. “Not well. He seemed upset and confused, and yet still nothing has changed.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
The latest hire described above was angry and confused that he didn’t learn more quickly what he was doing wrong. And guess what? He has every right to that expectation, and he’s smart to want the feedback. Nothing is less useful than a critique offered several months after the fact.
Maybe you feel uncomfortable addressing specific issues such as productivity, attitude, and professionalism when they occur. It’s much easier, isn’t it, to fill out an evaluation form at the end of the year? The problem is, it’s useless. Team members need to know quickly when things are going well or poorly. It’s the only way they can either replicate the good stuff or improve the lousy stuff.
Of course, evaluating someone else serves up a heaping helping of “Oh-I-hate-this” to everyone involved. You hate delivering the criticism and your team member hates hearing it. And not everybody will handle your critique professionally or in a way that makes you comfortable, but that isn’t the point. You still have to do it if you want things to improve.
If your team members are driving you crazy, consider that you may be playing a part in that. If they aren’t living up to your expectations, tell them. Tell them quickly. Tell them why. And then help them to do better. That’s what leaders do.
Melinda is Thriveal’s Community Group Facilitator. She believes that creating a happy environment at work is not just a noble goal: it’s smart business. After nearly a dozen years as a marketing director for an Albuquerque CPA firm, election to the Association of Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame, and another dozen years on her own, Melinda long ago adopted CPAs as her tribe. Using humor, directness, and clarity, she shows professionals how to understand what they really want. Then she helps them get it.