BY L. GARY BOOMER
Genius or genius-maker?
Woodrow Wilson once stated, “I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.”
Many firms have had to make staffing cuts
in the past two years and are now looking to
do more with fewer resources. Increased regulation in health care and employment laws
only increase the burden on the firm. Therefore, most firms are not anxious to hire more
people. So how are firms going to do more
with less and remain profitable?
There are two basic strategies I see prevalent in firms on a global basis. The first is the
mindset of a multiplier leader and the second
is the leveraging of technology.
In Liz Wiseman’s new book, Multipliers:
How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter,
she states that research has proven that multiplier leaders get two times more production than diminishing leaders. She defines
a diminishing leader as someone who is
more focused on their own genius than on
developing the genius of others. Multipliers
are genius-makers, where everyone around
them gets smarter. By genius, she is referring
to innovation, productivity and the collective
intelligence of the team.
In the past I have referred to rugged individuals as opposed to team players. The
tendency in tough economic times is to go
back to what made you successful, and many
partners became successful by starting as rugged individuals who relied primarily on their
own intelligence and hard work, including extremely long hours. That approach will only
take you so far, and then you must leverage
multiple talents in order to grow to the next
level. Some people are happy at the rugged
individual level, but most have advanced to
a higher level.
who is more
the economy. The body of knowledge required
to meet client requirements has increased beyond the areas of tax and accounting. Today,
clients want real-time management information, not financial statements and audit reports issued months after the close of a fiscal
year. Most in our profession would agree that
it requires a team with unique abilities to meet
client expectations in today’s environment.
Your question should be: How can we do
more with less and double our production
with the same resources? According to Wiseman — and I agree — the answer is more in
mindset than mindshare. Every firm desires
to hire intelligence. What the firm does with
people after hiring determines whether they
increase or decrease in value.
Experience is different from value. It is
common to have people with several years of
experience whose value in today’s market is
not as high as what they are being paid. Great
firms ensure that A players become A+, yet
many firms allow their A players to diminish
to B. This happens by loss of engagement in
their work and lack of training to advance to
the next level. When this happens, the firm
becomes known as a place where your career
dies, rather than grows. It becomes a spiraling effect, either up or down. The firm gets
smarter or less relevant (dumber, for a lack of
a better term).
they are overworked. Current firm metrics
also tell us that resources were underutilized,
as firms were less than 50 percent billable in
2009. The question rapidly becomes: Are they
doing the right tasks and adding value? The
rugged individual will immediately say that
the firm needs to get rid of administrative and
non-billable people. But many of these people
are adding value to the client — the firm just
isn’t billing for it.
I believe the economic model of the accounting profession is outdated, due to the
fact that a broad base of talent is needed in
order to deliver value to the clients and the
amount of time spent is no longer relevant
with regard to value. Only charging for hours
worked by accountants does not make sense.
We are in a results-based economy, not an ef-fort-based one.
This moves us beyond just value billing.
It requires management and accountability
at all levels within the firm. Accountability
starts at the top. Sadly, I have had managing
partners tell me they just don’t have the energy to hold their partners accountable. This
is in direct contrast to top-performing firms,
which spend a great deal of time thinking,
planning and holding partners accountable
to the firm’s strategic plan. One of the biggest
challenges is for partners to realize that, by
allowing themselves to be managed, they will
make more and be able to focus on their own
Wiseman is quick to point out that most
leaders are somewhere on the continuum
from a diminishing to a multiplier leader,
and it is easy for people to fall back to diminishing thinking. She encourages you to
think of someone you have worked for who
is a diminisher and someone who is a multiplier leader. What was your effort working
for each type of leader? Were you more engaged in your work for the multiplier? Did
you grow faster personally and professionally working for the multiplier? This is where
mindset is more important than mindshare.
She also states that most diminishers don’t
realize the restrictive impact they have upon
Gary Boomer, CPA, is the president of
Boomer Consulting, in Manhattan, Kan.
ADDERS AND DIMINISHERS
Multiplier leaders become talent magnets.
Wiseman refers to leaders at the other end of
the spectrum as “adders” and “diminishers.”
Adders tend to believe that you can only increase productivity by adding resources. They
are eager to load up on resources, but many
people are unused and capacity is wasted.
Diminishing leaders often create the environment of people being over worked and underutilized. They tend to build empires and are
often proud of the fact that they have more
people in their division or office than their
peers. This creates unnecessary politics and
ownership issues, while limiting the growth
and profitability of the firm.
This strikes home in the accounting profession, as most partners and staff will tell you