hesaidshesaid BY AUGUST AQUILA AND ANGIE GRISSOM
How to get the wheel moving
like you see
— lots of
August Aquila ( www.aquilaadvisors.com) is
a well-known consultant, retreat facilitator
and author. Reach him at (952) 930-1295
Angie Grissom is a leading consultant at
The Rainmaker Companies who exclusively
serves accounting firms. Reach her at
(615) 373-9880 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a real epidemic in the account- ing profession today. The disease has a couple of different names — some
managing partners refer to it as lack of accountability, while others talk about the complacency syndrome. In this article, we will explore one symptom of this at a time but from
two viewpoints: Aquila’s and Grissom’s.
We have referred to this particular challenge as the hamster wheel or “partner
wheel.” This means you are working hard but
not breaking out of the issues. You are working hard. It seems like you see your partners
and team members more than you do your
family. You have meetings — lots of meetings.
You know what the issues are and you are
spending a lot of time thinking about them
and sometimes even talking about them.
The problem is you are not breaking out of
them. Thinking and talking about them do
not equate to addressing or resolving them.
Hence, you are still dealing with them each
year. You need to take action.
He said: If you are not used to making
tough decisions, start with the easier problems. No matter what the issues, you need to
prioritize them. I like tackling the easier ones
first, especially if you don’t have a history of
addressing the tough issues. This way you can
get some easy successes before you tackle the
She said: I disagree. Prioritizing them
is fine, but it isn’t enough. What’s going to
change if you prioritize them now, as opposed to prioritizing them in the past? Sure,
you know which issues have the greatest
implications, but knowing is only half the
battle and, quite frankly, you have been rolling these issues around in your head for long
enough. You need to discuss the issues out
loud with your leadership team. Adding them
to the meeting agenda to be discussed is acknowledging that an issue exists and making
a commitment to explore it further with the
goal of resolution. This is a must-do.
He said: Discussion is good, but at some
point it’s time to draw a line in the sand. Say,
for example, that you have an issue with an
underperforming partner. Just talking to
them about doing more is not going to work.
A firm leader needs to set partner goals for
all partners and let them know what the consequences are for not meeting them — from
no bonus to termination and anything in between. Then follow through.
She said: I agree. Draw the line. Don’t
cross it. After you have acknowledged the
issues, you should set a deadline for resolving them. Preferably the deadline is within
the foreseeable future. It is best to set a firm
deadline at the beginning of this process before becoming involved in all of the emotions
and details around the resolution. Targets are
necessary. Set a schedule for tackling these
issues and stick to it.
He said: If you set the deadline, you need
to have some consequences if action is not
taken or the goal not met. It may be better to
set milestones, since issues may take longer
than you originally think, and many times
there is no way to tell if the final goal will be
met in the time frame given.
She said: Fine. But get off the hamster
wheel. Address it. Resolve it. Move on. You
have more important things to deal with.
He said: If you really want to get the wheel
moving, you need to align the partners
around a common goal (or, as consultants
like to call it, a vision). Ask yourselves: What
is the firm working to achieve? How can the
partner group achieve it by working together,
rather than alone? What exactly are we trying
to do in the firm?
She said: Alignment is important to get the
wheel moving, but many times a partner’s
behavior is actually one of the issues that
needs to be addressed. Leaders are many
times hesitant to bring up an issue because
the issue is sitting across the table from them
at the partner’s meeting. When this is the
case, total alignment is impossible. Thus, a
decision to address the issue must be made
without consensus and alignment. If possible, leaders should have a conversation with
close advisors to get feedback on the issue
and gain some perspective before addressing
it. However this is handled, the point is that it
needs to be addressed — and sometimes it is
without the consensus of the group.
He said: Unless you have that common
goal, you can’t get consensus or alignment
because the partners don’t know what they
are aligning around. This is not a chicken-or-
egg dilemma. If a partner does not buy into
the vision, then it is best for them to decide
whether they want to stay with the firm.
They said: If you are going to lead, you
need determination and consistency. Many
leaders start the process, but either don’t
really believe in it or don’t stick with it. Partners know that this could be just another program of the day and if they wait long enough
it, too, will go away. So, starting today, make
a decision to face those tough issues head
on. Step off the hamster wheel so you move
forward as a result of all of the effort you are
putting in. Don’t let tough issues linger. Once
you address them, you will be on your way to
a more successful practice. AT