In the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching several new leaders who have recently been promoted. Most of them are working in public accounting, but in my experience, the challenges new managers face are consistent regardless of where you work. So, if you’re not in public accounting but you are a new leader, read on. If you’re in public accounting and a new leader…definitely read on.
I work with accounting leaders all over the US. New manager challenges are the same regardless of location, years of experience, age of the firm, target client, etc. Even inside of one accounting firm, there can be huge disparities between leaders- some are excellent and others are less effective. Arguably, they received similar training, were “raised” in the same firm culture…so why is there such a gap?
Let’s assume that everyone who is in a leadership pipeline in an accounting firm is intelligent. I mean, you don’t get into this field without it, and you certainly don’t last long without some level of “smarty-pantsness”. So if we’re all equally smart, what makes some accounting leaders super successful while others crash and burn?
There are three key factors that the more successful leaders have embodied in their transition into leadership that others may have avoided- a new mindset, new skills, and a new perspective.
The key takeaway in all of this is that what got you here won’t get you there. This is true in all aspects of your role. The key skills, mindset and approach that earned you your leadership title aren’t what you will need to be successful in it.
The best leaders that I know have successfully flipped their mindset upon becoming a leader. They’ve left behind the mindset of the individual contributor that says “I work hard to be great at my job. I’m responsible for my job and my job only”. As a leader, you’re now responsible for managing the productivity of the individual contributors around you. If you want to be effective, you can’t stay focused on you alone.
The key component of this mindset shift is realizing and owning that your primary job is no longer about you being successful. It is also about helping the team around you be successful. In fact, some organizations base part of your performance evaluation on the performance and growth of your team. If you don’t make this shift, you may still find success as a leader, but not without burning yourself out and leaving a pile of burned-out, disengaged staff behind you.
Successful new leaders bring a learner’s mindset to their work. They know that they’re in a new role and aren’t expecting themselves to be experts right away. They recognize that new skill sets are required and that they won’t develop overnight.
So, what skills are key?
- Developing Others
- Big Picture Vision
Communication is key as a new leader. As an individual contributor, you’re likely used to communication flowing one way- towards you. You’re often not held responsible for communicating upwards. This is key as a new leader. You’re going to have to communicate both directions, up and down, and you have to make sure that it’s effective.
With your new role comes new responsibilities- namely, developing the people around you. This is likely not something you’ve been responsible for in the past and it requires new sets of skills. Reflect on any new duties you have as a leader, and any skills you may want to develop. Perhaps you could use some training on giving feedback or how to delegate tasks more effectively. Seek out those skills and resources. Be responsible for your development.
Finally, vision. It’s important in your role as a leader that you have a clear vision for the future you’re creating. This is true at the highest levels- where is this firm going, how are we growing, etc. It’s also true at a micro-level. How do I want this engagement to go? What is the purpose of this task I’m giving my staff? Being clear about the vision for your intended outcomes is critical. You also have to be able to communicate it and get people on board with that vision. IMO, this is the MOST critical success factor for new leaders. Without the ability to get people on board with you, you’re a leader with no followers.
As we mentioned above, your role and job description as a leader is about making those around you successful. Think about what leaders helped you to develop the most. What did you like about them? What did they do that worked? What didn’t work? More importantly, who were they being about developing you? Using others as a guide for who you want to be as a leader is a great start. If you successfully make the mindset shift from Me to “We” and work each day to be closer to the ideal leader you want to be, you’ll be off to a great start!
This month’s blog post is related to our May book recommendation, Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders by William Gentry.
Check out our New Manager Series through CalCPA here: https://www.calcpa.org/events-and-programs#searchWithin=erin%20daiber&mpp=12