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• What Is Partner Accountability?

 

Why Accountability Now?

            Lack of accountability is not a new phenomenon.  There are several factors that have caused accountability to become an important element of successful CPA firms today.   The external environment has changed and firms find themselves in an environment of:

  • Scarcity of people.  Finding good staff and developing future partners still remain a critical problem for the profession. One of the key issues facing firms today is the lack of future owners. This problem has reached epic proportions that firms are requiring more of their current owners and staff.
  • Pressure to produce results for clients.  Clients continue to become more sophisticated and want more than just compliance services. Yesterday’s services have become commoditized and productized and clients have access to the same software programs that many accountants use. Clients continue to demand more value added services.
  • Profit squeeze. Both clients and firms are feeling the profit squeeze. It’s no longer acceptable for partners to just be busy. They now need to produce results for clients and be profitable.. 

What Is Accountability?

Accountability, according to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, is “the obligation or responsibility to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”  Let’s explore what this definition means.
 

First, there is an obligation. An obligation is a promise to do something. If a company has a financial obligation and fails to meet it, it may go into bankruptcy.  If individuals fail to meet their obligations they also fall into a state of bankruptcy – i.e., failure.

Second, it is a personal responsibility.  Each individual needs to account for his or her own success or failure. You can’t blame it on someone else.

From my experience of being a partner in a top 50 firm to consulting with hundreds of firms, I don’t think that the average partner or managing partner takes accountability seriously. If they did, they would execute better and not let themselves and their fellow partners down.

The topic of accountability needs to be discussed in every firm. How do your partners really feel about the topic? I’ve often heard partners individually talk about the lack of accountability in other partners, but never about how they perform. Can it really be that everyone else is not accountable except you? It seems doubtful!

Here are some foundational questions to ask your partners:

  • Do we understand the meaning of accountability and everything it implies?
  • Do we agree to a common definition of accountability
  • How do we create a culture of accountability in our firm?
  • What would have to change in our firm?
  • Do you know what you are accountable for achieving?

Consequences of lack of accountability

Leaders are not doing any favors when they do not hold themselves and their people accountable. Employees know and understand that they too can get away with not being accountable. Here are some of the major consequences that occur when you have a lack of accountability.

  • Missed Opportunities for Professional Development. If an employee or partner does a mediocre job or exhibits behavior that affects their ability to work with others, they may be developing habits that will be detrimental to their career.
  • Low Organization Morale. If an employee or partner is not being held accountable for his/her performance or bad behavior, this may engender negative emotions – resentment, cynicism, and irreverence -- for the employees around them; which in turn will result in low work place morale.
  • Mediocre Results. If an employee or partner does not feel that they are going to be held accountable, what is the incentive to keep a project on time and on budget? The result is mediocre projects, poor client service, and lower firm profits.
  • Erosion of a Leader’s Creditability. Leaders are held accountable for both their own actions and those of their subordinates. If the leader does not hold people accountable, he/she will lose the respect and loyalty of those whom they are leading.
  • Negative financial impact to the firm. Employees and partners have low trust and are reluctant to share clients. Decisions take longer or perhaps don’t get made at all. Partners operate like sole practitioners rather than members of a team.

            Several years ago at a “Winning Is Everything” conference in Las Vegas, the keynote speaker, Pat Williams, gave the following sports analogy that captures the essence of accountability. “You know you have developed a team when during a basketball game you trust that when you throw your teammates the ball, they will throw it back to you.”   This is the essence of a great team – knowing that your team mates are committed to you as well as to themselves.

There is also a trust impact where there is low accountability. When partners don’t have accountability they have a difficult time setting and achieving goals. They don’t want to have written goals. Partners also focus on getting what they want rather than helping the team win.

 “Give me the ball” is their attitude.  Partners do not improve their skill sets. Finally, they often fail to get the results they say they are going to get.  If you see these things in your firm, you are lacking a culture of accountability.

Don’t think of accountability as just another management program “du jour.”  Accountability is the essence of your success, especially in these trying times.

 

This article is excerpted from What Makes a Great Partnership by August Aquila. To purchase just click on this link: https://store.cpatrendlines.com/shop/aa-great-partnership/.

 Why Accountability Now?

            Lack of accountability is not a new phenomenon.  There are several factors that have caused accountability to become an important element of successful CPA firms today.   The external environment has changed and firms find themselves in an environment of:

  • Scarcity of people.  Finding good staff and developing future partners still remain a critical problem for the profession. One of the key issues facing firms today is the lack of future owners. This problem has reached epic proportions that firms are requiring more of their current owners and staff.
  • Pressure to produce results for clients.  Clients continue to become more sophisticated and want more than just compliance services. Yesterday’s services have become commoditized and productized and clients have access to the same software programs that many accountants use. Clients continue to demand more value added services.
  • Profit squeeze. Both clients and firms are feeling the profit squeeze. It’s no longer acceptable for partners to just be busy. They now need to produce results for clients and be profitable.. 

What Is Accountability?

Accountability, according to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, is “the obligation or responsibility to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.”  Let’s explore what this definition means.
 

First, there is an obligation. An obligation is a promise to do something. If a company has a financial obligation and fails to meet it, it may go into bankruptcy.  If individuals fail to meet their obligations they also fall into a state of bankruptcy – i.e., failure.

Second, it is a personal responsibility.  Each individual needs to account for his or her own success or failure. You can’t blame it on someone else.

From my experience of being a partner in a top 50 firm to consulting with hundreds of firms, I don’t think that the average partner or managing partner takes accountability seriously. If they did, they would execute better and not let themselves and their fellow partners down.

The topic of accountability needs to be discussed in every firm. How do your partners really feel about the topic? I’ve often heard partners individually talk about the lack of accountability in other partners, but never about how they perform. Can it really be that everyone else is not accountable except you? It seems doubtful!

Here are some foundational questions to ask your partners:

  • Do we understand the meaning of accountability and everything it implies?
  • Do we agree to a common definition of accountability
  • How do we create a culture of accountability in our firm?
  • What would have to change in our firm?
  • Do you know what you are accountable for achieving?

Consequences of lack of accountability

Leaders are not doing any favors when they do not hold themselves and their people accountable. Employees know and understand that they too can get away with not being accountable. Here are some of the major consequences that occur when you have a lack of accountability.

  • Missed Opportunities for Professional Development. If an employee or partner does a mediocre job or exhibits behavior that affects their ability to work with others, they may be developing habits that will be detrimental to their career.
  • Low Organization Morale. If an employee or partner is not being held accountable for his/her performance or bad behavior, this may engender negative emotions – resentment, cynicism, and irreverence -- for the employees around them; which in turn will result in low work place morale.
  • Mediocre Results. If an employee or partner does not feel that they are going to be held accountable, what is the incentive to keep a project on time and on budget? The result is mediocre projects, poor client service, and lower firm profits.
  • Erosion of a Leader’s Creditability. Leaders are held accountable for both their own actions and those of their subordinates. If the leader does not hold people accountable, he/she will lose the respect and loyalty of those whom they are leading.
  • Negative financial impact to the firm. Employees and partners have low trust and are reluctant to share clients. Decisions take longer or perhaps don’t get made at all. Partners operate like sole practitioners rather than members of a team.

            Several years ago at a “Winning Is Everything” conference in Las Vegas, the keynote speaker, Pat Williams, gave the following sports analogy that captures the essence of accountability. “You know you have developed a team when during a basketball game you trust that when you throw your teammates the ball, they will throw it back to you.”   This is the essence of a great team – knowing that your team mates are committed to you as well as to themselves.

There is also a trust impact where there is low accountability. When partners don’t have accountability they have a difficult time setting and achieving goals. They don’t want to have written goals. Partners also focus on getting what they want rather than helping the team win.

 “Give me the ball” is their attitude.  Partners do not improve their skill sets. Finally, they often fail to get the results they say they are going to get.  If you see these things in your firm, you are lacking a culture of accountability.

Don’t think of accountability as just another management program “du jour.”  Accountability is the essence of your success, especially in these trying times.

This article is excerpted from What Makes a Great Partnership by August Aquila. To purchase just click on this link: https://store.cpatrendlines.com/shop/aa-great-partnership/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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August Aquila
August Aquila
Professional Service Firm Consultant, Speaker and Author
(952) 930-1295
aaquila@aquilaadvisors.com
4732 Chantrey Place
Minnetonka, MN 55345
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