Q. How Do You Work on your Firm’s CULTURE During Tax Season?
A. Tax or “Busy” Season is the perfect time to practice MINDFULNESS on a) Understanding Your Culture and then b) Accepting & Adapting How that Culture Can Best be Improved…
The short answer is that the tax season – or productive season as I prefer to see it – is a fantastic time to witness the culture that is at your firm because all the administering is up front and “in your face” if you will. This is the best time to be aware of how professionals are applying the techniques of living and breathing your core values and mission of the firm (or NOT) and what can be done about it.
Below, I have identified the top three aspects of what I have seen – over my many years as a life strategies coach for professional services firms – that you might want to pay attention to sooner than later, as a means of improving and enhancing the already existing culture at your firm, as follows:
With Clients - Take time to ASK QUESTIONS of your clients – and wear more than the just the hat of tax return preparer (or whatever it is you spend most of your time specifically doing for clients). This is the time to identify a specialty niche area – because you are mindful of what clients value you (and vice versa) and which ones don’t. Re-evaluation of clientele to help support longevity and prosperity is important here – as three things must be in place to ensure this – experience in serving this type of client, a desire to continue doing so and support from the marketplace. Utilizing technology for automation to better advise your clients is key – such as creating dashboards and automated current reports that can easily help you to assess what business advice, they will most benefit from.
With Each Other – Encourage transparency around workflow – what has been done well (good job!) and where we need to be - when & why - then again, “Atta boy!” Keep going. Rewarding positive behavior and having consequences for the “not so much” – keeping notes and then addressing these issues after the deadline of an engagement. Again, using technology around workflow – internally and externally is critical, too – and now is the time to see what must take place to streamline efficiencies and have more control over the work. Clearly defined roles and expectations at all levels – so helpful! Job descriptions, post-engagement discussions / assessments (instead of annual reviews) and regular, consistent, and effective team meetings to sustain the awareness around the goals as well as keep team members focused on what matters. Incentivized compensation programs should be used to drive it all home – positive rewards for desired behaviors and consequences for negative outcomes or underperformers.
With Yourself – Take care and be mindful of what you do and say – as well as how you say it; get enough rest – take a walk, start with three key people to connect with at the beginning of each day THEN go to the “work”. A secret to what makes people successful is that they maintain positive interaction with their network of key influencers in their “realm” - niche or specialty area. I encourage you to connect with one client, one referral source, one prospect as an example – shoot for every morning! It’s a much better way to start the day off, I assure you - !! A best practice to keep you on track, focused and valued by your peers and supervisors is to regularly give upward and outward progress reports – monthly – to show what you have accomplished and what your short-term goals are. You also might consider working one-on-one with a professional coach who can help you to identify and overcome any personal challenges or issues you are facing that are keeping you from what you want to achieve at work.
One last final big tip here is that instead of just going on vacation or having a party after the deadline, now is the most important time to RE-EVALUATE what worked, what didn’t and what can be done – while everything is still fresh in one’s mind.
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Lisa Tierney, CLSC is a certified life strategies coach and a marketing strategist who has empowered professional service providers in the accounting and law professions for over twenty years. She is founder & President of TIERNEY Coaching & Consulting, Inc. which offers a unique and highly effective blend of traditional consulting in tandem with professional coaching to address all the nuances of success - including mind, body & spirit. The professionals who work with TIERNEY coaches enjoy increased self-confidence and higher self-esteem, adopt a more relaxed, yet authoritative demeanor, start asking power questions, treat their clients with a more consultative approach – and benefit from a natural growth in their practice or service area. They usually report a significant increase in their overall satisfaction of their professional experience.