As we survey firm team members and ask them what leaders could do to improve culture and engagement in their firm, the overwhelming #1 response we hear is “we need better communication”. The response I get from leaders is “we have been working on that every year, will it ever be good enough?” My answer is “No, you will be working on this for as long as you are building relationships and growing your firm”. So, what are some ideas for improving communication in your firm and continue building on past initiatives?
Use Your Words and Watch Body Language
Nothing is more uplifting than face to face word exchange, better known as talking. Talking with your staff daily about their projects, their clients, their fellow team members and new initiatives is better than anything else you can do to communicate effectively. The one caution is to watch your body language. If you are trying to fake the fact that you are interested in the person they will see it by the way you are standing, slumping, looking at your watch, or looking at your computer screen. When you give them your time, give them your total attention.
Listen and Don’t Judge
When you enter into a conversation with your team member, the one thing that is most important is to allow them to talk to you and share their thoughts. Insure that you listen with intention and don’t place any judgment on what they are thinking. You are there to listen, to clarify and to hold a conversation. Nothing will build a trusting relationship more than to really listening.
Practice Being Open and Honest
Human nature and life experiences can lead us to be closed in our communication. While we are not openly dishonest, we don’t let go of much information until we have too. I encourage firm leaders to practice being open and honest in their communication with the team. Share the overall firm goals. Share the vision for the future. Share the challenges the firm is facing. Share the expectations you have for the team. You get the picture, so start sharing!
Insure Awesome Meetings
If we did a survey on what people are frustrated with in the firm, the answer would be meetings that drone on forever with no apparent purpose. As a leader in your firm, insure that you are holding meetings that have a purpose, a specific time beginning and ending, an agenda, a leader/facilitator, a note taker and action items.
Know Your Audience and Put Them First
As you consider the person you will be meeting with, think about how they will receive information best. Do they like details, do they prefer a process or agenda, do they like bottom lines and quick pieces of information? Know your audience and deliver the message in the way that they will best receive it!
Open Your Door – Really
We hear the cry that firms have an open door policy by their leadership group and then when we talk to the rest of the firm they roll their eyes and tell us that while their door is physically open, that does not mean that the leader is available. It is impossible to have an open door with availability all of the time, but a great way to develop a true open door policy is to put times on your calendar that you are free for communication with the team.
Practice Performance Coaching
Performance coaching is more than a once a year conversation about the number of hours that someone has billed. It is an ongoing conversation with individuals that report to you about their professional skills. Conversations should include technical skills, core skills and technology skills. Performance coaching should focus on developing the staff member and helping them to be the best that they can possibly be.
Go through the list. Find areas that you and your firm can improve and then commit to making this the best communication year ever in your firm!
About the author
Sandra Wiley is the COO and Shareholder at Boomer Consulting, Inc. She is ranked by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her prominent role as an industry expert on HR and training as well as influence as a management and planning consultant. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultant’s Alliance. Sandra has a passion for teaching the next generation leader and has developed the P3 Leadership Academy to elevate the top talent in firms throughout the country. She also assists in building balanced teams, managing employee conflict and hiring staff. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.