10 Skills for Mapping Your Journey to Partnership
Do you have firm partnership in your sights? If so, good for you! Although there is no “one size fits all” approach for a senior manager to become partner, there are steps CPAs can take to strengthen their skills, expand their knowledge and develop personal characteristics that can bring them closer to achieving their goal. Beyond working hard to stand out, here are some things we did that helped us better position ourselves to become partners at our firm, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC. You may want to consider these tips as you set out on the road to partnership.
- Understand the “big picture.” Your firm wants leaders who can tackle meaty projects and offer valued insights that strengthen the firm long-term. Show you get the “big picture,” understand where your firm is coming from and how you contribute to the “big picture.”
- Develop your listening and speaking skills. Without a doubt, listening is the most important skill you can possess in dealing with clients, understanding their concerns and providing them with the best possible service. Additionally, truly listening to staff and fellow partners is how you can demonstrate strong leadership, compassion and interest within the firm. Speaking is similarly important. Our firm encourages our senior CPAs to give internal presentations and take advantage of external opportunities to speak as well. Practice is the only way to build your confidence and become comfortable with speaking in front of an audience, whether they are clients, community leaders or other partners.
- Build confidence on conflict resolution. Will you be able to reprimand an employee? Broach a tough topic with a client or with your fellow partners? Expert conflict resolution skills are critical when taking a top leadership role within a firm.
- Learn how to delegate. It’s true: you can “yes” yourself out of success. Understand how you will delegate to get work done most effectively and use your staff appropriately to both help you succeed and help build their skills in the process. In addition, be sure that the people who depend upon you know your plans: what you’re willing to do and what you plan to delegate. You don’t want to say “yes” in every instance, but, on the other hand, you don’t want to be the person who says only “no.”
- Observe your role models in action. The culture and expectations at our firm differ from yours. Pay attention to and model successful behaviors.
- Achieve work-life balance. Workaholics get the job done, but ultimately burn out. Demonstrate you have achieved work-life balance, and will be able to lead with sustained energy and calm confidence.
- Become an expert in a niche service area. Finding a “niche” has value in nearly every field, and the accounting profession has many. Identify something you are not only good at, but passionate about. Learn everything you can, then talk about it using social media, blog posts and community presentations. Help others understand where to go when they have questions about that service.
- Understand your firm’s brand. Prove you are a trusted ambassador who can do exemplary work and effectively promote your firm’s unique brand and value.
- Ensure your technical skills are top-notch. Although you don’t need to be an A+ in every category, you need to noticeably rise above your peers. Your technical skills will be put to the test as a partner, so prove now that you are up for the challenge.
- Become a savvy networker. Begin networking on a broader scale, through your community, potential clients and within your firm. And don’t cut it off after business hours. The most valued connections are often personal.
Need help developing these skills? The AICPA’s Emerging Partner Training Forum, which we both attended, is scheduled for June 23 to 24 in the AICPA’s New York and Durham, NC offices. These events are excellent places to network while also building core leadership skills.
John Mark McDougal, CPA, Partner-in-Charge of Accounting and Assurance Services, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC.
Tim Sturm, CPA, Tax Partner, Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC.
Handshake image via Shutterstock