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How to Improve Your Employee Performance

One of the greatest complaints we hear in the accounting profession is that accounting principles struggle to get the best out of their people or you feel like your people are not necessarily the best. Now it may be one or the other. It could even be a combination of the two. So let’s talk about what you can do about it. So the first thing you need to think about is your own leadership style.

My friend, Ed Chan, he had a great saying. It’s always stuck with me after he spent 33 days with me across Australia in the Best Practice Program in 2012. He said that the fish stinks from the head down. What he’s really talking about is that business owners, accounting practice leaders sometimes don’t really take responsibility for their own impact on employee morale and the culture of the business. These are things that you can’t take lightly.

I want to explain this. You see, the biggest mistake I ever made when I was a young manager running a large team 24 years ago. I had an expectation that because I’ve “made it,” I’ve become the boss. I thought because I was the boss, that should be enough and my team should be motivated to work for me. If they don’t like you, number one, they’re not going to work that hard for you.

They’re going to do the bare minimum. So I’ve learned over the years that sometimes I’ve got to sit the accountant down and say, “You know what, buddy? You’re my friend. I’m coaching you.

There’s a problem. People don’t like you. It’s an issue. They don’t like you as much as they should.” Now if that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, don’t get upset about that.

We just need to think about what is our approach. What is the attitude that we’re taking into the environment? We’re the leader. “The fish stinks from the head down,” as Edward says. So understand that.

If you’re not thinking about the people that you deal with, then you’re not demonstrating an element of interactivity and care and general concern for their well-being. Then maybe you’re acting like you have a sense of entitlement. If your position title is the real reason that people should work for you, you’re not going to get very far. So let’s try and move from what John Maxwell describes as Stage One Leadership: Position Title, very ineffective by the way, to Stage Two, which is Permission. Permission means you have my permission to tell me what to do because I like you.

I’m motivated by you. I’m inspired by where you want to take the business. In fact, you don’t even have to be that inspiring. If you can just recognize that a level two leader in the John Maxwell model actually says, “Hey, listen. How are you doing?

What’s going on? Show me the work you’re doing” , and being willing to get down there in the trenches and physically help your people solve their own problems. Never solve the problem for them. Never take the work off them. That’s giving them the wrong message.

That’s saying to them they don’t have to be accountable. They don’t have to be productive. Any time you take the file back and say, “I’ll work on it,” and walk away and curse under your breath, you’re actually perpetuating your own frustration. So let’s spend more time getting the instructions clear at a micro level, micro steps, micro direction and a little bit more appreciation for what needs to be done. If you can get to that next level, that Permission level, you are serving your own employees.

By serving them, they experience a commitment from you. It’s visible. You’re there. You’re in front of them. You don’t’ have to be Richard Branson. You don’t have to be Mark Boros.

You don’t have to be that inspiring. Just be there. Be visible where they need the work done when they’re struggling through it. If you can just give them that micro direction, what you’ll find is you can then walk away for four or five hours and then come back in the afternoon and follow up with a little bit of accountability. “Did you get that done?”

All right, that’s the tip for today. Have a great week and I’ll see you again soon.

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