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CPA Advisory Services

Team accountability is key to firm success

Jason Blumer  Blumer & Associates, CPAs

Jason Blumer  Blumer & Associates, CPAs

It’s said that many hands make light work, but a divide-and-conquer mentality makes team accountability even more essential. As a firm leader, it’s your job to hold your team accountable.

One thing I love about our profession is leaders’ willingness to care for their teams. Firm leaders will bend over backwards to make their team happy. We leaders even put up with reverse-delegation just to keep our teams happy (where our teams reverse the delegation and give the owners their work). It makes sense that the work loads of team and owners can get imbalanced at times, with the owners carrying the bulk of the load of the work in the firm. I believe many firm owners fail to lean on their team when they can for fear that their team will leave the firm.

There is a balance to what work load the owners carry and what the team carries. At the most theoretical view of a firm’s structure, the team is meant to produce the revenue, while the owners are meant to produce the thought, vision, sales, and structure that keep the firm scaling in sustainable ways. Of course, it doesn’t work perfectly like this in the real world, but it is a goal to shoot for when the team is revenue producing. To achieve this balance, there has to be some structure to a firm that allows it to lean on the team to carry their appropriate load of work. Here is one way to achieve this balance.

An Accountability Chart

Similar to the familiar org chart, an accountability chart is a chart that shows who is accountable to whom in the organization. This tool can produce clear guidelines as to which team member is supposed to be producing what service in the firm. Accountability charts make the team members’ roles clear so that everyone is walking in the same direction with the same goal.

Here are some specifics about an accountability chart that can make your firm’s team roles clearer:

Every role on the chart has a box.

Note that I’m talking about each role. Roles are what drive a firm forward. And when a person understands which role they are stepping into, then they are super clear on their work.

Multiple people can step into multiple boxes.

Again, there is only one box per role, but one person may have to fill multiple roles. This is not ideal but is often true in small firms. Often there just isn’t enough revenue to go around to afford all the people needed to fill all of the boxes. As the firm grows, people can move out of two roles, and only into one. This makes the firm stronger with deeper commitment from individuals around a single role.

List the ‘Top 5 Key Components’ for each role.

This brings a lot of clarity and helps each person filling the role to understand their greatest contribution in that role. The person filling their role box will do many more than just 5 things, but listing the top 5 keeps everyone on task with their most important contribution.

Create a mission statement for each role in your accountability chart.

This is an inspirational message that summarizes how the person filling the role is to think about themselves.

Here is the mission statement for my role as CEO:

You are the voice and face of the firm leading up to bringing in a client into an expert environment and are the strategic visionary of the direction the firm will go. Your primary responsibility is to speak, position accurately, and establish value to our chosen market and to lead the team in fulfilling those promises. With the COO, you are focused on serving, leading, loving, and building a strong team.

Here is the mission statement for our Technical Reviewer CPA:

“You are the quality care to ensure the leadership and team have the essential knowledge needed to serve clients with excellence. Your primary responsibility is to pursue technical knowledge and provide/teach it in the review of deliverables.”

Every role should have a job description.

Again, the job description is for the role, not the person. People only say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on their desire to fill a role or not. Meaning, the team members don’t get to say what the role is, they only get to decide if they want to fulfill the role or not. Once they decide, they must commit to the description of their job, and agree to be held accountable to that commitment.

Building a ‘Future Accountability Chart’ is a great way to envision how you want the firm to grow.

You envision roles (not people) in the future and put them on the Future Chart so that you have roles on the chart that don’t yet exist. Then, as the firm grows, you hire people to fill those roles. A Future Accountability Chart is the best way to grow your firm.

This article was about the focus needed from team members, and the load everyone must carry in the firm. When there is an imbalance in the work load among team members, then the firm starts to slow down. But clarifying roles, and holding team members accountable in their roles, allows a firm to move quickly as it delivers its value. Getting that balance right will make firm management more enjoyable for everyone.

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