Developing a resilient staff who’s ready for anything
Five years ago, could you have predicted the challenges you and your team would face in 2019? And if you had a crystal ball, what challenges would you see approaching over the next five years? The AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section (PCPS) team asked firms of all sizes to predict their top challenges between now and 2024 in the 2019 PCPS Firm Top Issues Survey. They say they’d be most affected by staffing, emerging technologies, competition, changing client needs and the regulatory environment within the next half-decade.
With all the potential disruptions in the works, it’s easy to see the need for strong and resilient staff who can handle themselves with confidence and grace. Especially within small firms.
My team rose to the occasion over the last year to integrate into Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas, P.C. (PKF Texas). I continue to work with staff in a number of ways to make sure they feel empowered to make decisions and act quickly during what I call “triage” moments. Here’s how I do it.
- Require the core technical skills—and more. Technical know-how is table stakes at any firm, but you want your team to connect with clients, think strategically, collaborate with others and build trusting relationships. I expect my staff to complete soft-skill CPE and other training in emotional intelligence, communications and negotiations to make sure they can tackle more than technical concerns in the field.
- Offer job shadowing for real-world learning. Help your team learn how you and your senior staff make decisions on site by including them in client meetings and other pivotal strategic discussions. In these moments, my staff sees how experienced professionals approach challenges in real time. This modeling of behavior allows my team to gain confidence as they learn prioritization and sound decision-making.
- Coach staff about why/how you make the decisions you make. You may not be able to stop and explain in the middle of a client meeting, but taking a moment later to offer your insights will help them understand your decision-making process. In the future, they’ll be better able to determine “what would Fill-in-the-Blank do?” when facing a challenging situation on their own.
- Teach them that it’s OK to have to think about a decision. Sometimes I have to take time to think through a problem. When I’m really feeling challenged, I’ll tell my team about the pros and cons I am debating in my head. I will often explain my thinking and ask them to weigh in about which way we should go. I coach my team to understand there are times when they will need to make the best and fastest decision in the moment, and later develop a long-term solution when they have more time to consider all options.
- Question ideas and not the individual. My team works in a collaborative environment and we are at our best bringing ideas from our diverse backgrounds to the table. The collaboration process involves challenging one another in a professional manner and iterating upon each other’s ideas. This environment is built on trust, so it’s important that everyone feels respected and valued, and challenged to grow rather than shrink.
In 2019, my team faced challenging moments, but because I coached them to be resilient, I never doubted they would rise to the occasion and blossom as a result.
If you’re looking for resources to help you strengthen your team, the AICPA can help. The PCPS Human Capital Center offers solutions to better engage your team. Go Beyond Disruption resources can help you adapt and thrive in these changing times. And, this small firm resource center connects you to technical and soft-skills resources from across the organization.
Danielle Supkis Cheek, CPA, Director, Entrepreneurial Advisory Services, Pannell Kerr Forster of Texas, P.C. (PKF Texas)
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