TFYW#070: Three Shifts For More Engaged Teams

Jan 12, 2024

I am going to get into the two-for-one ways to improve your team and firm this week.

Employee Dissatisfaction

This week on LinkedIn, I posted about an obvious but growing trend.

I’ve recently talked with and messaged many people looking to start their own firms or legitimize their side hustle.

These individuals are currently at Deloitte, EY, Baker Tilly and other national and regional firms.

Their reasons for starting their own thing stem from one of three complaints.

And money is not at the top of the list.

Most know that there will be money wherever they go.

They’re focused on challenges, impact and freedom.

As the talent crunch worsens, learning to empower your team should be one of your key priorities.

One of the commenters rewrote the last sentence of my post and added a twist.

This is what I want to drive home this week.

Good talent is not ignorant about what makes a firm worth working for.

What attracts good talent, is the path to a successful firm.

Delegate → Give Ownership

I preach about delegation a lot.

Delegation is the key to growth and getting out from under billable work.

The other half of the delegation is less obvious.

Delegation gives responsibility and accountability to your team.

Good talent wants ownership. They want to have some say in what they do and how they do it.

This is the freedom they seek as an employee.

If there is no ownership, they’ll feel no connection to and responsibility for the work.

Then the question remains – how do we get team members to take ownership?

Ownership will look different for each level of employee.

Future Team Member

In your job descriptions, list their tasks and duties, but also an outcome for that first year. It gives the candidate a mid-term goal outside the day-to-day that demands ownership.

This could be: lead the review of the document management process or research a better workflow to securely collect documents online.

Junior Team Member

Assign the team member to run all the weekly planning meetings for 6 months. Make them pivotal to the process. They’ll be terrible at the start, but that’s required.

Senior Team Member

Assign a significant responsibility to your senior team members. This could be the head of client communications or COO. The best leaders give away as much of their responsibilities as possible.

Advise → Create Purpose

The fastest-growing service line in our profession is advisory.

It is more profitable and fulfilling for everyone involved.

For firms that are looking to increase profit margins and future-proof their firms, advisory is the best avenue.

Coincidentally, good talent wants to offer and complete valuable services instead of grinding out returns.

I know compliance is probably a big part of your firm’s offering, but team members need to know you want them for their brains and not just their hands.     

Many accountants joined the profession because of the impact they can make on businesses and individuals.

Moving into advisory is not only a good business move but is integral for attracting and retaining good talent.

So, how does this look for your team members?

Future Team Member

Ensure prospective hires know your vision and desired impact for the firm and their role in working towards that vision. Tie what they will do to something bigger.

Junior Team Member

Involve junior team members in client meetings. Some of my best experiences as a junior associate were watching partners talk strategy with our clients. I saw the impact and purpose of what we did.

Senior Team Member

Assign them to explore new advisory offerings. Last year, I met with a senior manager from a national firm in Texas. The partnership assigned him to develop and lead the new CAS offering in their firm.

This is not just idealistic, whimsical advice. Firms are doing these things right now.

Invest → Build Efficiency

Every firm needs an iterative tech strategy – to research, assess and implement new tech.

Conveniently, good talent wants to work with the best tech. They want to be efficient and increase their output without having to put more hours in.

Last week, a woman explained to me how long hours at her employment were due to manual and inefficient processes, not a long list of clients.

She was so confident she knew exactly where things could be improved.

It was wild to hear how aware she was of the waste in her firm.

Talent is becoming less interested in WHAT your firm does – In many ways, firms provide the same services.

Talent needs to know HOW the services are completed.

New Team Member

Include a tech aptitude test in your hiring process. Give them a chance to show how they can submit a video introduction or integrate an app.

This will also signal to them your tech-forward approach.

Junior Team Member

Decentralize how things are done. Encourage team members to trial new tools and provide a review and a potential implementation schedule. What you might ‘lose’ from a dozen hours of research will save you future hours each month.

Senior Team Member

Assign senior team members to lead the tech strategy and planning. Again, empower them to do the work and remove you from the process. Many firms don’t embrace new tech because the leadership won’t or can’t get out of the way.


If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:


A plan to attract good talent is less about job descriptions and benefits and more about actually being a decent firm.  


Build The Firm You Want.


P.S. Email with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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