Date posted: 27/07/2017 7 min read

Your leadership matters

The effectiveness of your leadership will make a profound difference in the outcomes you achieve in professional practice.

In brief

  • The future belongs to those who have a clear sense of purpose and a measurable plan to succeed.
  • Developing employees involves commitment to ongoing encouragement and training.
  • Dynamic leaders invest in staff and processes in order to achieve improved results.

This is the second in a two part series which explores some observations from the leadership practiced in accounting and financial planning firms. I hope that the following collection of leadership observations from stellar firms will assist you to achieve better outcomes in your practice.  

What the effective leaders are doing

Stay hungry

The future belongs to those who have a plan to succeed. Dare I say, there’s an element of the fanatic about principals who effectively lead their firms. They are excited by their business plan and determined to achieve better outcomes.

This desire is reflected in their positivity, personal example and how they engage team members in achieving aspects of the plan. Those content to quietly see out their days, those who aren’t curious as to better ways of doing things and those who are apathetic about achieving superior revenue growth don’t achieve the same results.

Play to the strengths of partners

Even to the extent of revenue contributions being unequal. For example, a partner who is a revenue-producing powerhouse being allowed to focus on client work, so too a rainmaker who brings in clients for others to service.

Further, a partner charged with establishing a new service/branch office needs to be evaluated by alternative measures. This can be extended to partners who are implementing agreed projects and/or carrying greater management responsibilities.

A well-structured organisation chart which includes management, marketing, sales and client experience, together with an agreed set of deliverables provides clarity regarding roles and responsibilities.

Appoint a general manager

Yes, there’s a certain size of firm required before a full-time manager can be justified. Not at that scale as yet? Then consider engaging a talented part-time manager or potentially a contract projects officer.

Great teamwork over the long term doesn’t occur by accident – the better performing firms devote time to fostering it.

Both are roles which can take a lot off the desk of busy partners and get agreed initiatives moving.Principals of successful growth firms use the breathing space thus created to become more involved in leading their team and business development activities.

Formalise roles and expectations

It takes a solid commitment to consider and thoroughly document the various roles played in the firm. It’s an even more exacting process to assign performance measures and then to discuss your expectations one-on-one with team members.

So too, it’s a big commitment to regularly check in with employees regarding their progress. But the firms that invest in these activities invariably end up with a switched on and engaged team.

Foster the development of team members

Leaders are forever training, promoting and otherwise encouraging their employees to succeed. This extends to inviting senior team members to present those parts of the firm’s business plan that they have worked on to the rest of the team.

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I’m also impressed by the principals who pay for their team members to travel to my group coaching meetings. This is where I see future leaders grow in knowledge and confidence as a result of “hanging out” with other growth-orientated practitioners. 

Enthusiastically embrace a comprehensive meeting structure

At Slipstream Coaching we’re advocates of the system laid out for team interaction in Patrick Lencioni’s ironically named book, Death by Meeting.

While adopting this system feels strange at first, the advantages quickly become apparent. Communication improves, deadlines are monitored and strategic objectives remain in focus.

It’s through this system that a wonderful sense of “every day counts” develops within the team while at the same time the projects necessary to accomplish the business plan get regular attention.

Undertake team building activities

Great teamwork over the long term doesn’t occur by accident – the better performing firms devote time to fostering it.

An example is the firms who engage me to run a lunchtime session on their “ID profiles”, during which everyone gains a greater appreciation of how to work more effectively together.

Ongoing, firms who embrace the “themes and celebrations” approach laid out by Verne Harnish in Scaling Up invariably unlock extraordinary levels of creativity and commitment.

Keep score

In firms that are going places we see visible scorecards, usually up on big whiteboards around the office. It’s around these markers of progress that magic happens – jobs get finished, commitments are met and revenue targets achieved.

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The same system can be extended to tracking the progress on projects, team incentives and charitable donations.

Principals in high performing firms fuel these outcomes by enthusiastically fostering stand up meetings in front of the scorecards and incorporating the achievement of targets in everyday conversations.

Prepared to invest

Dynamic leaders invest to accelerate progress. Amongst the firms we coach, early initiatives often include a website refresh and professionally written profiles of key team members. So too, reducing the chargeable hours expectation of critical employees to accommodate agreed business improvement projects takes courage.

However it’s remarkable the momentum their teams experience from the outcomes of this commitment.

Nail the intangibles

There’s a cumulative effect in getting all aspects of your intangible assets right. Strong leaders start by affirming their firm’s values, together with developing a clear statement of purpose. This flows on to understanding one’s client niche and areas of speciality.

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It also extends to branding done just right, a versatile set of classy marketing collateral and a website which presents a compelling message to the firm’s target market.

The catalyst for many successful firms lifting their performance has been attending The Breakaway, our two-day business planning workshop.

Leaders map out a bold vision for their future and determine the initiatives to achieve it.Ultimately though, it’s the extent to which leaders assimilate the above observations into their daily habits that has the most influence on the results achieved in their firm.


Consciously applying oneself to the healthy observations outlined above while reducing the counter-productive behaviours outlined in part one of this series will prove very helpful in demonstrating the leadership your firm needs to fulfil its potential.

Scott Charlton is a director of Slipstream Coaching, a company dedicated to assisting financial practitioners achieve their potential. [email protected]

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