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Last summer I listened to a podcast on the AFO Wealth Management series where Amber Setter was interviewed. Amber is the Chief Enlightenment Officer for Conscious Public Accountants - a professional coaching firm that teaches accountants how to grow their careers without losing their souls. The team was carefully curated with the accounting profession in mind.
Listening to Amber took me back to my days as a partner with PwC and made me reflect on some of the ways I could have acted differently as a leader. To be honest I think I had it easy compared to CPA’s in practice today. All the CPA’s I talk to here in the USA are constantly nervous of losing staff. The pressure to maintain a firm culture and make your team feel valued whilst dealing with remote workers, busy season, and recruiters contacting your team members daily must be draining.
Amber correctly points out that many CPA firm leaders are great at task focused outcomes – getting stuff done. But not so good at going on a relationship journey with their team – being really caring and connected. Part of that is providing coaching during major transitions both at work and outside of work (which of course impact work performance and satisfaction). She sights her own time at PwC helping Senior Associates adjust to being leaders, but also those newly promoted to Manager, and to Partner, as well as those embarking on periods of parental leave.
By coaching, Amber is referring to asking great questions, and actively listening – we are all experts in what we want out of life, and the job of the coach is to help make sense of our thoughts and provide a pathway to success. Accountants are generally good at following a process once it’s developed – not so great at generating the pathway in the first place. Hence the coach. I wish I’d had one.
In an interesting segway Amber also talked about getting clients “buy-in” to advice you are providing as a CPA or tax professional. Instead of “You could do Option A or Option B”, followed by the client asking which you would choose, and you saying “I’d do Option A because of x,y and z…” it’s more like “You could do Option A or Option B – which of those do you think fits better with your goals / acceptance of risk / whatever? This way the client takes ownership of that advice. Helping clients to implement advice is just as important as the advice itself. Professional coaching competencies can help you navigate relationships with your clients and be a more effective as an advisor.
All coaches are professionally trained and graduates of programs accredited by the International Coach Federation (ICF). Most of the team are also CPAs.
If doing the best thing for your team is not enough, just consider the cost of a team member leaving – generally considered to be between 50% and 200% of salary – a much bigger number than the cost of leadership coaching, without even considering the other benefits.
About the Authors
Giles Pearson FCA was a PwC Partner for 18 years before jointly setting up Accountests.
Steve Evans has a whole career dedicated to enabling employers to attract, recruit, develop and retain talented individuals and teams, with particular expertise in candidate testing and assessment before setting up Accountests.
Accountests deliver the world’s only online suite of annually updated and country-specific technical knowledge tests designed by accountants for accountants and bookkeepers.