The Art of Managing a Group of Professionals
David Maister and Patrick McKenna presented a one-hour live teleconference for AccountingWEB on the Art of Managing a Group of Professionals, based on their new book. The conference call for AccountingWEB members drew multiple managers and partners from several dozen CPA firms to learn from the masters on how to maximize the productivity of the groups they manage.
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- David Maister began the conference by highlighting the biggest fallacy that most managers come to realize too late when confronted with a new leadership role - success in managing a team of professionals has nothing to do with rationality or logic; success has everything to do with the ability to deal with emotions and people.
- Emotional skills are the key to making a professional services firm profitable. It is the ability to work with clients and staff, to influence them, to get them to do what you want them to do that makes one manager successful and another one struggle.
- When creating a working team of professionals, the key to success is having the discipline to agree to a goal of the group and have the courage to hold everyone accountable to each other. A good manager, like a good physical trainer, knows when to raise the bar, knows when to coach, knows when to listen and knows when to motivate.
- Maister and McKenna challenged the partners and managers participating in the call to create basic goals for the various teams they are involved in and answer the question "why are we here and what are we trying to accomplish." It's far too easy to create an agenda for teams to meet; it's more challenging - and more critical - to create a goal.
- When divvying up tasks among the group, it is far better to encourage volunteer participation than to assign tasks. A good manager will encourage the members of his or her team to identify which of the identified tasks appeal the most to them, and will lay down the ground rules that everyone on the team who participates in any task will agree to contribute roughly the same amount of time and energy in their given role, so no one person will be responsible for carrying the load of the group.
- Finally, David Maister closed the session with an encouragement to live up to the commitments you make to your team, your colleagues and your clients. Dispensing management advice through a quote from Yoda, of Star Wars fame, Mr. Maister repeated "Do, or do not. There is no 'try,'" meaning if you say you will do something, do it, or suffer the consequences.