Leadership and emerging professionals
Leveraging personal branding, EQ and other leadership skills to advance
July 19, 2021
By Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is how to advance within a public accounting firm, a company and/or the profession. In this column, I will explore how to leverage personal branding, emotional intelligence (EQ) and other leadership skills and strategies to advance by sharing advice from personal experience, feedback, research and interviews with several leaders within our CPA profession.
Advancing in your career is all about knowing yourself, where you want to go, setting goals and utilizing your EQ and leadership skills to maximize opportunities. It’s important to know that everyone’s journey is a little different. The days of climbing the corporate ladder year by year, title by title, straight to the top are over. Career paths and opportunities have evolved and the possibilities are out there for you to create and discover. Moving forward, it’s all about owning your own career. Here are some tips to do just that:
Understand what you want
- “Decide first who you want to be, then what you want to achieve. Deciding that you want to be, for example - kind, fair, open minded, constructive, honest, encouraging, curious, problem solving, reliable - will have a much greater impact on your success and satisfaction than anything else” notes Olivia Kirtley CPA, CGMA, Corporate Director and Consultant Kirtley & Associates.
- “Make sure a promotion is really what you want. We are often programmed to think we have to advance,” recommends Amy Vetter, CPA, CEO of The B3 Method Institute.
- Begin with what makes you happy, or as I call it “what makes you tick?”
- What are the four or five things that you really enjoy? If you are pursuing career opportunities that align with these items, you are more likely to be happier and more successful than if you don’t.
- Remember the internal piece of EQ. As Tommye Brie, CPA, Executive Vice President of Leadership Development of Succession Institute, LLC, explains, “the EQ/internal piece is very important - understanding how you are wired and being able to push yourself out of your comfort zone is key. Also, remember, if you only rely on your strengths and don’t pay attention to your weaknesses, it could hurt you.”
- Revisit our Leadership Article #2, “Developing Your Emotional Intelligence to Gain a Competitive Edge” at kycpa.org/news/journal/LeaderEP22021 for additional insights into EQ.
Visualize what duties/responsibilities this entails
- Create a vision of what this looks like
- Conduct research, talk to a mentor and/or utilize a coach to further develop this understanding/story/vision
- Think about if this vision currently exists in your company, or could it?
“Articulate what you want and think about how you’ll go about accomplishing it” per Kevin Oakley, CPA, CGMA, CCP, Director of State Taxes, Fruit of the Loom.
- Talk to your supervisor to express your career desires/ambitions
- Discuss role opportunities that allow for your vision in the company
- Attain role profile expectations for this; these expectations should include leadership competencies, technical capabilities, core values and other items required/preferred
- Build your board of directors who will help guide you. Jennifer Burke, CPA, Partner of Crowe, LLP describes people you should consider adding to your board, “people who you want to emulate, who are different from you (maybe someone who scares you, but you could learn something from them), who can help you develop, who you can bounce things off of and get an objective opinion and people outside of your current company.”
Deliver consistent, quality results
- Perform your role well and provide quality internal and external client service
- “Be accountable and take responsibility for your work and please don’t expect recognition for inconsistent performance.
- Do demonstrate your readiness to handle increased responsibilities by doing work from the next level up role whenever you can. Consistent high-quality work and proactive demonstrations of your ability to deliver will make promotion discussions much easier” according to Kimberly N Ellison-Taylor’s, CPA, CGMA, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of KET Solutions, LLC.
Keep a running “me” log and check for alignment
- Track your value and contributions against role expectations; it can be as simple as creating an excel document that you update at least quarterly. This will help you remember the value you’ve brought during the year and be ready for any 1 on 1 conversations and performance evaluations and discussions.
- Tracey Golden, CPA, CGMA, AICPA Chairman and Retired Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP challenges us to, “never be shy of the things you’ve accomplished. Recognize that noting ‘I led XYZ project…’ isn’t taking all the credit but showing that you are demonstrating the right leadership skills for the position you are in and want.”
- Communicate progress and check for alignment with your supervisor and perhaps with members of your board of directors
- Remember that you own your one-on-one agenda with your supervisor and part of those discussions should include career contributions, expectations and desires
- “Tell those you work with/you’re interacting with your goals, what you are working on, what you’ve done and ask if you are aligned. Revisit these items with them six to seven weeks later to make sure you are still on track and ask, what else am I missing?” comments Blair Manning, CPA, Audit Senior Manager, KPMG LLP.
- Seek feedback and support from those you work with
- Don’t be afraid to get and ask for feedback. “You don’t have to act on every piece of feedback; however, you should reflect on it at a minimum” guides Lisa Wilson, CPA, CGMA, Chief Financial Officer, LockNet.
- Ask for support. Sarah Elliott, CPA, PCC, Executive Leadership Coach and Co-founder of Intend2Lead reminds us “people are excited to invest in other people.”
Be open for opportunities and have a natural curiosity about everything
- Keep an open mind. Susan Stutzel, CPA, President, S Stutzel Coaching says, “sometimes the next step for you isn’t so obvious.” The next step could be a lateral move which help you build valuable skills or what I call adding a tool to your toolkit, or even a position you could create.
- “Don’t feel any position is below you, it all gets you closer to what you want to do,” advocates Carey Vasallo, CPA, CVA, CFE, CFC, CAMS, Partner, Consulting Services at VMBG Accounting.
- Network with others and volunteer within the company, community and profession.
- Revisit our Leadership Article #1, “Building your Personal Brand” at kycpa.org/news/journal/LeaderEP12021 for further tips.
- Think broadly and continuously evolve and learn. This applies to everyone, as even long-term career professionals can put themselves in a box and limit their potential to grow.
- “Show a genuine interest in others by asking about their issues and challenges - not only within your team, but with your company/firm, your clients/customers, the community, profession, etc. The best leaders strive to help everyone around them succeed by being curious and asking great questions” advises Olivia Kirtley CPA, CGMA, Corporate Director and Consultant Kirtley & Associates.
By leveraging your personal branding, EQ and other leadership skills and strategies, you can set yourself up to advance within a public accounting firm, a company and/or the profession. In our next Journal article, we will explore paths to partnership within public accounting firms.
Career Paths and JourneysAs I’ve interviewed leaders within our CPA profession, I have recognized there are many different career paths and journeys that people take to achieve their success. Check out some of them below…
About the author: By Jaclyn T. Badeau, CPA, CGMA, MBA, EQ Certified, is the owner of Badeau Consulting. Badeau is a coach, speaker, trainer and consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.