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I once had a younger team member ask me, “What can I do to make sure I have a successful tax season”? Aside from having the technical knowledge needed to do our jobs, the essence of a successful tax season is effective communication, whether internally to our peers or supervisors, or externally to clients. Some clients prefer we only send emails; others need us to spend time on the phone; most effective is to meet in person. Regardless of our clients’ preferred mode of contact, keep in mind the following tips on being an effective communicator. In addition, effective communication with fellow engagement team members will improve the efficiency of the engagement and enhance “world class client service.”

  • First, you have to remember that good communication starts with being a good listener. Always be prepared to patiently listen to your client or teammate and never interrupt them. A simple way to be sure you understand their point or questions is to rephrase it and ask them to confirm that you didn’t misunderstand him or her.
  • Second, try to focus on being self-confident and positive. By projecting the right attitude, your words also become more positive – affirmation and encouragement will help get the best out of people, and clients will get more from the conversation. A good tip in this regard is to smile even while you are speaking on the phone and can’t be seen. This helps project a positive tone.
  • Third, understand who your audience is. When speaking with clients, it generally is not necessary to be technical in nature. Tax clients don’t really care what the code section is that allows the deduction; they only care that they can take advantage of it. Be sure to speak in your clients’ terms.
  • And lastly, you don’t always have to be right – sometimes it is better to “let it go.” There will be times during tax season when conflict with a client or fellow team member will occur. It’s generally best to hear each other out and allow time to cool off before addressing it. Remember that there is normally a compromise that is possible, and you just need to approach the conflict with a cool and rational state of mind. If you do make a mistake or find your previous position on a subject is no longer accurate, your clients and colleagues are likely to be forgiving when you are honest and up front about it.

Always feel free to seek advice from your peers or supervisor if you are not clear on something. Not only will it help you work more productively, it will minimize any potential pitfalls with our clients, particularly during this stressful time of year.

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As shared in previous messages, I enjoy reading books, blogs and articles on leadership and business topics as part of my own professional development. They often serve as inspiration for many ideas and initiatives which are currently established here at the firm. One blog I find particularly good is Three Minute Leadership by Michael M. Reuter, speaker, author and a Professor at the Seton Hall University Stillman School of Business, and also a friend and colleague of our partner Tom Basilo who is an adjunct professor there, as well. I am going to share one of Professor Reuter’s recent posts, which I hope will provide some inspiration to you as we approach the finish line of tax season. Enjoy…

There comes times in the lives of all great leaders when they are pushed to their physical, emotional, mental or spiritual limits. Fatigued, exhausted and drained by their experiences, they still relentlessly pursue their journey. They never give up. It is their attitude and mindset to hold on to their hopes, dreams, determination and life’s purpose. Pause and reflect a moment on the words of other great leaders who shared their counsel and learning about giving up.

  • “When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this: You haven’t.” Thomas Edison
  • “Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts.” Albert Einstein
  • “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 30 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed; I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan
  • “Having a rough morning? Place your hand over your heart. Feel that? That’s called purpose… you’re alive for a reason. Don’t give up.” Melissa Joy
  • “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.” Vince Lombardi
  • “I ran and ran and ran every day, and I acquired this sense of determination, this sense of spirit that I would never, never give up, no matter what else happened.” Wilma Rudolph
  • “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Babe Ruth
  • “Falling down is how we grow. Staying down is how we die.” Brian Vaszily
  • “Never give up. Go over, go under, go around, or go through. But never give up.” Tom Venuto

In those solitary moments when life’s challenges are pushing your limits, may you feel your power and purpose remembering the words of Bevan Lee: “’I am’ – two of the most powerful words; for what you put after them shapes your reality.” Be more than you ever dreamed you could be. Be also that one person in someone’s life who would say to you: “Because of you, I didn’t give up.” Be that servant leader of love, caring and hope. Life is so very good.

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The biggest and final push is on!

We enter today with just eight days left of tax season.  As I speak with many of our staff members on the front lines, it has been an intense year with many challenges that we have met and overcome.  This last week is always the most stressful as we wrap up clients who brought in information early and then dribbled in K-1’s to us much later; or deal with those clients who enjoy the adrenaline rush of going right to the deadline; or prepare extensions for those business owners whose returns are the most complicated and have the most risk to us.  Ah, the joys of being a CPA!

As we enter the final days, we remember that everyone is under pressure.  It’s important to continue to treat each other professionally, calmly and kindly, as we have done so far this tax season.  We have a great firm with an even greater culture.  While this week is stressful, it will also be rewarding… and on the other side of it is a day off next Wednesday and likely that vacation that’s been planned.

Have a great week!

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I had a younger staff member ask me, “What can I do to make sure I have a successful tax season”?  Aside from having the technical knowledge needed to do our jobs, the essence of a successful tax season is effective communication, whether internally to our peers or supervisors, or externally to clients.   Some clients prefer we only send emails; others need us to spend time on the phone; most effective is to meet in person.  Regardless of our clients’ preferred mode of contact, keep in mind the following tips on being an effective communicator.  In addition, effective communication with fellow engagement team members will improve the efficiency of the engagement and enhance “world class client service.”

  • First, you have to remember that good communication starts with being a good listener.  Always be prepared to patiently listen to your client or teammate and never interrupt them. A simple way to be sure you understand their point or questions is to rephrase it and ask them to confirm that you didn’t misunderstand him or her.
  • Second, try to focus on being self-confident and positive.  By projecting the right attitude, your words also become more positive – affirmation and encouragement will help get the best out of people, and clients will get more from the conversation.  A good tip in this regard is to smile even when you are speaking on the phone and can’t be seen.  This helps project a positive attitude.
  • Third, understand who your audience is.  When speaking with clients, it generally is not necessary to be technical in nature.  Tax clients don’t really care what the code section is that allows the deduction; they only care that they can take advantage of it.  Be sure to speak in your clients’ terms.
  • And lastly, you don’t always have to be right – sometimes it is better to “let it go.”  There will be times during tax season when conflict with a client or fellow team member will occur.  It’s generally best to hear each other out and allow time to cool off before addressing it.  Remember that there is normally a compromise that is possible, and you just need to approach the conflict with a cool and rational state of mind.  If you do make a mistake or find your previous position on a subject is no longer accurate, your clients and colleagues are likely to be forgiving when you are honest and up front about it.

Always feel free to seek advice from your peers or supervisor if you are not clear on something.  Not only will it help you work more productively, it will minimize any potential pitfalls with our clients, particularly during this stressful time of year.

Read Full Post »