7 micro habits that will help you become a better leader at your accounting firm

If you’re looking for one all-encompassing answer to being an effective leader, you won’t find it.

There is no silver bullet approach to being a trusted, motivating and empowering leader of your accounting firm. Instead, there are small (yet impactful) micro habits you can implement that, over time, accumulate into effective leadership.

Short of a genie granting you a wish of instant and optimal effective leadership, this is the best way to become the most effective leader you can be.

What are micro habits?

Micro habits are small, achievable and repetitive actions that are designed to accumulate into something significant. In this case, an effective leader of a thriving accounting business.

What is an effective leader?

Effective leadership is rooted in high impact actions and results. Effective leaders:

  • Inspire, empower and motivate their teams

  • Coach rather than simply provide feedback

  • Are passionate, self-aware, empathetic and trustworthy

  • Lead from the trenches (and by example)

  • Advocate for their team members’ own career development

  • Challenge their team

  • Welcome feedback

Why are effective leaders important for thriving accounting firms?

Without effective leadership, even the most talented and hardworking employees will be limited. It’s effective management that motivates team members to dig deeper to find better ways of serving clients and creative answers to tough questions.

Without effective leadership, your accounting firm’s growth will never reach its full potential.

7 micro habits of an effective accounting firm leader

1. Champion your employees’ professional development

Dedicating time to your team’s development and professional growth is a direct investment in their future. 

And due to the ongoing talent shortage, this investment is two-fold:

  1. You provide support and security for your employees’ future

  2. You provide a workplace that will develop around and with them, so they are less likely to search for other opportunities as they deepen their skill set

Set up recurring check-ins with each team member where you can first create, and then track, a professional development plan that is in line with their goals.

2. Be present in the moment

Leading an accounting practice is a complicated responsibility. It’s a complex web of competing priorities: clients, staff, practice stakeholders, projects, tax planning, business planning—the list goes on.

Effective managers understand the need to dedicate their attention to each, without multitasking in the moment.

This means that by providing your team with your full attention during your weekly one-on-one meetings, you make it clear that you’re focused on them and invested in their progress, roadblocks, questions and/ or concerns.

3. Create a periodic performance review, and follow it up

These micro habits are just that: habits. And habits are consistent and regular. This should be the foundation of your team’s performance reviews.

Creating a process for your team’s performance will help provide structure around their progression and development. 

Having a process sets you up with a framework that will help you ensure these reviews are effective, meaning they’re actually occurring, occurring at the right times (and at the right intervals), and importantly, you’re following up on them.

4. Be a coach

Think about coaching in the most immediately recognizable sense: in sport. Let’s say you’re a soccer coach and your starting striker has a shot at goal and the ball soars over the crossbar, completely missing the goals.

If, in that moment, your advice is to “kick lower”, you’re not coaching. You’re providing feedback. You’re simply telling them what they already know: that their kick sent the ball too high.

But if instead, you explain to them that they need to keep their body above the ball when they kick, not arch their back, and keep their kicking motion shorter—that’s coaching them.

Coaching is identifying an area for improvement, and explaining how to implement techniques to achieve that improvement.

5. Be a human

By reminding your team that you—despite being their boss—are human, you’re able to more easily connect with them. And as a result, you gain mutual respect and trust via bonding, helping to strengthen your culture and making your team feel more connected as a group of people.

So, connect with your team on a human level. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

You can do this by sharing personal news—it doesn’t have to be huge or deeply personal. But sharing even the smallest personal updates will remind your team that you’re a human first, and their manager second.

6. Be honest

Being an effective leader relies on being honest.

If your accounting team isn't performing the way that is living up to your firm’s values and/ or is in-line with the firm’s goals, you need to make them aware.

You’re doing yourself, your firm and your team a disservice if you dance around the topic. Be honest, but be fair.

7. Share the praise (and encourage others to do the same)

When you’re handling your clients’ finances, you’re often responsible for their livelihood. So when something goes wrong, or a process or project takes longer than expected, you know about it. 

So as important as it is to acknowledge and learn from mistakes, it’s critical that you provide some balance and celebrate the wins.

Shouting out team members when they succeed will encourage them to continue working hard. 

Empower your team to praise each other by creating an environment where success is celebrated. Consider formalizing it with a dedicated Slack channel, where the team can call each other out on their wins.

From little things, big things grow

There is no overnight hack to becoming an all-encompassing effective leader. But what can happen overnight is you making the commitment to implementing micro habits that will, over time, get you there.

Becoming the best version of yourself as an effective leader of your accounting business will take time. But with this roadmap, you have direction.

Chances are that you will make mistakes, drop the ball, or forget certain habits. But remember, you are a human first, leader second.