Management Guru Chester Elton on Success

Three key insights for accountants on how to inspire staff, wow clients and convey appreciation.

Hitendra Patil, lkeft, meets management guru Chester Elton
Hitendra Patil, left, meets management guru Chester Elton

Called the “Apostle of Appreciation,” Chester Elton is co-author of several successful leadership books.

After analyzing the results of 850,000 interviews, Elton’s team found that those who are happiest and most successful are engaged in work that aligns with what motivates them. His latest book, “What Motivates Me,” offers an extensively tested method to help business people identify their core motivators and figure out the disconnects between their passions and their current work.

Hitendra Patil, Pransform COO and CPA Trendlines contributor, met Elton and asked him three important questions about CPA firm leadership – motivating staff, satisfying clients and showing appreciation.

1. Inspiring Staff at Your Firm:

Elton’s recommendation to accounting firm leaders: Think, “How do I engage my staff?” And to do so, use the 3E formula: Engage, Enable, Energize.

To start with, accounting firm leaders must ask themselves:

• Are you sharing everything?
• Are you giving information – and this requires trust.
• Are you partnering with your staff?
• Does your staff have a pathway forward?

Firm leaders must ask engaging questions to their staff. Annual evaluations could be a great time to ask these questions but don’t wait for it. Ask your staff:

• Have I kept my promises to you?
• What is it that we can do to make it good for you?
• What you are seeing that if we did would make us better (as a firm)?

And don’t forget to ask that key question to an employee who is leaving you:

• Is there anything that we have done that might have caused you to leave us?

And of course, the important question that gives tremendous insight into what your staff’s real aspirations are:

• Where would you like to be in 3 to 5 years from now?

Key Insights on Inspiring Your Staff:

1. Have “aspirational” conversations with your staff.
2. Make staff feel they matter and they can make a difference.
3. Give credit when it is due – celebrate desired behavior.

2. Training Your Staff to “WOW” Your Clients:

• Do you know what “wow” means to your clients?

Unless you know what wow means to your customers, how can you possibly deliver it to them? You just need to ask them. We may think we deliver to customers what they need, but it may not be what customers think. The key is having the conversation with customers, be it via customer forums or any other means. Find out what wow means to customers – be it always delivering on time, within budgets, savings costs or anything else that customers “feel the value about.” It builds trust when you consistently do things that you say you will do.

Key Insights on Training Your Staff to Deliver Wow:

1. Find out what wow means to your customers.
2. Deliver on your promises to clients, without exception.
3. Measure the “delivery promise metrics” for performance.

3. Delivering Experience of Appreciation to Your Clients:

When asked “How should accountants deliver the experience of appreciation to their clients?” Elton cautions that:

• The client experience will never exceed the employee experience.

As a leader of your firm, if you haven’t created a positive experience with your co-workers, how can you expect them to show appreciation to your customers?

When it comes to customer appreciation, simple is better; non-expensive is better – say flowers or a fruit basket; non-monetary is better. You do not want to give expensive gifts – it can boomerang on you as the client will think “I am probably paying too much!”

Hand-written notes are a huge success – a simple “thank you for your cooperation” or “thank you for your business” at the end of the project or assignment etc. goes a long way. Start these appreciation initiatives with your staff first so that they in turn know how to deliver experience of appreciation to your clients.

Key Insights on Delivering Experience of Appreciation:

1. Enhance your employees’ experience first.
2. Keep it simple.
3. Make it a personalized experience.