Articles & E-Books


How Dr. Phil Could Help You Build a Better Accounting Department

Sep 02, 2016

I am sure you are wondering, “What do Dr. Phil and accounting have to do with each other?” That is a good question. The short answer is that in accounting, as in most technical professions, we place an over-weighted premium on our perception of technical competencies, often to the detriment of effectiveness. This is where Dr. Phil comes in.  He is fond of saying, “So how is that working for you?” 

Accounting staff handle a great number of tasks to ensure a business runs smoothly. Unfortunately, a great deal of stress can often result from managing all these responsibilities, details, and deadlines. 

This stress, accompanied by the technical requirements of handling a company’s confidential financial information, can produce undesirable outcomes among employees. They may become unmotivated, inefficient, or difficult to get along with, or they may choose to leave your organization. If your team is experiencing high turnover, lack of cohesion among team members, or low productivity, there are things you can do to re-engage your employees and lead a high-performing team. 

Sometimes you make the right decision; sometimes you make the decision right. – Dr. Phil

We often hear from managers who make the mistake of filling financial positions primarily based on one or two technical criteria. The problem with this is that they fail to take their company’s culture and team dynamics into account and don’t take the time to evaluate how the candidate would impact the team dynamic and mesh with the company’s culture.

A company’s culture is defined by its mission and values and the core attitudes and behaviors that are accepted and encouraged by leadership. For example, collaboration may be a key value of an organization’s culture. If this is the case, then people who are comfortable with collaborative projects may be more successful in a company like this than those who prefer to work as individual contributors. If you’re unsure about what your organization’s culture is, there are tools to help identify and cultivate it.

You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge. – Dr. Phil

When it comes to building an effective team and/or hiring the “right” person, data is hard to come by. Worse yet, managers of technical professionals all too often dismiss tools that can provide some “data” on culture fit and team dynamics.

The Predictive Index® (PI®) and similar tools can help turn the subjective into the objective. These tools are far from perfect or foolproof; however, they help managers assess how a candidate would fit into the company’s culture. The key to getting the most out of such tools is applying them to the entire team. A PI® assessment of a candidate without the benefit of seeing the entire teams’ PI® profiles would be of limited value. Actually, PI® has a clever term for this:  a “sailboat” analysis. A sailboat cannot function effectively without all of its component parts:  sails, rudders, keels, buffers, and bridgers. For most organizations to function effectively, they need many different leadership and work styles. While this can and does cause conflict, the organization can still work effectively as a team if the various leadership and work styles are understood, properly positioned, and managed.    

It's so much easier to tell people what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. – Dr. Phil

Anticipating a performance review can be a scary and nerve-wracking experience for employees. Often, the reason for this is that the employees have received little or no feedback on their work from their supervisor. In order to reduce the stress of the “unknown” for employees, it’s important that the supervisor provide regular, constructive feedback on the work they do. This has several benefits. If the employee’s work isn’t meeting expectations, suggestions for improvement can be made. If the employee is meeting or exceeding expectations, regular feedback can keep them motivated and engaged. Providing continuous feedback is also a way to help employees grow and take on additional responsibilities. It’s a great way to develop people within your organization who will stay and may become leaders, instead of losing a disengaged employee to another organization.

The most you get is what you ask for. – Dr. Phil

Companies often receive information during exit interviews that would be helpful to know on a timely basis. So why not consider holding “stay” interviews with your valued employees? A stay interview consists of meeting with an employee to:

  • Positively recognize them for the good work and significant contributions they bring to your organization (though this is not a performance evaluation).
  • Discuss what they like about their work and the company, as well as why they stay with you.
  • Determine actions you can take, within your control, to meet their needs and encourage them to continue working for you.

Your goal in having these conversations is to engage employees and ask questions to find out what motivates them, what allows them to be successful, what goals they have to grow professionally, and what changes they would make in the organization if they could. It’s important that managers and supervisors, not Human Resources, are conducting these interviews with their employees. It’s a great way to promote the supervisor-employee relationship.

Awareness without action is worthless. – Dr. Phil

Understanding the many dynamics of your team of professionals is step one. But that alone will not result in the optimization of the engagement or effectiveness that is possible when you have a high-performing team. To the extent you have not utilized some of the strategies outlined above, consider how these ideas may help move the needle on improving the value your accounting department provides to your company. The result may well be a stable, engaged team of professionals whom you will be proud to lead.


Daniel T. Szidon, CPA
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Anne Kirschling, CPA
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