Communication (or the lack thereof) in every organization is critical. It is especially important in the accounting world where we have populated our firms with great CPA’s who are most likely not also great communicators. It’s just the nature of the beast and we have to work a little harder at it.
Everyone wants to know what’s going on and in most firms your team has several methods for acquiring information. Those include staff meetings, internal newsletters, intranets, group emails, etc. But, what is number one in every firm? The Grapevine! And you as firm leadership don’t control it.
The Grapevine doesn’t sleep. It works 24/7, never takes a day off and if you’re lucky gets “it” about half right. The mystery in most firms about what is really going on is just too tasty and tempting for most of us to resist.
You’re never going to get rid of it but here are a couple of ideas for firm leadership to consider that will help. I’m not a big fan of meetings and especially creating more of them. But these are important and probably not happening in your firm.
First, get your managers together with your managing partner (MP) three or four times a year. Your managers are on the front line for the firm “managing” your clients and staff. The MP should bring an agenda of items to be shared and discussed and then open it up. Your purpose here is to have a dialogue about important issues inside the firm and to give them a consistent message from the top. Your managers are part of firm leadership and should be helping the entire partner group carry the torch.
Second, on a less frequent basis, set up a lunch for all team members, except partners and managers, with the MP. This should be more of an open forum. At first it may seem a little clumsy but the more you do it the more people will open up and talk. We used to call it our “stump the MP lunches”. Obviously not everything can be shared. But you will go a long way toward helping your team feel connected to the firm and, slowing down the grapevine.