Early on in my career, I was assigned to work with a manager on a half dozen monthly clients. He went with me and worked on the main company, while I worked alongside him on the baby company.
The manager told me what to do, kept an eye on my progress and offered suggestions to speed me along. Occasionally when I finished the financial statement, he would point to a number and say that it looked wrong. He was always right, and whenever I had an error he spotted it in a matter of seconds. I was awed by his intelligence and thought he was the smartest accountant there ever was.
After about a year, he gave notice that he was leaving. He always refused to tell me how he spotted my errors so quickly, and since he was leaving I asked him to tell me how he did it. He said it was very simple - he scanned the monthly differences and compared them to the average for the year and when something was out of whack he figured it was wrong.
I asked him why he didn't tell me sooner so I could have found the errors myself, saving us both time. He replied that if he did that, I would not think he was as smart as I thought he was. At that moment, I realized that he was a "putz."
I resolved that when I was in a position of authority, my job would be to train the person I was supervising to have them do the best job possible. I felt that if my subordinates did great work, felt great about themselves and were promoted, it didn't matter whether they thought I was smart or not. It was the results that were important to me.
Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is a partner at WithumSmith+Brown. Reach him at (732) 964-9329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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