7 Tips for Moving from Staff to Manager

by Terri Klass, Terri Klass Consulting LLC – March 13, 2020
7 Tips for Moving from Staff to Manager

Moving from individual contributor to engagement leader is a pivotal time for many CPAs. Up until this point in one’s career, promotions were mostly dependent on how well technical skills and knowledge were executed. If a staff person was able to master all the accounting rules and regulations and then provide excellent deliverables to clients, they were recognized and rewarded.

The twist in moving to a manager role is that the skills are completely different and often not formally introduced. Leading through the crossroad from staff to manager also involves a swapping out of pronouns. Managers can no longer just be about “me.” They need to transform their priorities to be about “us.” A manager’s career success morphs into the team’s achievements.

The good news is that developing leadership skills for newly promoted managers is completely learnable. Savvy staff accountants are able to grow their leadership skills as well as build trusting work relationships by staying open to change.

Here are seven tips to move from staff to impactful manager:

1. Think of a Great Leader You Have Met Along the Way

An insightful exercise for all new managers is to think about a leader who has influenced them. Recognizing the qualities and characteristics that contributed to their leadership success may help new managers identify what their own leadership should look like.

Consider the following:

  • What made this individual a great leader?
  • What qualities or behaviors did they possess that evoked strong leadership?
  • What important lessons did I learn from them that have shaped my accounting career?

2. Understand Your Style of Leading

Each new manager has a natural style of communicating and interacting with others. Becoming self-aware of their work styles through a personality or behavioral assessment helps new managers identify both their strengths and their blind spots. Then focusing on ways to flex to the different work styles of their team members becomes invaluable.

3. Build a Network of Trusting Relationships

New managers realize early on that they can’t go it alone if they want successful deliverables. That begins by showing others that they are trustworthy and approachable. When managers do what they say they will do, team members will model the same behavior. The result is a more trusting and transparent workplace where each person holds himself or herself accountable. Where there is trust, accounting managers and team members can admit mistakes and learn from them. Great innovation can result.

4. Lead by Keeping Your Goals Front and Center

An important responsibility of new manag­ers is to help their team members set techni­cal as well as relationship goals. Partnering with their different team members to set SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) goals is essential.

5. Become a Strong and Clear Communicator

Sharing a message in a clear, open and respectful way is an important skill for new managers. It won’t matter how important the idea is if they are unable to explain it with clarity and conviction. Technology may drive accounting firms, but without professional communication, client and colleague needs will never be fully met.

6. Manage Your Time, Don’t Let it Manage You

This hack can trip up even the best of new managers. Only those managers who learn how to prioritize and delegate with authority will be successful. Highly accomplished CPAs have mastered the daily management of their time. A great place to start is by creating a to-do list that is revisited at the end of each day. Then learning how to delegate will not only save time for new managers but will also help develop team members.

7. Give and Receive Feedback Like a Pro

The big tip here is that new managers need to look at feedback as a true gift. Honest and constructive feedback is what enables managers to grow their team members into future managers of the firm. Coaching others how to perform at their highest levels and reach their potential is what leadership is all about. In turn, new managers must also be open-minded to hear authentic feedback for their profes­sional development.


Terri Klass

Terri Klass is the CEO and founder of Terri Klass Consulting, LLC, which offers leadership skills training and coaching.

This article appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.