Mentoring can help these leaders, too, as they strive to improve their own management skills as well as the production and experiences of the people they lead.
Top management of Prager Metis CPAs LLC recognized this when they sought a mentor for Marc Heffler, CPA, a senior manager in the audit and accounting department of the international firm with headquarters in New York City. Heffler is a 12-year veteran at the firm's office in El Segundo, Calif., and a possible candidate for partner.
He was paired with Bob Rivero, CPA, a former senior managing partner at KPMG who helps corporate executives, partners, and future principals hone their management skills. Rivero has worked with Prager Metis for many years in an advisory capacity and as a mentor for potential leaders in the firm.
Last October, Rivero and Heffler began a program that includes several meetings each month to help Heffler bolster his leadership abilities in numerous areas. The program calls for a mentee to take on assignments, such as working with subordinates, making presentations, and aligning with partners who may favor his promotion. Most projects involve interacting with others.
Through the training, Heffler has worked on his time management and his ability to assess and delegate work to others. This has freed him to pursue the partnership path.
Rivero began his career at the New York City office of KPMG, and while there he led nine business units in the United States and abroad. After 34 years with the firm, he retired early and in 2003 founded RAR Management Services LLC, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based firm that provides advisory and mentoring services to executives and prospective business leaders.
He believes leaders benefit from mentoring as much as entry-level professionals do—and that the results of executive coaching can trickle down through an organization.
"Good leaders make organizations successful, and bad leaders ruin good people—and I've seen it too many times," he said. "It's like golf: Have you ever seen Tiger Woods at any tournament without his coach?"
Ted Fernandez, CPA (inactive), spent 18 years at KPMG before becoming a co-founder of The Hackett Group, a strategic consultancy and benchmarking firm for global companies. Rivero was his supervisor and mentor at KPMG. He helped Fernandez understand the importance of being diligent about fact-checking before making decisions, and helped him learn how to delegate and handle time-management issues, which plague many executives.
"Part of being an executive is knowing how to help those around you continue to get better," Fernandez said.
Rivero, who is adamant about meeting in person those he advises, said mentors for upper-level managers are needed today more than ever because organizations face shortages of professional employees between the ages of 30 and 50. This means that younger professionals must "accelerate their leadership maturity eight to 10 years faster than the Baby Boomers did," he said. "Millennials are leaving jobs within two years because they don't get an opportunity to improve their leadership skills." He looks at mentoring not as a form of corrective action, but one that helps people reach their ultimate capacity.
Rivero, Heffler, and Fernandez offered the following tips for mentors of higher-level CPAs and for senior managers who are contemplating taking on a mentor to improve their leadership skills:
About the author
Cheryl Meyer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a California-based freelance writer.
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