CPA INSIDER

Essential questions new partners need to ask themselves

A CPA coach provides lessons on navigating your first 100 days as a partner.
By Dawn Pons

Over my years as a coach at EY, I’ve observed that what partners focus on during their first hundred days can set the tone for the rest of their career.  Often, new partners feel anxious to prove themselves and tackle the barrage of new things coming their way. This drive for results is a natural area to focus on first—and it’s typically rewarded.

However, what we know about transitions is that the results will come, once you’ve laid the necessary groundwork in your new role.  If you take time to reflect and ask yourself and others a series of smart, thoughtful questions, you can accelerate your success now, and throughout your career.

While it may initially seem like an indulgence, reflection will allow you to re-engage in work with a sharper focus and greater capacity to handle what’s ahead. Blocking white space for it in your calendar at least once a week will allow you to think about what’s working well, what behaviors and experiences you can capitalize on, what responsibilities to prioritize, and which relationships to invest in.

We’ve developed some key questions for new partners to ask themselves. They’re part of a model we use called CORE—an acronym for connections, openness, role, and environment. Strengthening your CORE can be the game-changer that equips you to thrive during transition.

Use the questions below as a starting point for what’s most important to reflect on now. This type of reflection holds you accountable to yourself and will increase the likelihood for lasting learning and transformational growth as a leader.

1. Connections

First and foremost, as a new partner, you need to identify, build, manage and leverage the relationships that will matter most to your success, focusing on both your former and new spheres of influence.

Think about your extended network, and the partners and others you admire, and start by asking yourself, “Now that I am in this role …”:

  • Who will support me personally? Who will sponsor me professionally?
  • Who has the experience, skills, and knowledge to mentor me as a partner?
  • How do I best ask for what I need inside and outside of work?

2. Openness

The time period just after your promotion can feel like a honeymoon. It’s important to celebrate this tremendous accomplishment. It’s also a great time for increasing your self-awareness, to delve deep and understand the characteristics and skills that helped you get here, and what you need to develop next.

Be honest and carefully consider these questions:

  • What are strengths I can capitalize on?
  • What no longer serves me well?
  • What new skills and behaviors should I develop to help me thrive?

3. Role

Partnership comes with many new responsibilities, but unfortunately, it doesn’t include more hours in the day. Part of becoming a great partner and a great leader is separating out the truly important actions from the merely insistent demands and learning to effectively prioritize them. As your view of your work (your new rank and expectations) evolves, you will build your confidence and create a pace you are able to sustain for the long term. Ask yourself the following:

  • Who’s in charge in this relationship—am I running my work or is work running me?
  • What’s expected of me?
  • What does personal success look like in the first 100 days and beyond?
  • How can I execute well on many competing priorities?

4. Environment

Remember the first time you began managing a team? The shift in perspective was dizzying. Now that you’ve become a partner, there are new panoramas, a whole new set of norms to understand, and a different level of leadership to display. You’re interacting in a different way with the new environment and the culture you have entered, inside and outside the firm. Study your new environment and its expectations and ask yourself:

  • How do my values and work style fit with the expectations of the new culture?
  • What are the norms and unwritten rules for partners?
  • What is my leadership brand?
  • What do I want to be known for?

These questions may sound simple. However, none are easy to answer on your own. They require you to reach out for guidance and support from others.  By focusing on what you really want from your career and how you plan to make a difference, you’ll find your footing as a new partner. And you’ll develop new capabilities—your CORE strength—that will allow you to successfully navigate transitions yet to come.

Dawn Pons

Dawn Pons is the director of executive coaching and career transitions at EY.

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