We are excited to introduce you to Chris Roberts, Director of Talent Management at Mazars USA LLP, who is the focus of this issue of Leadership Spotlight. Chris leads the talent management and employee experience for his firm, taking a fresh look at the firm’s talent practices to ensure they support an evolving workforce and support the firm’s ambitious growth strategy. Chris focuses on employee onboarding, externships, performance management and designing leadership programs.
We have enjoyed getting to know Chris and admire his dedication (and his firm’s) to developing the leadership and management skills of the firm’s professionals at all levels of the firm. He is truly invested in their growth and success and his passion for his role is palpable.
Chris also enjoys writing – typically sharing best practices and expertise related to talent management and acquisition – and we appreciate him sharing his perspective on leadership with us today.
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
CR: Last year, I read Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts, which packs a powerful punch. I could not help but admire her courage, strength, positivity and concern for others despite confronting her own challenges. Everybody’s Got Something is a poignant reminder that leadership is as much about leading oneself with honesty and integrity as it is about leading others.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
CR: Compassion. Compassionate leadership is essential in today’s fast-paced world made up of multiple generations in the workplace. It’s certainly true that “everybody’s got something” impacting them in their personal and professional lives - including personal challenges, figuring out their career-life puzzle, dealing with childcare and elder care, or experiencing performance issues at work. I truly believe that compassionate leaders – people who take the time to understand what is going on in someone’s life and who help them bring their best self to work – will win the so-called war for talent.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
CR: I look for four key attributes in up-and-coming leaders:
- Compassion – for all the reasons listed previously.
- Vision. One of the first questions I ask a Senior Manager seeking admittance to our partnership is, “What will you bring to the party?” Being admitted to a partnership means more than being promoted. Newly admitted partners need to offer a fresh perspective on existing client relationships and how we run our business. In addition, they need to be able to respectfully challenge the established partners in their own backyard, push for change by creating a shared vision and they mustn’t be afraid of developing their protégées to be better than they are. None of this can be done without a vision for the future and a blueprint of the legacy that partners want to leave.
- Courage. Leaders in any industry or profession must have the courage to do what is right for their teams, their clients and their company. For me, displaying courage also means speaking up when it is easier to stay quiet - respecting the past, but challenging the status quo when appropriate.
- A Thirst to Learn. The most successful up-and-coming leaders understand that reaching a leadership position is not only an important milestone, but also the sign of another door opening. Leadership is not one position at the top of the company, but an entirely new career path posing its own challenges and rewards. Up-and-coming leaders need to demonstrate a thirst for knowledge to anticipate new concepts, technological evolutions and the need for new services impacting their business and those of their clients. Leaders at all levels also need to learn more about themselves as they progress in their leadership roles so that they are able to manage their own lives and careers and remain credible and relevant to those who follow them.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
CR: A trend we see is that CPAs are contemplating future leadership roles as soon as they are promoted to Senior. They clearly see partner retirement as an opportunity to progress quickly and are eager to show they are ambitious. Effectively discussing and exploring leadership development with our Seniors includes the following:
- Listening to their career aspirations, frustrations and challenges (perceived or real) to understand what they want and how we can work with them to meet or exceed their goals.
- Coaching them so that they focus on leading themselves by laying the foundations of their career and to help them see how everything fits together. To give an example: many Seniors have asked me how they can start to develop business. As we talk about potential approaches, many realize they probably will not generate much new business at this stage of their career. Once the initial disappointment has passed, they quickly understand they first need to focus on building a network of peers, which may lead to opportunities later on. Coaching – rather than managing or telling – is key to developing leadership in others.
- Connecting team members to internal and external opportunities that will enable them to develop their leadership capabilities. I encourage all of our team members to get involved in various committees both inside and outside of the organization. This allows them to learn from others, think differently, improve communication and problem solving skills and grow their network.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
CR: Be genuine and human! Established leaders want to work with up-and-coming leaders in whom they can confide and trust to do the right thing. Equally, team members want to be coached by leaders who “walk the talk” and act as role models. It is important for leaders to show candidates and team members that they are human by being approachable, compassionate, and honest. They also need to show that work is one important aspect of their life, but they find time to pursue other interests, too.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
CR: I hope people describe my leadership style as compassionate, genuine and participative.
Chris’s approach to leadership development has a key factor – the individual being developed is engaged throughout the process. In fact, the process begins by that person sharing his or her goals and dreams for their career. This approach embodies the concept of one-size-fits-one learning and career paths and is often the most beneficial approach for both the individual and the firm. It fosters trust and care because the individual understands that their input about their role at the firm is valued and that the firm is interested in their growth and development. It also allows the firm to better understand the individual’s unique gifts and skills, and match that person with a role where they can excel and glean the greatest success for the firm.
Also, compassion is a resounding theme in Chris’s response and it’s an attribute that is so important for influencing and motivating an individual. Compassion means considering where another person is coming from and having care and concern for them. It is what allows people to connect with one another and develop relationships. Compassionate leaders are more attuned to the needs of others and how to inspire them to push past boundaries they place on themselves.
How is your firm learning about the goals and dreams of your future leaders? What are you doing to foster ongoing discussion about your people’s growth and development? In what ways do you strive to show compassion in your leadership? We’d love to hear your perspective on leadership development – please share with us in the comments!