We have enjoyed getting to know Cynthia Hudson, Member at Barfield, Murphy, Shank & Smith, over the course of her participation in our 2-year leadership development program.
With over 20 years of experience in the profession, Cynthia’s primary focus is providing tax compliance, tax planning and IRS resolution to businesses, individuals and non-profit organizations. Cynthia is the “go to” person at her firm for Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT) and has saved clients over $1.5 million through IRS resolutions. She became a CPA to alleviate the fears that taxes can bring and the positive return for her has been a stream of opportunities to solve problems that affect people personally.
Cynthia caught our attention in the leadership program because of her interest in people development at her firm and her move, during our program, to more virtual work at her firm. We were happy to feature her in this month’s leadership spotlight.
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
CH: I admired my mother’s leadership style. She had a small business and worked with many young people each year. Helping those young people learn how to take responsibility and care for our customers taught them so much. My mother gained a deep sense of accomplishment watching those young women grow up to become an army officer, an office administrator or a nurse. They exemplified her leadership and often came back home to thank her for all that they had learned. Of course for me, I had her example to guide me all my life.
Truthfully, my mother was the most caring woman I have known. To this day, when I go back to North Alabama, people fondly remember my mother and the care that she showed. Even though it’s been more than 25 years since the close of her business, my mother’s legacy still stands strong and helps me continue to build relationships in North Alabama.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
CH: A Caring Attitude – Knowing that the leaders of the firm have your back and care about you can enable you to do so much more. A caring attitude enables dialogue, encourages teamwork, allows for innovation, and brings out the best in those who may otherwise simply sit back and crunch numbers.
With a caring attitude, there is an air of transparency that allows each person to “own” their success, trust in the leadership and translate the care within the firm to the care of our clients. Caring for our people is the best way to show them how to care for our clients.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
CH: So many things come to mind, as do the faces of so many great, talented, young people with whom I work. First, I seek a great attitude, a smile and someone who is enthusiastic about what they are doing. Next, I look for the team player mentality - learning to help out where needed and then moving on to teach others. Owning the project, communicating issues, being on-time, efficient, and growing technically are all great young leader attributes. Lastly, an important trait is believing in yourself and your ability to lead. It is in developing the soft skills that the young leader learns to best serve the team, serve the client and lead.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
CH: It is in the day-in and day-out interactions, emails, phone calls, Skype or in-person conversations that inspire and grow leadership. Letting my colleagues know that I am open and expect to discuss the issues helps them own their projects. I empower staff and seniors to communicate early with clients so they can begin to grow those soft skills. I work in a team and draw from my team member’s strengths and they grow from my strengths.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
CH: Trust - believe in yourself. Develop trusting relationships with your colleagues. Elevate your colleagues, and they will elevate you. We all stand on the shoulders of others – some above us and many below us.
ConvergenceCoaching: How important is your firm’s flexible work program to you personally?
CH: Flexibility is essential. And I am a personal beneficiary as I am the first full-time virtual partner in our firm. Our firm has had virtual, flex, and part-time employees for well over 10 years. This year, my personal need to be closer to family stretched the meaning of virtual to a new level - after all, no full-time partner had gone virtual before.
I have an office phone that echoes the intercom in my home. I sit with five monitors on a broad desk that my family has deemed “the command center.” I Skype with staff on technical issues. I Zoom and share screens to teach interns. I email and talk to clients as I have always done.
Being virtual has given me the opportunity to get reinvigorated. I still get the work done and I still have meetings. I also get to have lunch with my young grandsons in March and April which is priceless!
ConvergenceCoaching: What are some of the misconceptions people might have about your need for flexibility as a mature leader?
CH: A misconception might be that a virtual office would be a technology challenge for a mature leader. Not for me. Technology is not my enemy, it is my ally. Technology gives me the freedom to work as I need to, to be with family and to find new ways to do something that has not been done before and sometimes to impress my younger colleagues.
There’s a misconception that change is an obstacle when you are older because you can’t be flexible. Change is a part of life - learning and change go hand-in-hand. The discipline to make changes is the hard part, but if the reward is there, change is welcomed.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three characteristics best describe your leadership style?
CH: Caring, Bold, Genuine
I think Cynthia’s point about showing care is so important in leadership. Leaders and organizations that show care for their team members are far more likely to have engaged employees who feel appreciated for the value they bring. It inspires others to bring more of that value and to exhibit the same level of caring in their own networks. It’s clear from Cynthia’s responses she embodies this trait in her own leadership style.
I also appreciate the commitment Cynthia has made to remain a strong and impactful leader and showing that virtuality in a leadership position can, and does work. Increased flexibility has allowed her to have better work-life integration while being able to serve clients and collaborate with and develop others with the same effectiveness as before.
How do you show care for your people and your firm? What questions can you ask to learn more about your people and to help them develop in the areas they’re most interested in growing? As leaders and managers, we have a direct impact on our people. Share your strategies with others in the comment box below!