There is a special place in the hearts of the ConvergenceCoaching team for Jim Metzler, owner and founder of Metzler Advisory Group LLC. Jim and Jennifer Wilson co-founded ConvergenceCoaching, LLC 16 years ago next month, and he has been a wonderful friend and supporter ever since.
Before founding Metzler Advisory Group, Jim most recently served as Vice President/Small Firm Interests for the AICPA where he led initiatives aimed at serving the needs of CPA firms including their practice success, advocacy, and issues in serving private company clients. Prior to his role with the AICPA and Convergence, Jim spent 32 years with Buffalo-based CPA firm Gaines Metzler Kriner and Company CPAs where he also co-founded GEMKO Information Group, Inc., a successful technology consulting practice.
We admire Jim’s leadership and it seemed only natural to ask him to share his leadership ideas with you, too.
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
JM: I have been fortunate in my 46-year journey in the profession to have been part of the AICPA Management Team for over a decade. Having been self-employed as a partner for the 35 years prior, I had the unique experience (for me) at the AICPA of “reporting to a boss.” That boss was Barry Melancon, CEO and President of the AICPA. I am a student of leadership and have had much leadership experience including in the military. Of all those experiences, I most admire Barry and his leadership style and I truly value the opportunity I had to work closely with him.
Most of us will admit that leadership is a lot easier during good times. I have seen Barry lead the profession through, in hindsight, what was likely the toughest of times for our profession. We all saw Barry receive the incredible harshness of the press and public opinion, only to persevere and lead in his role and come to the point today where the profession is in the strongest, most trusted position in its history – and, for him to become the most globally respected leader in the profession.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
JM: If I had to pick only one, it would be discernment. I will describe it as I witnessed it in Barry Melancon. Having worked closely with Barry for years, I can unequivocally say that his leadership ability and style are incredible and the attributes are many. Barry has the ability to discern situations quickly and is “in the moment” always. He has the ability to be incredibly strong when needed and conversely, the ability to be equally caring and passionate when the situation calls for it. Barry knows when to hold his ground, when to collaborate for a better answer, and when to change his position after encouraging and attentively listening to healthy debate. He is a very humble and genuine person, even though he demonstrates tremendous leadership strength. Barry consistently does what he says he is going to do and that has earned him unquestionable trust. He is unceasingly passionate about the profession and the well-being of all CPAs, whether or not they are AICPA members.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
JM: Leadership in CPAs has two distinct roles. The first is that CPAs must lead their clients. CPAs lead clients through successes, challenges and new opportunities. That said, I look for up-and-coming CPAs who are enthused and excited about the clients they work with. They exhibit endless thirst to learn more about the client and their businesses. Their enthusiasm is driven by a desire to make a difference for their clients and to help them get to a place they couldn’t get to on their own. One can almost feel the eagerness to get out of the office and be with clients.
The other distinct role up-and-coming leaders have is their participation and involvement within the firm. Truly emerging leaders always volunteer to lead their firm’s community service initiatives, special projects, and team-oriented activities. They are usually the same people who take the time to mentor and coach the newest recruits in the firm, and are willing to give of themselves to help make their colleagues more successful.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
JM: I’m deeply involved in the education of rising stars and new firm owners as part of the services of Metzler Advisory Group. I mentor and coach an equal number of CPAs and new firm owners who are not clients as well. There are many aspects to the coaching work I do, but the one theme I try to teach is how to think at a deeper level. This involves “coming to grips” with their own leadership strengths and weakness and their continuous improvement of both. Thinking, reflection, and practice all add up to greater emotional maturity and accurate discernment in leadership situations.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
JM: Spend the time to learn more about themselves in their interactions and relationships with others, and then develop their leadership skills accordingly. The operative words here are “spend the time.” This is the Achilles Heel for CPAs who rarely set aside time for improvement of their own personal behavior and abilities. Advice I always give is to set recurring non-cancellable appointments with oneself to work on leadership and personal development skills within their personal plan. Few, if any, of us are born with high level leadership skills, but the good news is that they can be learned and mastered.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
JM: This is the toughest question in this interview since I believe that others can answer it more objectively. Others tell me that they find me easy to connect with and that my best skill is in deepening relationships. As a result, they trust me and view me as credible. I'm told that I'm able to see the gifts that others possess that they may not see within themselves, giving them greater confidence to explore new possibilities. I always view my leadership style as ever evolving.
We can’t resist chiming in on this one! Jim is a relationship dynamo, a genuine, caring soul, a smart man with great insight, he’s fun and, above all, he’s truly humble about and generous with his gifts. We feel truly blessed to have Jim as our friend, mentor, and colleague.
We love Jim’s reference of an important aspect of leadership – discernment. Having the ability to make successful decisions both in stable scenarios and crisis situations, where you usually don’t have all of the information and data you’d prefer to have, is an attribute that most of us strive to be better at and embody. We’ve all been in a scenario where we aren’t sure which direction to choose, and when your role is one that many others and entities rely on, it can feel like an enormous weight if not managed well. What steps do you take to encourage others to properly “read a situation” before acting and to think strategically before deciding? What is your advice for emerging leaders as they take on additional responsibility and decision-making in their roles? Start the discussion with us by commenting below!