May 2015 will mark Pete Miller’s fifteen year anniversary with Clark Nuber, a 2014 Inside Public Accounting Top 200 Firm located in Bellevue, WA. Pete manages a number of audit engagements in various industries from manufacturing to technology and construction. His specialties include employee benefit plan audits, internal control audits and fraud investigation and prevention services. He is also responsible for new business and staff development.
Pete has persistently championed the use of cutting-edge technology to help Clark Nuber professionals uncover insights for clients. He is an avid learner and that’s how we first met Pete – through his active participation in various leadership and people programs we’ve led.
Pete has unique relationships with his clients. They consider him a true advisor and member of their corporate families. When Pete is not working on complex projects, he and his wife, Kelli, enjoy hiking, running, and camping – just about anything outdoors. As you might expect, Pete’s a major Seahawks fan and his passion for music also caught our attention – you can follow his many music and sports posts on Facebook.
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
PM: Throughout my life I have had the distinct pleasure of working for a number of remarkable leaders. They have all left a very lasting impression on me and have helped shape the person and type of leader I am today. Each of the individuals that have helped mold my leadership style is unique, but they all share a few common traits that I have found to be effective.
- They all have a clearly defined vision; not only of where the organization is going, but their part in the organization and where they see others fitting into the vision as well.
- They are all able to communicate that vision in a thoroughly effective way. The delivery of the vision has to be motivating, memorable, and relatable to have a lasting impact. A call to action where I know my specific role, delivered in a meaningful and memorable way, has a very high likelihood of success.
- Each of these individuals took the time with me to develop certain skills. Leadership development can’t be done with an elevator speech. These leaders invested the time in me, listened to my needs, and helped me in a way that was effective based on my learning style. For that I am grateful.
- Last but not least, they had fun. There is always a time to work hard, but the strong leaders throughout my career have always found ways to inspire their teams in a fun and rewarding way.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
PM: Innovation. By this I mean that good leaders need to be willing to try new ideas and adapt to their surroundings. Every training or coaching opportunity is not going to be the same. Every market opportunity or client conversation brings new challenges and may require something you’ve never done before. We work in a people business and people are naturally very dynamic and unique. You may need to develop breakthrough innovations to successfully navigate situations. Good leaders are able to look at how their business is currently operating without bias. When it comes to processes and approach, very little is sacred. If a new way of doing something makes sense, these leaders have the courage to innovate and try something new.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
PM: I believe that leaders in this business have a balance of talent in three main areas: they are grounded in the technical subject matter, they are able to effectively communicate to their teams, to clients, and to others in the marketplace, and they are self-starters. This last talent may be the most important.
At each phase of development in public accounting, there is a natural breaking point where someone has mastered the skills that are required of them in their current position, and are being introduced to new skills for a position they are striving for. I look for individuals who immediately look for those new skills to master, rather than waiting for someone to point them in the next direction. Those that are complacent may be able to take on and master a new skill just as quickly as the others, but eventually they will plateau without being able to independently identify and develop new areas of the business.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
PM: I am so thankful to have participated as a member of the first class of the Clark Nuber Leadership Development Institute (LDI). Leadership in a business can be a difficult skill to not only master, but to even comprehend at times. It is so unlike the technical skills we all develop. There is no single and specific subject matter to study when it comes to leadership.
The LDI curriculum was terrific in this way because it started with personal leadership and a deep dive into Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Once we had an understanding of leadership at a personal level we could then focus on leadership in our business. We are big believers in this curriculum and offer the course to our team a few times each year.
In reference to Covey’s materials, I see the development of the firm’s next generation of leaders as a Quadrant 2 activity that is critically important, although not urgent. It is definitely a “big rock” and I spend intentional time with our future leaders to help identify and provide opportunities for them to sharpen their leadership saw. Like anything, they need chances to try out new skills, they need support when they fail, and they need encouragement with each victory.
I am a grateful recipient of mentorship in my career and enjoy every opportunity I have to pay it forward.
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
PM: Be respectfully aggressive in your career. Some opportunities to demonstrate your leadership attributes will be dropped in front of you, but there are many others where you will need to raise your hand up high or develop the opportunity yourself. Maybe it’s a new role on an engagement or owning and training others on a particular technical topic. Maybe it’s stepping up to lead a developing service area or niche team. Maybe it’s deciding to take on a committee or board position at a local association or charity you support. In everything you do, look for opportunities to step into a leadership role. You don’t want to bulldoze your way through anything, so be respectful, but take your career in your own hands and be assertive.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
PM: Communication – I realized early on that this was a critical component. Projects live and die by communication and I continually stress the importance of regular and meaningful communication between our teams, our clients, and other stakeholders.
Encouragement – Public accounting is a natural feeding ground for critical feedback. Every workpaper that is prepared needs to be critically reviewed and corrections made as needed. Each team will make mistakes and will need to correct certain items, but they will also have victories that need to be celebrated. I make sure to point out those positive elements as well.
Innovative – We can all find faults in our business and point out frustrations. If I find myself complaining about something with any frequency, rather than continue to complain I look for a way to fix the problem and then assemble a team and activate the fix. Change is required in public accounting. Sometimes the change is dictated to us, but we can have greater impact by being the agents of change rather than its servants.
Pete’s bright, young leadership at his firm is a wonderful example of what’s to come from the next generation of CPA profession leaders. We are so encouraged! And, isn’t it wonderful to see so many firms like Clark Nuber implementing leadership development programs? What is your firm doing to develop future and existing leaders? Do you have a formal program? Or, are your methods less structured? Please share your approach.
I especially like Pete’s idea of being “respectfully aggressive” in driving your career. What an important distinction! And, I agree that someone who can walk that fine line between being respectful and aggressive is very likely to succeed. What do you think?