Memories of being mentored

Mentoring seems to be flavour of the month all of a sudden. I was approached today by a journalist who wanted a quote from someone with experience of the traditional internal style of mentoring that some larger firms provide. Here’s what I said:

” As a junior partner many years ago I was allocated a mentor. He was a senior partner in the firm and I recall he took me for a very nice lunch to confirm his commitment to the (undefined) mentoring process. Although we chatted on and off over the subsequent months and years I did not gain any demonstrable benefit from having him identified as my mentor.

My experience all those years ago was part of the inspiration for the external, tailored mentoring service that I now provide for ambitious professionals. I have the time, the talent and the techniques to ensure that the firms which engage me can measure the value that I bring. This process is more motivating for the individuals concerned and enables them to build up their business and personal skills so that they can operate more effectively and profitably for the firm.”

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Tax Careers magazine

The current issue contains a short article of mine that should be of interest to all ambitious professionals. The editor has titled it: More than technical skills and has added a desription: Whatever you may think, personal development courses are there for good reason. But, Mark Lee asks, are you making the most of them?

If you don’t get to see the magazine and would like a copy of my article, please just let me know and I can send you a pdf.

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What to do if you are uncomfortable with selling…

If you ask 10 managing partners, what their key people need to do to get to partnership you will get at least a dozen opinions.

Top of most lists it seems is the need to satisfy the current partners in the firm that you will pay for yourself. This is often interpreted as requiring all new partners to be capable of winning lots of new work. So clearly having an ability in this area is a useful asset.

If you haven’t previously focussed any attention on developing your selling (or ‘finding’  skills, don’t leave it too late.

You may though be uncomfortable with the idea of “selling”. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Instead of “selling” though, think of what you’re doing as “helping” clients; after all, if your services aren’t going to help the client. Why should they want to engage you?

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Webcasts for tax advisers

I was flattered to be asked to record the first ever webcasts for the Chartered Accountants’ Tax Faculty last week.

You can now see them by clicking where it says Tax Faculty.

Many of the points coverd in the webcasts are easily adapted to other types of professional services and advice work.

The webcasts, which are each around 5 minutes long, are intended to help accountants to avoid disappointing and losing their clients. The webcasts focus on 3 key areas: Collating clients’ tax return information, billing the tax return work and quoting for tax compliance work.
When the recording was being planned I suggested that it might be best to use a teleprompter but none was available. That’s why you can see me referring to my notes. Other than that I think the webcasts are fine and I know they contain useful and commercial soultions. All of these are covered in more detail in my talk: How to make more money from your tax clients.

I would welcome your feedback on the webcasts and suggestions for future such items.

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Why mentoring?

A mentor does more than coach you. The sessions will normally be confidential and take place by phone or meeting somewhere convenient and private.

Your mentor will help identify your development needs, give advice, open doors and help you to think through issues and problems. They will also ask you for feedback as regards what has changed since the previous session and remind you of ideas and suggestions raised previously. This form of tailored, personalised mentoring is, by definition, far more effective than conventional generic personal development courses.  The key characteristics to look for in a mentor are: Someone who will give you quality time, is empathetic, can spot unusual but effective synergies for you, can open doors and make connections, will give you independent advice and a fresh perspective – and whose judgement you can trust.

Ask your firm about mentoring.  You may be able to identify a suitably experienced and capable partner with whom you have a good relationship.  You’ll also want to be comfortable that they have the time, talent and training to do more than merely make encouraging noises.  The other option would be for your firm to engage a credible, independent and experienced mentor to provide the necessary guidance and support.

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HMRC Interventions (updated)

Another year, another controversial issue for accountants and tax advisers.

For reasons best known to themselves HMRC decided to press ahead with their interventions project last month. This is despite the severe misgivings expressed by the professional bodies, the wholly inadequate consideration given to a range of practical consequences and the complete absence of legal protection available to taxpayers who are found to have additional tax to pay.

I would concede that the interventions project has a logical rationale. But it is riddled with practical and legal problems. Moany of these could have been avoided if HMRC had not ignored calls from the professional boides to postpone the pilot until these issues had been properly considered.

As it is the pilot is progressing, accountants and their clients are getting concerned about the implications and both the ICAEW Tax Faculty and the CIOT are beefing up their representations.

In the meantime I was delighted to be asked by CCH to chair a workshop on the subject of these compliance interventions next month – details below.

If you have any colleagues who might be interested please advise them by forwarding a link to this blog. Anyone wanting to attend should reply directly to CCH please.

Interventions Workshop

Enabling? Insulting? Inescapable? Avoidable?

Workshop including expert speakers and panel discussion

Chaired by Mark Lee (past chairman, ICAEW Tax Faculty)

Venue: Council Chamber, Chartered Accountants Hall, Moorgate EC2

Date & Time: Friday 8th September 2006, 9.30 start – ending with lunch.

9.30 – Chariman’s intro

9.40 – HMRC speakers

10.20 – Phil Berwick (head of Investigations at Tenon)

11.00 – coffee break

11.20 – Eamon McNicholas – Tax Barrister – the legal perspective

11.40 – Panel session including all speakers plus CCH reps

12.25 – Conclusion

12.30 – Buffet lunch

Cost: £ 55 per person (to include buffet lunch)

(If you are a CCH Fee Protection client you will receive a full refund of £55 per person against your next fee protection renewal)

Two representatives from HMRC will be amongst the speakers.

Full details and confirmation of speakers will be available from CCH in the next 10 days.

Places are limited and we expect interest to be high.

To arrange your place please call CCH on 0800 542 6648.

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