Our good friend Allan Koltin is CEO of Koltin Consulting Group, Inc., a Chicago-based consulting firm that specializes in working with professional and financial services firms in the areas of practice growth, practice management, human capital, and mergers and acquisitions.
For fifteen consecutive years, Allan has been named by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in the accounting profession. Koltin was also voted one of the 10 Most Recommended Consultants for the tenth straight year in the “Annual Survey of Firms” conducted by INSIDE Public Accounting. In 2012 through 2014, Allan was named by CPA Practice Advisor as one of the Top 25 Thought Leaders in the profession. And, he was one of the first inducted into the Accounting Marketing Hall of Fame by the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM). Allan seems to be at the center of all the high-profile mergers and acquisitions in the country and he’s been dubbed the “most interesting man in accounting.”
Because Allan has been a leader in the profession and is an all-around good friend and giver to so many, we asked him to share the insights that he has gained during the course of his career. Here is what he has to say:
ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
AK: Managing Partners of Top 500 CPA firms. The reason is that in many firms leadership and management still isn’t valued as highly as it ought to be. I find that this role, when it is done properly, will have as much impact on a firm’s success as any other role within the firm.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
AK: The ability to make tough decisions on a timely basis. A close second is to be a great listener and respect people.
ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
AK: Most important is that they are respected and trusted by their peers, as well as present leadership, and those under them.
ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
AK: I think a great place to start is with an upward and peer evaluation. This will give aspiring young leaders direct and honest feedback in terms of what their three biggest blind spots are, as well as feedback on their natural strengths. I’m a big proponent of these upward and peer evaluations being done annually, as they provide an excellent mechanism of feedback for helping young leaders to grow. Don’t forget, the day you sign up for leadership, it’s no longer about you!
ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
AK: If you’re in it for the ego take a pass, as it will eventually catch up with you! Alternatively, if you’re in it for the right reasons (which are the continued improvement and advancement of the firm, its clients and its people), then understand that leadership is not only the loneliest place in a business, it is the one with the least thank yous and the most complaints. Your popularity will definitely go down if you’re doing a great job because it involves making tough decisions, many of which unfortunately are a judgment call or a coin flip with the information we have at the time. Rest assured, you will make many mistakes along the way. I have often told young and established leaders that if you can make tough decisions and can “bat 600” throughout this journey (yes, that means only being slightly more right than wrong!) you will be a sensational leader.
ConvergenceCoaching: What three phrases best describe your leadership style?
AK: The three phrases that come to mind immediately are:
(1) Learn to believe in others and trust and support their judgment.
(2) Stay above water and keep your sanity. Too many leaders “lose it” and never recover during difficult times. Remind yourself this is only a business and while you should play with passion, you should never let it consume you.
(3) Always follow GAAP if you want to be successful: Goals, Action Planning, Accountability, Passion.
To those aspiring to be in leadership positions, Allan said “Your popularity will definitely go down if you’re doing a great job because it involves making tough decisions, many of which unfortunately are a judgment call or a coin flip with the information we have at the time.” Have you found this to be true?
And, if you have experienced this as a leader yourself, what advice do you have for others on how to deal with the judgements and opinions that others have about your style of leading and the decisions that you make? We would love to hear your thoughts.