Leadership Spotlight: Janine Zirrith, AAAPM, Firm Administrator
 
Michelle Baca

As Firm Administrator of Wilkin & Guttenplan, P.C., Janine manages the day-to-day operations of the firm. In doing so, Janine is committed to maintaining the firm’s culture and supporting team members at all levels. Janine’s duties are varied, including implementing the decisions made by the firm’s management, coordinating the responsibilities and activities of the accounting and administrative staff and scheduling to ensure a smooth work flow while promoting efficiency and firm profitability. Janine also handles the firm’s human resources function, ensuring the firm attracts and retains the best and brightest.

Even with the demands of her role, Janine serves as a positive role model in firm administration for others, giving back as an active board member and leader within the Association for Accounting Administration (AAA at www.cpaadmin.org). We admire Janine’s leadership and vision in this often-unsung area of CPA firm management and we thought she’d be a perfect person to highlight in this Leadership Spotlight post.

ConvergenceCoaching: Whose leadership style do you most admire and why?
JZ: The leadership style I most admire is one that brings together integrity, authenticity, openness and confidence to effectively manage and recognize the needs of a diverse workforce. Our Managing Partner, Ed Guttenplan, with whom I have worked side by side for over 28 years, exemplifies these qualities and leadership style.

Ed stands out in that he can recognize and subsequently bring out a person’s strengths, while also coaching them to address areas for development. I also admire a leader who truly cares about people and provides the appropriate amount of support, guidance and encouragement to motivate them to succeed and grow professionally, which Ed certainly does, and has done for me.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you think the single most important leadership attribute or characteristic is and why?
JZ:
The single most important leadership characteristic is exhibiting the highest standards and ethical behavior at all times – in one word, integrity. Without integrity and ethical standards, people are unable to trust and respect their leader’s decisions.

ConvergenceCoaching: What do you look for in young up-and-coming leaders?
JZ:
We take a proactive role in identifying those staff members who have the potential for future growth and leadership roles, i.e. our future partners. Competencies we look for are excellent communication skills, relationship management, service orientation, critical thinking skills, leadership attributes, passion for our culture and for the profession, as well as an eagerness to grow and being open to coaching.

ConvergenceCoaching: How do you develop leadership in others?
JZ:
Recognizing that the future of the profession is built on the young people who join the accounting industry, the firm has established coaching and leadership programs focused on the youngest members of the staff to develop future leaders within the firm. We focus on people’s strengths—greatness is achieved by leveraging strengths while acknowledging areas for development as opposed to ignoring them.

To help develop leadership qualities in our staff with the goal of developing the future leaders of the firm, we have a formal Leadership Development Program. The program includes a clearly defined model within our internally developed Professional Growth Academy or “PGA.” The Wilkin & Guttenplan PGA is an internal training program with a syllabus covering a myriad of topics and required learning for the profession. In addition to the technical coursework, we have a formal coaching and development program where each staff person is paired with a coach. This team meets one-on-one to create a personalized development plan that identifies challenges and steps to help each individual take ownership of their career and achieve their professional goals. We have also identified competencies for each level and then provide training to support developing strength in those areas.

ConvergenceCoaching: What advice do you have for those looking to step into a leadership position in their firms or businesses?
JZ:
Always champion exemplary client service, have integrity both inside and outside of the firm, give back, go outside your comfort zone and — most of all — be passionate about and enjoy what you do.

ConvergenceCoaching: What three words best describe your leadership style?
JZ:
The three words that best describe my leadership style are Inclusive, Collaborative and Encouraging. These words are important in that they describe and highlight our enviable culture at the firm.

We are grateful to Janine for sharing her leadership ideals. We can personally attest that Janine is inclusive in any group she participates in as we have directly benefited from her welcoming style as part of the AAA Management Conference each year. Our own Jennifer Wilson is looking forward to being with Janine and other great firm administrators at the Conference when it meets in San Diego June 16-19.

Best Regards,

Michelle Baca
www.convergencecoaching.com

 

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