Advisory Boards: A Gateway to Management and Leadership Skills

By | 6 months ago

This article mentions Armanino, an Accountingfly Firm Partner.

There are lots of ways staff can show their leadership skills and get noticed. For sure it’s easier at some firms than others. And if you are lucky enough to be at a firm with a staff and/or management advisory board, the path is clearer. Here’s an example of how it works at Armanino, a San Ramon, CA-based firm, where interested staff can nominate themselves to the firm’s Staff Advisory Board (SAB) as soon as their first day on the job. Once elected, they become part of a team that works directly with Andy Armanino, the firm’s managing partner, to implement positive change. Each member is elected for a two-year term, with the possibility of a second term.

As staff is promoted to the manager level, they can join the Manager Advisory Board. Nominations are made either by firm leaders or through self-nomination.

Knowing your opinions and suggestions are taken seriously is empowering. It makes you an integral part of a results-driven team with real impact. It feels entrepreneurial.

Staff Advisory Board (SAB)

At its kickoff meeting, the SAB brainstorms which projects it wants to pursue. Guided by Andy, the team starts with an unlimited number of ideas and narrows the list of potential projects down to the three or four the team ultimately will work to implement.

“SAB members are free to decide how to proceed and what technology they’ll need,” says partner Ricardo Martinez, “but they have to meet their goals. They’re held accountable.”

Moving the project along to meet your accountability goals means SAB members have to collaborate on a plan and be nimble and flexible enough to adjust and readjust their processes and procedures as needed. They need to communicate with other members as their part of the project progresses.

While the firm teaches these skills on a firm wide basis, the experience is different when on the SAB because it’s on-the-job practice coupled with monthly meetings with the managing partner. Sean Taylor, a tax senior who is in his second term on the SAB, said “There is a time commitment, for sure. I’ve had to learn to manage my time better so I can do my work, fit my SAB responsibilities and have time for my personal life. It’s not always easy. The trade-off is being visible to firm management. I’ve been lucky to be exposed to Andy and other firm leaders in the way I have.”

The SAB isn’t for everyone, and the firm recognizes that by offering other paths to success, such as the Innovation Committee. The important thing for job seekers is that firm leaders believe good ideas and new innovations can come from anywhere in the firm. Top management doesn’t have a monopoly on generating new programs or processes.

Management Advisory Board (MAB)

The Management Advisory Board (MAB), which grew out of the SAB, works in a similar way. Applicants may self-nominate or be nominated by others. They must fill out an on-line questionnaire about why they want to serve on the board. The questionnaire focuses on what applicants’ passions are. Serving on the SAB is not a prerequisite for being on the MAB.

MAB members meet monthly under the guidance of the firm’s COO, Matt Armanino. The MAB works to implement and execute important firm initiatives such as the Women’s Advancement Network. The MAB meets monthly to monitor progress on fulfilling its agenda.

Kevin Turco, who previously served on the SAB, says the experience shaped how he thinks about firms and how they work. “My co-board members come from all over the firm—audit, tax, HR, marketing, different locations, etc. That allowed me to appreciate what they do, the time pressures they face, and how different service and industry areas operate. In a way, it’s like an intense course on leadership and entrepreneurship.”

Make an Impact

Everyone wants to feel the work they do is important. They want to make an impact. Staff members who are allowed to have a stake in what happens at the firm where they work are more likely to feel rewarded for the work they do, in part because they feel invested in the outcome.

So, when you are looking for a new position, look for a firm with a culture that nurtures its people by living the belief we all can learn from each other. Knowing your opinions and suggestions are taken seriously by everyone at the firm, no matter what their title or which generation they belong to, makes you feel like you are valued.