Investing in People with Annie Yoder of Rea & Associates
No matter how well trained and educated you are, it’s important to remember that who you are as a person can sometimes bring as much value to your team as your qualifications. This rings true for our guest on the show today, Annie Yoder, who is Director of Development at Rea & Associates, a 300+ employee accounting firm with a national footprint. Annie is a trained CPA, CFF, and CPE but significantly she does no accounting work at her firm, having rather moved into a position that is strictly concerned with the interpersonal. In today’s episode, Annie shares the story behind how this happened and gives listeners a few golden nugget tips on the subject of good leadership, trust, and self-reflexivity. She talks about the lessons learned from her mother and her Amish upbringing, the idea that everybody has value and that people who hurt others themselves are hurt. Our conversation moves to the role she plays at Rea & Associates, and she shares some of the ways she leads employees to their growth, and the exercises she takes coworkers through to help them build trust in each other. We also hear from Annie about her growth process, the things that made her take a look in the mirror, and the idea that a person takes themselves everywhere they go. Ultimately, our interactions cause ripple effects in each other which have huge potential to help us be more compassionate humans or trustworthy leaders, so tune in to hear how these have taken effect in and through Annie today.
- What led Annie into accounting: her need for financial stability.
- How Annie has transitioned from being a CPA to Director of Development in her firm.
- A skillset of connecting dots, or leading people to answers they seek that Annie has.
- Coaching, conflict resolution, and ‘home-finding’ duties Annie does during her day job.
- Whether it is usual for qualified accountants to move into People Development.
- Four pillars that Rea & Associates prioritizes: people, clients, growth, and firm.
- The cornerstone at Rea & Associates which is investing in their employees.
- How investing in people leads to a feedback loop benefiting everybody.
- Ways that Annie’s Amish background and mother’s prioritization of education has shaped her.
- Annie’s career path from her MBA to litigation support as a CFE leading to the present.
- How her auditing and litigation support ‘dot-connecting’ background helps Annie today.
- Transactional vs relational interactions and Annie’s mom’s lesson that all people are valuable.
- Dealing with hurt people who hurt you, and whether both parties can grow.
- How people can help each other find a sliver in themselves to see the good in everybody.
- Ripple effects caused by interactions that lead people toward positive growth.
- How conflicts with coworkers, reading, podcasts, and Annie’s husband help her self-reflect.
- What Annie’s boss taught her about advocacy and trust by making her feel safe.
- Building trust between coworkers Annie uses: encouraging consistent behavior.
- The two branches of the trust tree: competency and character, and their offshoots.
- Future-focused thinking and other ripple effects of Richard Rea’s legacy in the firm today.
- Advice Annie would give to her younger self: stop worrying so much.
Mentioned in this Episode:
Thanks for Listening!
[00:00:01] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to Sheer clarity. The show that will teach you about leadership by attraction, building self-awareness and how to develop exceptional self-management abilities that will help you become more reflective, more open, more trusting and more engaging with the people who matter to you most. In other words, make you a better leader. Head on over to sheerclarity.com where you can learn more, subscribe to the show, and connect on social media.
Now, here’s your host J. Kevin McHugh
[00:00:31] JKM: Hi everyone. This is J. Kevin McHugh. I am the host of Sheer Clarity. It’s a podcast where we talk with top business leaders about how to become leaders by attraction. What do I mean by that? Well, within seconds of meeting one of these leaders you automatically believe you can trust them. They have no hidden agendas, and for some strange reason they are intensely committed to helping you succeed.
At Sheer Clarity we’re all about helping leaders acquire what that means and how that works. It’s a journey to self-awareness on steroids and you can learn more at sheerclarity.com. The show today is sponsored by JKM Management. It’s my executive coaching firm. I founded it in 1990. We help executives map-out their lives and their leadership through coaching. We also help them develop leadership teams which operate with extreme trust and honesty all based on the principles of Sheer Clarity, and we are really passionate about developing leaders who lead by attraction.
We work with founding entrepreneurs, Fortune 500 executives and a lot of closely-held generational businesses. Well, today my guest is Annie Yoder. So glad to be introduced to her. I have a good friend, Kim Riley, who I’m sure will be on our show some day who made the connection for us. She is a principal at Rea & Associates. Rea & Associates is a very big accounting firm. They’re based in Wooster, Ohio. They’ve got 300 or more people working there in about 12 offices and they’re highly respected in the field, and Annie is a principal at the firm. In addition to that, she holds the title Director of Development. I’m going to let her explain more about that. It sounds like she’s wearing a couple of different hats, because what I didn’t mention is that after you see her name on her resume, there’s CPA, CFE, CFF, and these are all certifications in the world of accounting, including such sexy titles as Financial Forensics, and she’s a fraud examiner. I hope she’s not going to look at me too much.
In the end, it’s just a fascinating thing. From the moment I met her, I was engaged because she’s living in a world of sort of analytical minds, you know, compliance, and laws, and regulations. Then on top of that, it’s a professional firm. There’re a couple of hundred people working there and she has a passion about people and their development and their leadership.
So I’ll shut up and ask her to sort of do a little self intro. So tell me what you’re doing with your day job and what all that entails.
[00:03:03] AY: Wonderful, Kevin. Well, first of all, thank you so much for having me. I’m super excited to be part of the podcast, and I think often about our first interaction and how powerful it was that this opening that you just said that we immediately connected and there was trust. I just wanted to share that with you before I even jump into it that your trust graph needs to be posted on people’s walls that you shared with me because I refer back to it frequently. So thank you so much for sharing that.
My day job, it is certainly hard to explain. I’m an accountant by trade, CPA by trade, and I do no accounting anymore. I am in the people business. I’m in the people development business and that is where my heart is. I think that my mind of needing security financially took me into accounting knowing that I could make a career and a good living from that. But ultimately it was – I am in my third career at Rea, and I’ll talk a little bit more about that later.
But my day job truly entails caring about our people and helping them find their path inside our organization. There are days where I interact with 20 to 30 people and just helping them. I usually call myself the dot connector, because I always say –
[00:04:20] JKM: The dot connector.
[00:04:20] AY: Yeah, the dot connector, or the bridge builder, because I may not be good at much but I can find answers for you. I know who to talk to for what and to help you find resources. That’s certainly a skillset that I’ve developed over my 16 years at the firm. But my day job, it could be dealing with conflict, it could be helping coach people, coach people on up, helping them determine that maybe this isn’t the right place for them. We’re okay with that and we want them to be okay finding a home somewhere else and leave this organization a friend, because we have people that boomerang out of here or boomerang back actually to the organization, which is pretty awesome.
My day job really entails dealing with our people, working with processes and systems and not just the policies, but really looking holistically at what we need to do now to be ready 10 years from now, because we’re on a huge growth trajectory right now, which is pretty cool.
[00:05:16] JKM: Yeah. What a cool job. I mean, in the world of big accounting firms, do you think there are firms that have this orientation where they have a principal of the firm who also came in with quite a serious set of competencies, and then before you know it, those have been set aside in sort of favor or in deference to this human component.
[00:05:39] AY: Yeah. I definitely think there are because I’ve actually met a few firms that have folks in similar positions where they were in production and they moved into the people world. I think any organization tends to be either more relational or more tactical. I can certainly say that we have a focus on the relational. Our strategic plan is people, clients, growth and firm. People are number one cornerstone for a reason. We truly do believe, and I certainly believe that if we pour into our people, they are going to service our clients to the extent that we want them to and they need to, and then ultimately our clients are pouring into our communities. It’s this like constant circle that it just keeps feeding itself, which is pretty amazing.
[00:06:26] JKM: Did you feel that when you joined? How many years ago did you say you came on board?
[00:06:30] AY: 16.
[00:06:30] JKM: 16.
[00:06:30] AY: So I started as an intern and here I am.
[00:06:32] JKM: Wow! Wow!
[00:06:34] AY: Yeah.
[00:06:35] JKM: Well, you know what, that’s a good little segue. Let’s go back to that intern stuff and to help everybody here a little bit about your trajectory. Meaning, how did you end up heading in – I mean, you said accounting seemed like a good profession from the standpoint of financial security. “At least I’m going to have a job.” Now you’ve migrated to this. But give us a little bit about who you are growing up and how you got there.
[00:07:00] AY: Yeah. Not to start from the very beginning, but let me just share a few points that I think are important. Both my parents were Amish. Horse and buggy, no electricity. I was Amish when I was baby, and I share that with the audience because I use the words the butterfly effect, which a lot of people will understand, that every decision has an effect and we don’t understand the ripple effect it may have.
My mom very early on had a passion for education and she knew that she wanted her children to be able to go beyond 8th grade, because my parents had 8th grade educations. Got their GED’s. They wanted more for us, for my sister and I, and ultimately I was very young. I was only about two when they left the Amish community. We still had contact with our family. A lot of my relatives are still Amish. I think it is an extreme important part of my history about who I am and why I am the way I am, certainly why I have the work ethic.
[00:08:04] JKM: Yeah, no kidding.
[00:08:05] AY: I can say that for sure. But that decision, that one decision that my parents made has – Just the ripple effect has been so tremendous. It is just unbelievable, pushing for education. Ultimately, in my immediate family, I was the first one to go to college. It’s just my sister and I. I got my undergrad degree in accounting. I have an MBA, and I thought I was going to be in the FBI white-collar crime unit. That’s where I thought I was going to end up.
Life kind of passed by and ultimately I got the opportunity to join our litigation support department inside of Rea & Associates. I left the Canton-Akron area and moved to Columbus for several years. That’s when I got my CFE. So I’m a certified fraud examiner, and I worked on forensic accounting cases, litigation support, partnership disputes, those types of cases. Some divorce cases which I did not enjoy. I will be transparent with that.
Ultimately, that part of my career, I believe strongly again that that decision has helped me formulate and become the person I am. I’m a better interviewer. I can connect better with people. I tend to be able to read people a little bit better, and I think it’s truly because of that skillset that I learned in my second career, because I was an auditor in litigation support and ultimately this job.
[00:09:30] JKM: You ended up sort of being trained in a competency level to be with an analytical mindset and an examination mindset. I mean, you mentioned earlier, “I’m good dot connector.” Of course when I think of fraud examination, isn’t that what it is, right? Follow the dots, right? “Oh! There’s a dot missing here. Well, let’s do more research because there must be some dot.” Somehow, that migrated into the dots about people.
[00:09:59] AY: Yeah, I agree. I strongly believe as leaders in our organizations and leaders in general, every interaction that we have, there is something that each party takes away from it and it might not even come to fruition right then, but later – I can’t tell you how many times I’ll have a light bulb go off and go, “Oh my goodness! That person needs to talk to this person because they are going to find value in having even if it’s just a conversation with each other.” I think there’s tremendous value in doing that.
[00:10:32] JKM: Do you quickly pick up when people are having a transactional encounter with you versus a relational one? Because I’m thinking of the listeners and the whole premise of Sheer Clarity is – it’s even getting clearer to me since we started the podcast, that if there’s one thing that you should start your clarity process on, its yourself, like deeply understanding your own roots, your own nature, your own psychology, your own beginning.
When you mention the ripple effect from a decision your mother made, I’m assuming there’s a part of that that is deeply embedded in the way you roll, and you struck me as a person who’s done plenty of work on this awareness. I’d love for you to comment on both this idea of reading a transactional relationship versus a real relationship and then connecting a dot, to use our phrase, a little more specifically back to what you think your mother’s imprinted on you.
[00:11:44] AY: Yeah.
[00:11:44] JKM: It’s got to be powerful.
[00:11:45] AY: It absolutely is. I wish everyone listening could meet my mother, because she is an absolutely amazing woman. She can make something out of nothing, and she is so powerful when it comes to building relationships. It’s funny that you talk about that journey of self-awareness and transactional conversations or transactional relationships are very much a turnoff for me. I know that only through trying to explore myself and what kind of my triggers are. If someone doesn’t want to have a little bit of a personal contact or personal interaction with me, it feels very cold.
I understand there are times where you just need to be tactical. I respect and understand that as being part of the business, but my mom taught me very early on that everyone has value. Everyone.
[00:12:45] JKM: Everyone.
[00:12:45] AY: It doesn’t matter who you are, what you do, an interaction and caring about the person across from you, something good can come from that. If it simply that that person just needs to know that someone is looking them in the eye today and that they matter today – She probably doesn’t even realize it, but that she has instilled that in myself and my sister from a very early age, and I think that’s why relationships are so important to me and I can feel – She always has told me that I have the gift of discernment when we talk about the fruits, and that gift of discernment has been with me very early.
[00:13:26] JKM: I love this, and I’d like to tee off for a minute, because I’m doing some conflict resolution in some of the clients I have and I recently was shared a process component, a series of process components from one of my colleagues. One of the things that we talked about was seeing the good, the intrinsic good. No matter how much I want to punch somebody in the face, because our transactions aren’t going well and I’m not getting what I want. In, fact I may have gone to a place where I actually don’t trust you.
I’ve actually had experiences with executives whose looked each other in the eye and say, “I don’t trust you. I won’t trust you. You’re backstabbing, lying, blah-blah-blah-blah,” right? Then they drop that little bomb in the middle of a team-building session. I always look at it as, “Well, at least we’re being honest.” That’s the minimum. But part of the model of beginning to help them get through this is to see if they have this capacity to see anybody has intrinsic good. I haven’t met – I’ve been 30 years doing this. I haven’t met more than maybe one or two people I think were malevolent by nature. The rest of them were behaviorally insensitive and unaware and angry and disappointed and filled with wounds and shame. They were just like being – Like hurting people will hurt people. That’s how it was.
[00:15:00] AY: Oh my gosh! My mom uses that quote. Weird! I swear.
[00:15:06] JKM: It’s true. Let’s say it for the listeners. I think I’ve said it before on podcast, because it’s stuck with me the first time I heard it. Hurting people hurt people. When they come at you, you have to have something available to see, feel and sense this hurting people thing or seeing the intrinsic good. Here’s comes the question. Can that be learned if people were not raised with it?
[00:15:39] AY: My answer is yes. I think it can be learned. Absolutely. I think there has to be a sliver of an opening that they will be willing to grow. There has to be maybe a seed that was planted at some point. But I think that what you focus on, Kevin, with sheer clarity and self-awareness and if we can find one sliver to plant that seed that I think it absolutely can be learned.
I mean, it was well – 10 years ago where I would say I so very slowly started my journey, and it was a matter of different pivot points in my life, things that were happening in my life that said, “It’s time to do reflection and look at myself.” But up into that point, I think we tend to be so focused on, “Am I going to get promoted? Am I going to find the right person that I want to be with the rest of my life?” All of those things, that sometimes we forget to self-reflect. So that’s maybe the long version of saying, yes, I think it absolutely can be learned.
[00:16:59] JKM: Are you also suggesting if I put together what you’re saying, is it the sliver or this opportunity for someone to grow? I think that’s the term you used, right? They have to have least a desire, like this tiny little – Even if it’s minute. That’s a voice in your head. There’s something. If you want to grow and you use that as a place, to move someone to a place about seeing things, seeing – We ultimately said the bottom line is, can we get people to actually learn how to see the intrinsic good to operate? Instead of operating like, “I’m in competition,” or, “Transactionally they have what I want. Will they give me what I want?” Or, “Do I trust or not? Even if I’m angry with them, even if I don’t trust, and maybe they’ve done some behavioral stuff that I find distasteful. Can I actually arrive in my mind and in my heart at this intrinsically good people?” As your mom said, she would view people this way.
No matter where they were, there was something in them worth loving and caring about, and we were asking for the purpose of people who are listening, can that be learned? Your first reaction to the question was, “I think so, as long as there’s this small sliver that there has to be some part of that person who wants it.”
[00:18:25] AY: I think I’d add too that I don’t think that sliver has to be in them from the very beginning. It might be you or I that have that butterfly effect that we have some kind of interaction with that person to open – Just crack the door a bit. We might not even know that we opened the door a bit for them to reflect – Does that bring a little of clarity to it?
[00:18:51] JKM: That’s definitely great. Absolutely great. Yeah. I mean, I have at times been at some engagement and somebody has an aha moment and they’re very complementary and they gave me lots of credit, and I tell them, “I’d would love to take it all, but to honest with you, there’s a good chance you’ve been hearing this quite often. I just happened to be here at the moment you heard it.”
[00:19:16] AY: Yeah. That’s a good point.
[00:19:17] JKM: Right? Yeah. Like when you’re out in the world as a leader and you’re doing what you’re doing and you see somebody stuck in routine behaviors and they don’t appear to be getting better, eventually you’re writing them up and you’re giving them a tip and you’re putting them – Right?
[00:19:31] AY: Right.
[00:19:32] JKM: Even if it doesn’t work and you part company, the ripple effect is probably still at work.
[00:19:39] AY: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:19:40] JKM: It might take them three lost jobs before they go, “Maybe it’s me.”
[00:19:45] AY: I like to say, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
[00:19:48] JKM: There you are. Yes. Yes. Yes. I also heard one the other day, if every bar you go to you get into a fight, maybe it’s not the bar.
[00:20:00] AY: Exactly. Said very well.
[00:20:04] JKM: You’ve got this part of you that you’ve decided. I thought you said you had a moment where you began this reflection in a stronger way, right?
[00:20:14] AY: Mm-hmm.
[00:20:15] JKM: So I would love for you to see if you can identify maybe what was happening. Did you feel it as an aha or was it a growing awareness? Because part of what we’re doing with the show is having these conversations and people are sharing their stories about how they kind of woke up, right? How they got in touch with themselves and how important that is. I’m always curious when talking to a guest, do you remember? Was it a moment or was it gradual?
[00:20:45] AY: Yeah. I think it was twofold. I think part of it was personal, and it was almost happening simultaneously at work. I’ll give the work example first. My boss who is actually still my boss. Him and I were going back and forth and we’ve always been able to banter, because I’m safe and that relationship and I can tell him how I feel. He told me I was being emotional and what a trigger. What a trigger for me. I’m like – I remember where I was and I pounded my fist on the desk and I said, “I’m not emotional. I’m passionate.”
[00:21:22] JKM: Oh my God! Have I heard that passionate excuse for outrageous behavior a thousand times. “I’m just passionate that’s why I was a jerk.”
[00:21:32] AY: Yeah. I’m passionate. Then at the same time at home, I was finally – My husband is one of the very few people on earth that will call me out and he was telling – He’s sharing these things with me that forced me to reflect on the fact that I was not communicating what I needed. Then I would just get passive-aggressive, and that was very hard for me to say and verbalize and realize, “You know what? You are part of the problem, Annie.”
So simultaneously, I think at work and at home, all of this was coming to fruition and it made me start to dive into, really, to reading, Kevin, mostly. I read a lot and I read more now than I ever did and it. I mean, it started a long time ago, but between reading and podcasts, it’s helped me self-reflect. I distinctly remember those two trigger points happening very close from a time standpoint.
[00:22:29] JKM: This is good, because here’s what I’m taking away. Again, we’ll tease this out a little bit more. It sounds like two specific relationships, we’re at a point where the other party decided to say something to you that hurt you, triggered you, pissed you off, whatever, and it’s in the aftermath – there’s a period of processing.
[00:23:06] AY: Mm-hmm and choice.
[00:23:07] JKM: Oh yeah, and in the processing you’re deciding whether or not to maintain your position that they’re idiots, they’re stupid.
[00:23:17] AY: I would’ve never thought that.
[00:23:18] JKM: And they’re wrong and they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about, or maybe it’s me, right? The point I wanted to make for everybody listening – You know what? There’s nothing wrong with a relationship that has the occasional sticky moment where you get punched in the face.
[00:23:41] AY: Oh! So true. I mean, that is where we grow. I mean, that is – The leaders listening and anyone who is striving to be in a leadership position, what a powerful message that we will fall, we will get – People will tell us things we don’t want to hear, but what a chance to grow and to reflect and to become a better human, really, not just a leader. So true, but the words did hurt, but man am I glad I chose to take responsibility on myself.
[00:24:17] JKM: It’s a big part, because first you need somebody who’s not afraid to tell you what they think.
[00:24:21] AY: Oh! That is true.
[00:24:23] JKM: Then you need the courage to look in the mirror and own it. I had an interview, it will be a couple weeks by the time people hear our interview, with a wonderful guest named Lisa Stein. She actually made a very significant point about this, that getting that feedback that hurts or failing or – She said I didn’t even need anybody to tell me something. There are times when I already knew I just made a big whopping mistake, and she learned early on to say, “That’s on me. That’s on me. That’s mine. I own that. That goes with me.”
Now, there’s something else you said that caught my ear that I wanted to – I think this would be good for listeners as well. If you want to be a great leader, you want to be able to give people feedback. We used the term constructive feedback in a place of negative feedback or criticism, because that’s the polite way of doing it. The truth is if you tell anybody, “Can I give you some constructive feedback?” They’re going to pucker up.
[00:25:29] AY: Yup. That is the truth.
[00:25:32] JKM: You know what? I have a criticism. May I share? I have to give it to you. But here’s what you said about your boss. You said without blinking, “I felt safe.” I want to talk about that for a minute.
[00:25:51] AY: Okay.
[00:25:52] JKM: What do you mean by that? Because that’s a very powerful part of being in a relationship and being attractive, because there’s something about you that – all, “You’re safe,” to me means you don’t have to be on guard.
[00:26:12] AY: Right.
[00:26:13] JKM: Maybe talk a little bit about that, because I think there’s a point in here. There’s a message, like are you the kind of leader who is super conscious? The power of having people feel safe with you?
[00:26:28] AY: Yeah. Just to go back to that particular relationship. I have learned very early on that I had an advocate in my boss and he taught me that that is part of who I am now too. But not just advocacy obviously brings trust, but when I failed. Not if. When I failed, he and others, but he especially was there to help pick up the pieces, say, “This is not the end of the world. You are going to learn from this and we’re going to move on. We would reflect and we’d move on.”
I think in trying to figure out how to make our organization and our teams and make Rea a better place to be. We’re always trying to explore, and myself as a leader, trying to explore how do we make this safe. Part of that goes back to trust. I feel like it’s almost like that’s the virtuous circle.
[00:27:33] JKM: Yeah.
[00:27:34] AY: Trust and safety, safety and trust. Obviously, there’s more components to that, but you have to feel like there’s not going to be percussion that is negative to you or felt to be negative to you when you give that honest feedback or when you fail.
For instance, if I want to go to a boss and try to give that person feedback because they’re doing something that is counter to our values, I don’t need salary or a bonus hanging over my head. “I can’t say anything because what if comp comes into play?” I think not only my boss, but our leaders in this organization try to work very hard on making this place safe. I like to believe – I shouldn’t say I like to believe. I know that I am a trusted person in this organization and their safety because sometimes I feel like I have a sign on my forehead that says, “People tell me things.” But they do that because they feel safe and they know I’m going to use my discernment and my judgment to say, “This is going to stay in the vaults, or we’re going to figure out action steps to help you through this.
[00:28:44] JKM: Have you been in an encounter inside the firm where you saw trust at a problematic and broken down and challenged and what actually happened to sort of move it?
[00:28:57] AY: To move it in the right direction?
[00:28:57] JKM: In a positive direction. Yeah.
[00:28:58] AY: Yeah.
[00:28:59] JKM: Because a lot of people I’m sure who are listening to podcast are wondering, “All these things you guys are talking about, I wish I had a boss like that.” And the reality is they don’t.
[00:29:11] AY: Right.
[00:29:12] JKM: Which is why guys like me and thousands of others have careers helping people break that cycle. But is there anything that you can identify that you sort of – like your own way of working through people who have a little broken plank or two on the trust bridge?
[00:29:31] AY: Yeah. What we like to do is a lot of times you can narrow it down to two parties, and when I say that there’s – You’ve probably seen it before or listeners maybe have seen it before where you can almost draw a picture of the people inside the organization or the group you’re looking at where the hard lines from one to the next from a communication standpoint are solid or where they’re dotted or where they may be broken.
We like to start, and I’ve seen it happen and where we’ve started to go, “Okay. We know there’s blockage here. Let’s start with that relationship, but let’s do it behind closed doors.” This is not something that you air out in front of everybody. So let’s sit in a room and had that conversation to say, “We’re on the ship and trying to drive it the same direction. We have a lot in common. We know that we have that. So let’s start somewhere to try to build, I’ll say a nugget of trust,” maybe not the right word, “but let’s build something and let’s start from there.”
We know that components of trust and then ultimately safety, one of those is consistency. Let’s get to some consistent behavior, because a lot of times what I’ve seen is lack of safety or even lack of trust happens because response is inconsistent. I said this at one time and I got this response. I said it three hours later and I got this response. How am I supposed to trust what I’m getting from that individual? We talk about consistency in behavior, consistency in response, and then ultimately, competency.
I would tell you in this organization that that branch is usually not where we end up focusing because competency inside an accounting firm is – We certainly have areas where we could brush up, but that’s usually not the branch that we’re looking at when we talk about trust.
[00:31:36] JKM: Yeah. I’m referring to people who are listing who may not be familiar with it. If you go to the website sheerclarity.com, the two words are together as one word, you will find the early episodes, probably somewhere in the first five episodes, we talked about trust. In those episodes, I think we’ve embedded a PDF which I called the Trust Chart. I got it from a colleague and I think they got it from another colleague, and I think that everybody got it somewhere way back when when Stephen Covey’s – I think it’s his son wrote a book called The Speed of Trust. I want to attribute it properly, but the way that – When Annie is talking about branches, the trust tree has two big roots and one is competency and one is character.
She’s talking about the focus on competencies is to trusting people’s skillsets, ability to get results, their fundamental knowledge of the job, the work and what have you. The other side is called the character branch. Under that are things like honesty and integrity and authenticity and transparency and fairness. What she’s pointing out is even in her firm, it’s almost like a given. The competencies are expected to be there. Particularly in a profession like this one, it’s pretty quick to see if competencies are not in place. We could teach them. We can train them. When they’ve done an audit, they missed something, “Okay. Well, I won’t miss that again,” and we learn, we learn, we learn. But this whole other place about teaching character, honesty and things, a whole another ball of wax.
What you’re hearing is a principal in a very big accounting firm and its got a national footprint. It’s got a couple of hundred professionals. Guess where they’re spending their time? That character part, the part that matters.
Now, I have way like off the chart or out of left field question. I’ll keep an eye on our time too. We’ve got another eight or nine minutes. I saw somewhere that the firm was started in 1938.
[00:33:48] AY: That is true. By Richard Rea in New Philadelphia, Ohio.
[00:33:52] JKM: Tell me about today’s culture and whether or not you can draw a line back to 1938.
[00:34:01] AY: 100% yes. Absolutely. Richard Rea founded the firm in New Philadelphia. He was actually an engineer by trade. Went into the accounting profession around the Great Depression because he wanted to help small local businesses, and still to this day, probably three weeks ago, I was talking to a retired partner in the Medina, Ohio area from a different accounting firm, and he’s like, “I had lunch with Richard Rea. He was amazing.”
He would come back after he would retire and drive his boat of a car into the bushes, because I’ve heard these little vignettes from our folks, and he would grab the young people and he would take them out to two-hour lunches just to talk about the profession and talk about the impact that they were going to have. He was highly involved in the AICPA. He was a writer. We have something called The Rea Way, and it was written 20 years ago, but you can look at The Rea Way and you can tie it directly back to who he was.
One last thing, he was quoted as saying, and we share this in our orientations, that, “We do things now to prepare ourselves five years from now.” If you look in the world today at the M&A activity, the merger and acquisition activity that is happening, it is unbelievable. We ourselves are merging in firms to Rea, but we want to be around 80 years from now and 80 years after that and I truly believe that Richard Rea is saying, “We do something now to prepare ourselves,” is a testament of who we are, especially our partner group that we will pour into people so that we’re here. Could we take more money out of the coffers? Of course, but that’s not who we are.
[00:35:44] JKM: Do you know what just came up for me when I heard you?
[00:35:47] AY: What?
[00:35:48] JKM: The ripple effect.
[00:35:50] AY: Oh! Yeah. Oh! Thank you for that connection, Kevin. That’s so true.
[00:35:55] JKM: Listen to what the ripple effect was. Here’s what I do at the end. I close the show where I grab some what I call moments of sheer clarity from my guest, and you have way too many to list them all, but I’m going to spin them and then we’re going to hit you with my tricky question.
[00:36:12] AY: Okay.
[00:36:13] JKM: One certainly is the ripple effect as we spoke. Just remember, as Annie has mentioned that she particularly learned from her mother, the decision you make today or choice even if it’s just the tone of voice you choose to use when you speak to someone or some monumental decision, it’s going to ripple. It’s going to go out in waves and it’s going to have an impact and effect and it’s going to move things that you may not even be aware of. Everything you do, everything you say, every decision, whether it’s a big one or a small one is always going to ripple. You talked about the butterfly effect, and I think it’s in the same category.
[00:36:58] AY: Yes. Absolutely.
[00:36:59] JKM: Right?
[00:36:59] AY: Yup.
[00:36:59] JKM: But when I heard butterfly, I also heard of metamorphosis.
[00:37:04] AY: Yup.
[00:37:05] JKM: I’m thinking change, right? While you’re creating ripple effects, there’s also something happening to you that as you choose and as you decide you’re growing out of whatever cocoon you’re in into something special. Your mom sounded very special, by the way. We hit hurting people hurt people. So we’re going to focus on looking at the intrinsic good in people. We can grow that by sort of taking a little self-ownership of who we are and maybe realizing we’re not perfect as well.
There was a great leadership tip and anybody who’s listing who’s a boss of somebody else, you should ask this question: Does this person feel safe with me? Are they safe to be honest without the repercussions? Are they safe that I’m not going to lose my cool? Are they safe I’m not going to get defensive? Are they safe I care? If that is not the way you lead, then there’s a good chance people are following you out of sheer duty and fear. As soon as they get a better job opportunity, they’re going to go.
Then the last one that I just would throw down to you is – and it sounds like this Rae culture has this, probably much more important to focus on who you are and not what you do, like the core of who you are. That’s what’s going to stand the test of time.
[00:38:31] AY: Yup.
[00:38:32] JKM: You’re a part of a firm that’s been around over 80 years and you’re still speaking today with the same value systems that were spoken of then, and no matter how much change has occurred, you’re always looking ahead down the road. But the cultural paradigm or caring about the people has not missed a beat.
[00:38:55] AY: Absolutely.
[00:38:56] JKM: There you have it. Are you ready for your question?
[00:38:59] AY: I’m a little nervous, but yes, I’m ready.
[00:39:01] JKM: I like that. I like nervous guests. Take today standing in your position, imagine your life is behind you and now you’re going to turn around and look down the path and you’re going to see 23-year-old Annie and she’s standing there and you get a chance to speak to her today knowing what you know. What would you tell her? What advice would you give her?
[00:39:29] AY: Stop worrying so much. Stop. Just stop worrying so much, because the interactions you have, the support you have, the strength that you don’t even know you have is going to pull you through. Just stop worrying.
[00:39:48] JKM: I think – I don’t know if I said this beginning of this podcast. I’ve said it in the others. We started the interviews after 35 episodes, because a wise couple of the advisors said, “It’s great to hear you McHugh, but after 35 episodes you’re going to run out of stuff to say. So why don’t you go talk to people?” Man, best advice I ever got, because I’m getting so much good stuff.
The answer that you just gave is probably more common than I had expected with a number of interviews under our belt. People are always looking back and going, “I wish we you weren’t so uptight.” They’ve been saying not to worry or don’t worry what other people think.
[00:40:30] AY: Yup.
[00:40:32] JKM: With that, perfect end cap. I want to thank you so much for this. This was a great interview. There were so many wonderful things, so many gifts you’ve given us. For everyone, I would like to – On your behalf as listeners, I want to thank Annie Yoder of Rea & Associates for this wonderful interview from Sheer Clarity. If you would like to listen to this show and other shows and other episodes, go to sheerclarity.com, and next week we’ll be back with another great episode and another great interview.
Annie, thank you so much for being here.
[00:41:05] AY: Thank you, Kevin.