Whether you partner with a peer from another firm or a colleague in your practice, shadowing can be one way to grow your knowledge and skills. From learning about a new niche of tax law so you can better serve as an advisor for your clients, to learning about new processes and tools so you can become more efficient in your firm, shadowing provides a great way to learn from your peers.
Our teams here at Intuit® have experimented with shadowing to help us share our expertise and grow our employees, and have found a lot of success. Here are some best practices we’ve learned from shadowing our own peers that we hope can help you expand your expertise for next tax season.
Share Your Goals Around Shadowing
Are you looking for new tools to help your practice workflow or hoping to learn how to better serve your self-employed clients? No matter your goal, be open with the person you’re shadowing about what you’d like to learn. This will enable your peer to tailor their day to help you meet your goals, or suggest days and times to visit their office when they plan on focusing on related tasks so that you can see them in action.
If Possible, Shadow in Person
Sometimes, the people you can learn from aren’t located in your backyard, so it is possible to try to shadow someone using remove communications tools. However, we’ve found that it’s easier to learn from people in their natural work environment and for both parties to be able to be “hands on” with the project, which often means its best for both parties to be in the same location. This may mean taking a bit more time away from your own office, but it’s worth it if you can get away.
In Intuit’s experiments with shadowing, several of the teams were remote shadows conducted through live video conferencing. While live shadowing is ideal, remote shadowers still found the experience valuable. Technology allowed the guests to sit in meetings just like they were there in person. Remote shadowing may open many more shadow opportunities that can be very beneficial with some planning.
Stay in Touch
Learning a new tax niche or a new tool is hard to do in a day or even a week of shadowing one of your peers. Stay in touch with your peer if you have questions. As you integrate your new knowledge into your day-to-day activities in your own practice, building a long-term relationship will enable you to leverage them as an ongoing resource.
Be Willing to Trade Places
Chances are, you have some unique knowledge or skills that your peer doesn’t have. Be open to sharing these things with your peers via shadowing as well. They will appreciate you returning the favor!
We hope you meet your goals of learning something new that can help you improve your practice next season during a shadowing session! If you have any of your own shadowing best practices to share, please leave a comment below.