Crunching the numbers

Ron DeGrandis is doing what he can to smash the stereotype of the staid, boring accountant.

When he was announced as the new leader of the Ohio region of the accounting, tax and business consulting giant RSM McGladrey, DeGrandis walked to the lectern and immediately donned a crown and a cape. The joke put his new “subjects” at ease and established that their new leader would be approachable.

“You’ve got to be a bit of a showman,” says the executive managing director — Ohio.

His style may be unorthodox, but it works for the four offices and 150 employees he manages in Ohio.

Smart Business spoke with DeGrandis about how to encourage communication with your employees and how to talk to your employees, not at them.

Q. How can a leader improve communication with employees?

Make sure you communicate often, and make sure it’s a two-way thing. You just don’t tell people things; you leave things out there so you can see a reaction. Then you can see if what you’re telling them is accepted and done.

Sometimes it is a follow-up communication. Sometimes if you have to tell somebody something, it can be a visit. But in general, it’s getting the information out to everybody that they themselves participate in making decisions about.

There still tends to be some younger people who are reluctant to come talk to the high dalai lama, irrespective of the fact that I’m pretty approachable. But there is still that fear factor that is hard to overcome with younger people.

You’ve got to go out and talk to them and be in their midst continuously. Then they see that this is a regular guy. You have to go to their desk, sit next to them.

You have to be careful how you do it, obviously, because you can’t talk about too many confidential things. But if you go there and just start a conversation, it gives them the idea that you can be approached.

You have to be passionate about what you do. If you can get the passion across to your people, they understand where you’re coming from.