Emotional Intelligence with Heath Alloway
Randy is joined by Heath Alloway of The Upstream Leader Podcast for Episode 95 of The Unique CPA. Intelligence as it’s been traditionally viewed, is less important to the accounting professional and to leadership than a more vital factor: emotional intelligence. Heath talks about his journey to understand the impact of emotional intelligence, highlights the ways high levels of emotional intelligence and empathy positively impact people and firms, and discusses strategies for developing what he says is ultimately not an inborn trait, but a skill.
Hey, Randy Crabtree, your host, back again, and The Unique CPA has received a 4 seed in Accounting High’s Accountant Bracket Challenge. Now, we want to take this tournament by storm. So, vote for us in each round of the tournament—head over to abc.accountinghigh.com, or text ABC to 33339. Thank you for all your support, and enjoy the show.
Today, our guest is Heath Alloway. Heath is a director at the Upstream Academy, where he works with public accounting firm leadership teams as strategic growth plans, business development, training, innovation and implementation of new services. And by the way, Upstream is one of my favorite groups and people to hang out with. So Heath, welcome to The Unique CPA.
Thank you, Randy. Happy to be here, and I appreciate the kind words as we get started here.
Yeah, no problem. We saw each other in Park City, Utah, and it was the first time I got to meet you in person, and it was great to do so—and that’s a great conference. So it was great to meet you in person. Unfortunately, I got COVID about 12 hours into being there, so I didn’t get to spend much time, although I spent an extra five days in Park City, Utah, looking at mountains from my hotel room, which was nice.
Yeah, absolutely, Randy, and I could think of worse places to get COVID than Park City, Utah. So, sorry, that happened, but glad to hear everything’s back in good shape now.
Back to normal. It was not too bad. The disappointing thing was I was supposed to speak the next morning and didn’t get a chance to do that, which I was really looking forward to speaking at your conference. That’s been a goal of mine, since I’ve known Upstream is to speak at an Upstream event, and I had that in my grasp, and then it unfortunately didn’t happen. We’ll have to get me back on the schedule.
Sounds like a plan.
Alright, well, before we get into it—and we have a topic that we want to talk about, which is emotional intelligence—but before we do that, just give me a little background on you. You know, I think you’ve been at Upstream a couple, two, three years now—and before that, what were you doing? And how did you end up at Upstream?
So Randy, I’m going to go a ways back in time that really kind of built in some of my passions. Growing up, I was in a very small town, a small family-owned business, and so a lot of my family friends were either you know, business owners, CPA firms, you know, involved at banks or schools, and I just always had that entrepreneur mindset. And I learned so much by being in that environment.
And then, it was kind of crazy how I did get into the profession. I started with a wealth management organization, and I was not a CPA. Someone that I played college golf with was with a firm, and he was kind of my entry point, and when I started with the firm, Randy—this is probably one of the most unique starts in a firm. I spent my first 18 months making phone calls out to prospective clients trying to set up meetings for some of our partner groups, some of myself.
So I learned a lot about the profession in that time. And then we’ll fast forward. I spent about 14 years within a firm, and I’ll call it a unique position for The Unique CPA—every role that I had within the firm was geared towards firm growth. That was strategic planning for industries, that was on the innovation side of helping identify, develop and launch new services. I also managed our firm business development program. So I worked very closely with our firm leadership on all of those different areas.
And Randy, I always had a passion, really taking my experiences, my skill set, and working with others, and so I took that leap of faith. Crazy time to make a shift, but I joined upstream on April 1 of 2020.
This was kind of a crazy time, but I was very familiar with the Upstream team. I’d worked with Jeremy for several years. So it was just a leap of faith, and just really have enjoyed now working with other firms in a lot of those areas that you described. So it’s been a lot of fun the past couple years.
Just curious, did you go through any of the Upstream programs before joining Upstream?
I did not go through the programs. Our firm was very involved, so I did attend some of the sessions. I actually spoke at some of the Upstream events prior to joining the team, so again, very familiar with the team and you know, just really love the culture and the team and it’s been a fun ride.
So you didn’t even have to attend. You were educating from the start. You were already, yeah, nice!
So before we get to the emotional intelligence, you said one thing that intrigues me that I like to talk about a lot—so I’m throwing you a curveball here. For the first 18 months, you were basically doing outbound calls, you were inside sales, it sounds like, for a firm. That, obviously, was something that this firm did. Do you see a lot of firms doing that? Because I think it’s something they should do, and I often don’t see it.
Randy, it has been very few and far between that I’ve seen other firms doing that. But what I will say, it was a very quick way to learn a lot about the profession, it was a very quick way to learn a lot about the different industries and niches and service lines. And not only that, I think I learned a lot about handling objection, and just having those conversations. It was not easy.
It was very challenging at times. But it led to actually getting to go on some of the meetings with some of the prospective clients. And I just, I learned so much from that, and it really kind of flipped my mindset from that selling to helping kind of mindset. So I just, I learned so much. I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Right. But I learned a lot from that.
Right. And what did you call that position? Was it inside sales? Was it outbound sales? Was it dialing for dollars?
Yeah, so our team was called the Advance Team, but it was inside—it was inside sales. But we also learned a lot about project management and working with our different offices and teams. We saw them as our clients in a way too.
Yep. Yeah, and the reason that intrigues me is that it’s just something like, too often, it just to me feels like CPA firms rely way too much on people who aren’t salespeople to generate business—which is fine, it’s a relationship business. But we’ve, at Tri-Merit, we’ve always had a business development team. And we just expanded this year into, I call it inside sales, some people, like I said, outbound sales—whatever it is. And we have three people on that team now, and we’re looking to add a fourth. And the revenue that has come in from that in a short period of time has been amazing. And it’s something we should have, I think, looked at doing a long time ago. But yeah, it’s something that I would love to do just a whole podcast on that at some point.
I’d love to. It’s a fun topic, and again, it’s probably not exactly what I want to do forever. But it also—I learned so much. And if you haven’t done it before, I would highly encourage people to get you more comfortable in those types of settings.
Yep, I’m not going to do it. So, just so you know. I couldn’t do it. It’s a tough skill. But it’s great to learn. And I’m guessing—to segue here—I’m guessing that emotional intelligence comes into just that setting as well.
So we were talking ahead of time, and there’s all these EQs, IQs SQs OQs, AQs, I don’t even know what all the Q’s are. I know what IQ is. Emotional quotient or emotional intelligence is one we want to touch on today. Why don’t you give a little background? One, you know, what it is? Or two, even beforehand, you know, how you got involved in being this person out speaking on this topic?
Yeah, absolutely, Randy. Emotional intelligence, it was something that I looked back—even mentioned back in my calling days, it was something that I think I can recognize, if I met someone that I thought was very, you know, had a very high level of emotional intelligence. I don’t think at that time, I could really describe what it is or how it happens or how to improve in it. And, Randy, I’ll share one thought—I think one of the biggest hurdles that we have to overcome with this topic, and this skill set, is I hear too many people call it a “soft skill.” I don’t see it as a soft skill, I think it is a core leadership skill.
And I’ll go back, it was probably about two and a half years ago—one of the things that I wanted to do, as I self reflected, was just to get more involved in our own community in Springfield, Missouri. And it led to a conversation with the university here in town. And keep in mind for our listeners, we don’t do a ton of training with organizations outside of CPA firms. But they asked us to be part of their leadership program, and one of the topics they needed was emotional intelligence. And being the kind of a “yes man,” I said, “Yes, I’ll take that topic.” I did have some hesitation at the time—I’m being very candid.
But as I dove into the topic, it became something that I was very intrigued by. And something that you use—I’ll call it the “Q alphabet.” You mentioned all the different Qs. But one of the things that came out in a lot of the books that I read the research was the IQ, our knowledge, the knowledge we have, that’s only about 20% of our success. I look at our profession—I think it is a very high IQ profession. What makes up that other 80%, a big part of that is our emotional intelligence—how we interact with others, how we build relationships, how we lead others, and that’s the part that has just been so intriguing to me throughout this journey.
Yeah, it was funny because you sent me some saying that that IQ and EQ, the 20, the 80—when I looked at it first I thought, “Eh, I don’t know.” But then when you, I mean, I know, not to be negative or anything—I know a lot of really smart people that aren’t great communicators or leaders. I mean, they’re really good at what they do. But I know a lot of leaders in firms—I’m not gonna say they’re not smart, because they’re very smart—but they have that emotional intelligence. They know how to deal with people, they know how to interact. And that’s what I see from a leadership standpoint, is that way they’ve defined it, like you said, as EQ. I didn’t know what it was, it was just their personality. But yeah, I can definitely see that that is a huge part of someone’s success. I guess that’s the term—depends how you define success—but you know, get into these leadership areas.
So what do we do with this? I mean, okay, we know that this is, according to at least your stats, and I’m going to trust your stats, it’s 80% of plays into what I guess success is going forward. So what do we do with it? I mean, can we cultivate it? Can we train it? Where do we go?
Yeah, 100%, Randy. It is a skill that can be learned, it can be improved. It’s something I always tell people is emotional intelligence—I don’t think this is a skill that can ever be mastered or perfected. I think even the best leaders that we’ve worked with, and we’ve seen, I think there’s always room for improvement in this topic. So let’s go back and just go back to truly what emotional intelligence is, because I just think about it—I didn’t understand it at the time.
So when you think about emotions, we really have one brain, but we have two minds—that’s our emotional side, and that’s our rational side. And the emotional side, it’s something that’s very critical to just just staying alive. Our emotions start from the very day that we are born. Part of that, that I think we have to understand is, our emotions, when we’re born, at a very young age, that emotional side is really what I would say is the more powerful—we don’t have the rational side.
So the way I describe it to people is, think about driving down the highway. We put our emotional side in the front seat, they’re the one at the steering wheel and their foot on the gas. Our rational mind’s in the back seat. At some point, as we develop our rational mind, our rational thinking starts to kick in. So that’s really how it all happens. So I think just starting there helps people understand that we have a thinking side, and a feeling side. And naturally, our feeling side is the first to react. Our rational side is when we stop, take a minute, and we start to think about things. “Is it really that bad? Or is it really that negative?” And that’s how we can start to address this. So I think that’s a good starting point, Randy.
Okay, alright. So I like the concept, I like the idea of explaining that. And so you mentioned, we’ve got this rational side, we’ve got the emotional side. And so we’re born with more of the emotional side of things, and then at some point, that rational side starts to take over more. How does that transition happen?
So Randy, I think, just kind of setting the foundation here for that discussion, how that happens—any time our negative emotions start to creep in, that’s typically when our expectation level is much higher than the reality of the situation. So I’ll just share a few examples. Well, actually, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen National Lampoon’s Vacation.
But that whole series was built on this concept of Chevy Chase, his expectations for vacation were here, the reality was a little lower. And I’ll just use for an example: Whenever, say, someone transitions from a firm and they go to another firm, or they transition to a different career. A lot of times they are running from something and not to something. They have this expectation that things are going to be perfect, but when they get there, it may not be exactly what they see. Same goes for buying a new house. It’s very exciting, but then you get there and then all of a sudden, your first month or two, or maybe a year or two, you’re still unpacking boxes. Those are situations where the reality does not meet your expectation level.
So when I say that, Randy, a lot of times what I’ll share with people is there are five key areas to focus on with emotional intelligence: Self-awareness. Just being self-aware of when those emotions start to creep up. That is the foundation for emotional intelligence. And when I say self-awareness, Randy, we could talk about, you can read fifty books, self-help books, leadership books, you could sit in on podcast sessions. If you don’t have self awareness, to identify your areas that you need to get better, it’s not going to do anything. It might give you some concepts, but without that self awareness. So that’s what I what I would say is the first part, Randy.
Alright. So self-awareness. You have to understand that your emotions may be beyond what the actual situation is, and know to pull them back and let’s go with what reality is, let’s get a little more towards reality. Am I on base?
Yeah. And I think Randy in those situations when you have self-awareness—so let me ask this, I’m going to ask you a question? Have you ever sent an email, have you ever said something, have you ever done something where you, a few hours later sit back and say, “Why did I do that?” You know, “What good could possibly come out of that?” And you wish you could retract the email, or you could retract the text message, you can retract the conversation. But when you can manage your emotions, that’s when you have this self-awareness to stop and maybe address that situation.
Yep, I know what you’re saying. I think I’m—this is gonna sound like I got a big ego—I think I’m pretty self aware, because I honestly, I can’t think of a time when I did that with an email, which I’m sure I have. But I maybe overanalyze things at times, potentially, just to make sure that that doesn’t happen.
Well, and Randy, there have been situations on, I’ll say, managing or own emotions. You know, one of the things that can, I think, also lead to higher emotion levels is when we’re operating out of uncertainty. So if you think about the past two and a half, however many years, there’s been a lot of uncertainty. And one thing at Upstream we talk a ton about is, all of our growth comes out of getting out of our comfort zone. But sometimes, if you’re out of your comfort zone too long, that’s when the fear and the emotion can start to creep in. So you think of loss, you think of anxiety, you think of some of those negative emotions, whenever we’re better at self-awareness and at managing those, that can help address some of those negative situations.
So how do we manage that? What is the key there? How do we figure out that I need to manage this emotion I’m going through?
Randy, I’d say a simple takeaway for our listeners today is something that—and I don’t know if anxiety or fear or you know, exactly how to best describe it—but sometimes when you start to let a negative emotion, when you let it grow, and you continue to think about it, it can potentially continue to grow and get bigger and bigger. So one thing, just a simple takeaway that’s been very helpful for me is, if you started going down that road of having a negative thought of, “Gosh, I did a presentation or I did a podcast, and I don’t think that I did well, I think it was horrible.” Start maybe going back and writing down what you thought went well.
Or so, I tell my daughter all the time, she comes home from soccer practice or school, and she’ll start telling me about “So and so did this,” or “They talked to me, they said this to me.” So “Step back Nora, and think about, do their actions control your emotions? What can you control? What bad is really going to come out of this?”
And so starting to—I hate to say it this way, Randy, because it’s very hard. It’s easier said than done. It’s very hard to do—but retraining our brain on how we react to those situations. So if it’s something that we fear—say it’s thinking about public speaking, it’s one of the most feared things out there. What’s our survival rate? I always tell people, we have a 100% survival rate in our presentations.
So you know, what’s the worst that could come out of this? Let’s reshape that. What’s the value that could come out of this, by me sharing my experiences? Could this help someone? So it’s just retraining that thought process, because too many of our thoughts are negative, Randy, I just had a recent article that I read that says we have 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day. And I think it was 80% of those are negative. And out of those 80%, 95% happened over and over.
It’s crazy to think about.
It is! So I have I have like 60,000 thoughts a day. And then I call our marketing department and they’re like, “Oh, Randy’s got another idea.”
Here we go again, Randy?
So two things you said that I was really intrigued with is that whole mindset of negative thoughts. And this is something that I’m actually going to be talking to Jeremy Clopton that you work with, on a podcast coming up. And there’s two things around that. One, we already talked about it, and “I decided I didn’t do well, so I want to do it again.” So somehow, you know, maybe overanalyzing there.
But the other thing is, the part of it is talking about mental health. And what you were just talking about can actually create mental health issues, with these negative thoughts that go uncontrolled, and if you’re going and going and going. And that’s one thing that happened to me after I had a stroke years ago, that I just, the negative thoughts were in my head.
And so yeah, I can, from an extreme standpoint, I can see, flipping that, you got to look at the positive, and fortunately, I was able to after years of dealing with the negative, but it’s there. So manage your emotions from an extreme standpoint—I completely understand what you’re talking about there.
Two things I would say on that because I want to go back and make everyone clear too. I am by no means a doctor or professional in this space whatsoever.
And I do think there’s a separation on what you just said. I think there is some of those thoughts, they’re very, very natural. And honestly, if we weren’t having those some some of the thoughts, I’d be worried. I tell people that, you know, from a presenter standpoint, that, you know, when I stop having some of that, that’s when I probably start to get worried, because it’s natural.
It’s like, say you’ve been an athlete, or you have a big meeting coming up with a client or prospective client—some of those thoughts are natural, it’s, you know, it makes you human, you know, you care about it. So some of that’s okay. When it starts to get more where it’s out of control, I think that’s a whole different ballgame, tapping into professional help, or talking with someone.
And I want to make sure that everyone’s clear, when you start to have some of that, by all means, it can just be helpful to just be open with someone, whether it’s someone you know, or not, and just talking about it, can at least surface that and get it on the table, instead of just letting it letting it continue to snowball or to grow.
Definitely, definitely great advice. And again, yes, neither of us are doctors. So the mental health advice we’re giving you today, which we weren’t going to veer into there—I brought it up, is just me, from personal experience.
Alright, so managing your emotions, and other key areas. You were talking about this, you mentioned earlier, self-motivation. You want to expand on that?
Yeah, absolutely, Randy. That self-motivation piece, it kind of goes back to the self-awareness in it, whether it’s goal setting, or what you’re trying to accomplish in your career, with no doubt, you’re gonna see setbacks. And I’ll just use our own, let’s say, our health, if you’re trying to get in better shape, or you’re trying to eat healthier. You know, I’m not big on chasing the fads, I’m bigger at looking at, like, what our “why” is, and what our purpose is, and that motivation. And I’ll just share some, you know, a personal experience and how this kind of ties into it.
So several years ago, I had an annual checkup, and I was pretty young at the time. And the doctor shared that I had—my cholesterol was slightly elevated, I was at the highest weight I’d ever been in my life. And I had some family background and not the greatest health issues. And I looked at that self motivation side and like looked back like, “What am I doing? And what do I need to improve on?” And I think my why behind that self motivation has changed throughout the years, but I still look at those day to day habits, Randy.
I’m big on the goal setting process, but I’m also this concept of how can we win the day? How can we do the little things, whether it’s you wake up in the morning, and you take time to yourself and take 30 minutes to invest in yourself? I think you have to identify those small wins to equal your big wins. And you know, it’s any career path—leadership, if you’re trying to make it on a partner track—the self-accountability is so huge. Sam (Allred) talks about it, the difference between knowing and doing. A lot of times, Randy, we know exactly what we should do. But it’s actually taking that and doing it. And that’s the hard part.
But something you said, Randy—or no, I’m sorry, this was something I heard on an earlier discussion about many times my why, it’s not just about myself. We’ll go back to working out for an example. If I am going to go work out of five in the morning for myself, sometimes it’s a lot easier for me to hit snooze. If I have someone else that’s dependent on, if I don’t show up, it’s going to impact their day—so thinking about the accountability piece of coaching. Or maybe it’s your family or your children, what that bigger why is and recognizing that.
And I’ll just tie it into our profession. A lot of times that why is not more hours, it’s how are you making a difference in your clients? How are you making a difference in those that you work with? And that is the arrows pointed out, that’s not the arrows pointed in. It is that when that why is bigger, that can really help with that self motivation.
Yep. And one thing you just said, and one of the key areas of focus we discussed is empathy. And, just you know, the others, you know, knowing what’s important to others, being able to help others, being able to, you know, be happy when others succeed. That’s a big part of emotional intelligence, I’m assuming as well.
100%, Randy, I always look at, kind of going back to the self-reflection—any time that I’ve ever, you know, had that great sense of joy, or, you know, my cup being the most full is when I’ve been able to help either my teammates or firms who work with individuals we work with. And it hasn’t been about necessarily myself, it’s been about investing in others. And, Randy, that empathy piece, you know, I look at our profession and not only our profession but others, so much of what we do is relationship-focused, and our expertise gets us maybe at the table, but it’s the relationships that we build that can make a difference.
And I’ll use that as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion—being able to step outside yourself and look at others, that’s not an easy thing to do, and that can be quite challenging when we’re naturally focused on ourselves.
Yeah, I know some people—and whether they’re kidding or not—like to say that “talking about myself is one of my favorite topics.” But honestly, I love seeing people have success that I’m working with. And I have two examples of that, and it just gives me so much satisfaction, and I think I even talked about this on other podcasts.
But I have two guys that I work with, been working with the firm for over ten years now. Both of them came straight out of college, both of them were working at a gym, as trainers—I met them at the gym, because one was training me, one was training my son, while they were looking for a job. And both of them, I just saw—one, what great people they were, and what great skills they had, even though it was in a training session, working at a gym, I just saw this potential they had, and they were great people.
And now one of them’s our CFO, and the other one’s the head of inside sales that I was talking about before, and they’ve been here ten years. And it’s just, now for me, that means a lot too, for the business, because they’ve helped us grow successfully. But personally, I just love seeing them be successful in this business, and hopefully that means that I build meaningful relationships and have empathy for others. I’m hoping I have that skill.
Yeah, and Randy, I love that thought of what you just described to I’ll call it “skill versus will”—you hired for the will or the self-motivation, it wasn’t necessarily the skills that they had that applied to our profession, but I love that. Love that thought.
Yeah, and the ability to communicate, the ability—the knowledge, the IQ they had as well, even though we’re talking EQ today—the IQ they had as well. But yeah, they’ve both been very important parts of our firm, and it’s just so nice to see.
And that’s one thing, also I do is, whenever we hire a new person, I really try to reach out to them. And I do—I’ve probably got two or three new people right now… Maybe I do like talking about myself, because it appears that I’m doing that right now.
Randy that’s good, that’s self-awareness.
Self-awareness! So, I like to reach out and get on a Teams call and just talk about who they are, not what they do, and just get to know the people. Because that’s, I think if you know the person, you know—one, it doesn’t matter what they do, and two, just you know, helps the business overall to have that relationship building aspect of things.
Alright. Are there other areas that we need to talk about with this emotional intelligence? How do I apply it? What’s the beneficial (aspect) for my business? Is there things I’ve missed?
Well, Randy, one thing I’ll go back to that you just said, you mentioned getting to know the individual—
—Yep. Not the role.
Well, and not only that, I can’t tell you how many times in the past 12 months that I’ve heard the comment of “They don’t want to work like our generation,” or “The millennials,” which the millennials are—some millennials are partners in firms. That’s put in a bucket. Or the the idea of “Gosh, I just took it on because I tried to pass something off, and it didn’t go well.” So now you know, it’s that kind of thought. And I think from an empathy perspective, sometimes we overlook the fact that we were once in their shoes, and so being able to have that emotional intelligence to go back and say, “What was it like whenever I was six months in a firm,” or “What was it like whenever I was 12 months in?” And having that kind of empathy, I think can help look at the individual level and not as a, you know, a generation, or a level within a firm is looking more at the individual. And I love how you describe that.
I think that’s extremely important to me, because it’s what you just said—when I first started in public accounting in 1988, which means I’m old now—is that I made a list of things that I liked where I worked and things that I didn’t like, and I would change, if I ever had my own firm. And so I’ve tried to—whether everybody would agree or not—tried to live by the list of “Hey, let’s do the things I know that people really don’t like, let’s get rid of those, and do the things that people like.” But we also try to find out what are things we’re missing, too, you know. We’re open to ideas from—it doesn’t matter if you just started here a week ago or you’ve been here 15 years—you know, what do we need to do better too.
And hopefully, I think I actually mentioned this recently, too, but we’re at 60 people and over 15 years, I think we’ve had seven people voluntarily leave. So I think we probably overall are good on the emotional intelligence timeline using that—at least in leadership skills and relationship building. But I love this whole topic of emotional intelligence. Sorry, there’s no question there, it’s just a comment.
No, you’re fine, Randy.
Alright. So then based on everything we talked about with this emotional intelligence, again, which I think is awesome—what’s the application? What can we use this for? Where should we use it?
So how we can really take emotional intelligence and how to put it into play, and how we can continue to build that skill: So you think about, let’s talk about the process, again—self- awareness, understanding our own emotions. Then when we understand our own emotions, we can start to better head some of those off, or control, react to those emotions—the self-motivation, the empathy side, how we connect with others. So when you think about that journey, that skill, it’s how do you tie that to meaningful relationships? How do you apply it within your firm or your career path?
And so when you think about relationships, when you fast forward, and you look back at a career, a lot of your joy is going to come from how you’ve helped others, how you’ve invested in others—those strong relationships you’ve built within your firm, within your client base. And think of how you can apply that. That could be challenging situations. Maybe it’s helping someone through—we talked about some pretty serious things, you know, how things that we’ve went through in life, and how have you helped someone through that. Those are the things you’re going to look back on, and realize that you made a difference in someone else’s career or their life. And to me, that’s some of the most rewarding.
And you look at the last, I’ll say two and a half years again, or you look at our profession, Randy, I’ve heard so much about the capacity: “Gosh, there’s fewer people coming in, we have more work than we know what to do with.” Emotions are at a high level right now. So thinking about how you can tap into them—and I’m not trying to be pollyannish, Randy, I think from an emotional side, a positive outlook, knowing that the best is yet to come. I’m also a realist, that that comes with challenges.
But how do we impact our mindset to have that positive outlook—again, not being pollyannish, but how can we encourage our people? How can we help them understand their why? Not only that, you think about recruiting and retention. How often do firms talk to others about the difference they’re making on the overall firm? What they’re doing—how does that impact the success of a firm? Or how, when they’re serving clients, do they really understand the difference that they’re making, and connecting with them from that emotional level? I think it makes such a big difference.
And if you do have people that are going through—maybe they’ve been a high performer, and they’re going through something right now, I think that’s important to tap into that.
And helping understand from an emotional standpoint. So hopefully, that helps some of our listeners on the application side.
Yep, application. And we have a list here: “leadership, handling conflict, personal connection, social awareness,” all those things I see coming into play. And I love what you just said there is, “Hey, we have somebody that maybe is not contributing like they used to, but it’s not just because they’re whatever, you know, maybe there is something behind that, that really, if we can help them with something that’s not work-related,” that I think is great. And I think we try to do that, and hopefully a lot of others do as well.
Well, Randy, our professional life is just one pillar.
Just one pillar of the bigger picture.
Yep. And I talk about this on the podcast a lot, but I’m a big fan of John Garrett, What’s Your “And?”, you know, and it’s not just enough, you’re familiar with John, but it’s not, you know, you’re not the auditor, you’re the mountain biker, or you’re the, you know—what you do outside of work is really who you are. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t use that passion inside of work as well.
Alright, so I think that was a good education on emotional intelligence. But if somebody wants to be able to use this or improve this, what’s a takeaway that you can help them with to move forward with emotional intelligence?
Randy, one thing that I would think about for the listeners of just starting with a self-evaluation. So think about those five key areas—I’ll repeat them for our listeners one more time: self-awareness, managing our own emotions, self-motivation, empathy, and meaningful relationships. So think about those five areas, and go through and do a true honest assessment of where you’re at on a scale of one to ten. Where are you at, in those five areas? And then out of those five areas, as you go through and you do a one to ten self evaluation, write down maybe one, maybe two things you can do better.
So from a self awareness standpoint—I’ll go back to the negative emotions, Randy. If someone does something that kind of gets you fired up, take 24 hours and reflect on it. You know, take a minute and self reflect, because typically, it’s not as bad or as good as whatever you think it is. So just things like that, one or two steps that I can prove in each of those areas. And as long as you have that self awareness, you can continue to improve in those areas.
Nice, nice. Alright. Before I ask for contact information, because people want to reach out and find out more about you—one question I like to ask at the end. And in a lot of it, I was asking this question before I met John Garrett, and What’s Your “And?”, but I always feel like I have to give him credit, because the one question I like to ask at the end is, “Alright, we talked about, you know, Upstream, we talked about what you’re doing. We talked about all this today, but what do you do that’s your passion outside of work? What do you enjoy when you’re not out to educate in public accounting?”
Very good question, Randy. Do I have a limit on the number of things that I can take?
No, you go for it!
Alright, yeah. I go back to the community—you know, this is probably more recent—but one of the things just in our church, I was asked to volunteer in the daycare, which got me out of my comfort zone. But that has been one of those deals where I went in with the mindset of “Oh my gosh, how am I going to work with kindergarteners and first graders?” But in a lot of ways, they’re teaching me a lot about myself.
The other areas—I recently, I guess I say recently—last year, I was asked to coach my son’s soccer team. And that was something, similar approach where I said yes, and I learned a lot from that. And just investing in the youth and the kids, it’s just been a blast.
I also enjoy fly fishing, golf—I try to stay active and just go back to my why on the staying active piece. I just want to, I feel like the more I self care, the better I can help others as well. And that goes back to when I’m investing, I try to be more intentional, Randy about where I’m investing my time, and making a difference for others.
Alright, and so did you know anything about soccer before you started coaching the soccer?
I did not know a lot. My daughter plays in a club league. I know a lot—I shouldn’t say I know a lot—I played sports. So soccer was not one that I played. So it’s been a learning experience. Thank goodness they’re only five, so I don’t need to know a lot yet. It’s more about, you know, keeping everyone in line without getting hurt or anyone crying.
The most rewarding part, Randy was at the end of the season. Last year, I had a couple of the parents come up and just say thanks for investing in my kid.
And so I’m doing it again this year, we had our first game last week and I’m still getting the, you know, it’s the highest sense of joy from doing it and just watching them develop.
And I think you’re using a lot of your emotional intelligence skills in that coaching arena.
So one thing, I do want to—a couple things I want to ask—because you mentioned fly fishing. Is it a requirement that you fly fish if you work at Upstream Academy? Because that’s…
It’s not, it’s not. It was not on my resume, Randy. It’s just something that I got into, you know, awhile back, and it’s something that it’s just, it’s very relaxing, and there’s—it’s hard to explain until you’ve been wading in the water. And I would not say I’m good at it by any means, Randy, I just enjoy doing it, and I go on a trip each year, with—there’s eight of us, my dad goes every year. We’ve been doing it for three years now. And it’s just a kind of fun tradition. It’s just, it’s relaxing.
Nice, because Sam Allred’s a fly fisherman, right? Isn’t that the whole, isn’t that where Upstream came from, the name, I’m assuming?
Yes. Ironically, Randy, I have not been fishing with Sam or Tim Bartz that has now retired.
Yeah, I knew Tim was—is Jeremy not? Georgia, Kelsey, anybody else a fly fisher person?
Not that I’m aware of.
Alright. And then the other thing, because you mentioned this at the beginning, but I’m just curious. College golfer.
And where did you do this at?
So I played at Missouri Southern which was a Division Two school in Joplin, Missouri.
Okay, and so these days, you’re still golfing, how you doing? You still hitting it alright?
I still play some—not near as much but I still play some. I would say my love for the game has been revived a little bit—not that I didn’t enjoy it—but we live fairly close to a golf course, and I mentioned my kids a couple of times, I have a five-year-old and soon to be ten-year-old. And they have a kids’ course, like five small holes, and they’re shorter, I’d say 40 to 50 yards.
So we go over there quite a bit and it’s just it’s fun to get them involved in the game as well.
That’s one thing I regret that I didn’t get my kids out golfing at an early age, and then I really want to help them catch up now—not that I’m any good—but it’s a skill, I think it’s important. Because it’s so nice to be out there and you just have all this time hanging out with friends or co-workers—that can be the same thing—or whatever.
Okay, again, I appreciate you being here before we wrap up then if people want to find you, connect with you, see more information about you, where would they go look?
Randy, one easy way is LinkedIn, just searching my name, it’s Heath Alloway. And then my email address is HeathA@UpstreamAcademy.com. So those are the probably the easiest two ways to connect, Randy. I always tell people that, you know, I love to talk and help solve problems. So if someone does have any questions or anything I said today, I’m always happy to connect.
Nice. That’s great, putting your stuff out there for helping, which I appreciate a ton.
Randy, thank you for having me on the show as well. It’s been a fun conversation. And I do appreciate it. I know you have a lot of guests, and so I appreciate the opportunity to be on your show.
Nope, this has been my plan since I heard of who you were. So I appreciate you being on here.
About the Guest
Heath Alloway serves as Director at Upstream Academy, where he and his team are focused on growth and innovation to support public accounting and professional services firms. This includes methods to create new ideas, test the market and how to go to market by serving clients. Built on a foundation of extensive real-world experience and thought leadership, Upstream Academy helps accounting firms find innovative and proven solutions for today’s challenges and proactively plan for tomorrow.
Heath co-hosts The Upstream Leader podcast alongside Jeremy Clopton, where they educate accountants anywhere in their career journey on becoming high-yield, low-maintenance leaders. He previously served as Director of Business Development at BKD. He earned his Bachelor’s in Business at Missouri Southern University in 2002.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.