The Leadership Lesson Behind Dropping the Ball

by Jen Mueller | Mar 20, 2018

Member Insights from Joe Smith

The most talented athletes drop the ball on occasion, and you will too. Dropping the ball doesn’t make you a failure, or less of a leader. Those situations give you the opportunity to show what you’re made of.

It’s a piece of advice Gonzaga University Chief Financial Officer, and WSCPA member, Joe Smith, CPA, offers when asked about leadership lessons he’s learned.

“A fellow CPA once told me that you will drop the ball on occasion, the key is to drop the balls that bounce back up, not the ones that shatter,” Smith recalls.

There will be times you have to prioritize. A decision you make about one action could force you to drop the ball on doing something else. Do your best to make the right choice, and accept that sometimes it won’t go according to plan.

“Another fellow CPA often said, ‘The people who never make mistakes are probably not doing any work,’” Smith says. “When you put the two comments from my fellow CPAs together, I take it to mean we are all human. You will make mistakes, it’s how you recover that matters.”

The one thing Smith doesn’t want to try and recover is lost time, which is why he keeps tabs on his time by making lists.

“I am a list person,” Smith says. “I re-write my to-do list often. Yes, I also write stuff down that I just did so I can cross it off. It helps me organize a world that is coming at you a million miles per hour with emails, texts, meeting agendas, calendar invites, and social activities.”

It’s important to Smith that the things on his list are actionable items that move him closer to completing a bigger project or reaching a specific goal.

“I try and unbundle projects into tasks,” he explains. “I try not to list ‘XYZ Project,’ but write a task or two that will help make progress on a project.”

After nearly 20 years in the profession, Smith knows how to get the most out of his time at work. He also knows that just because CPAs work around numbers they have their limitations.

“Yes, we are numbers people, but it doesn’t mean we are walking calculators. There are few things more enjoyable than going to lunch with a group of accountants and watching them split the check.”

It’s a good reminder, Joe, and thanks for the leadership advice and productivity tips.

Jen Mueller headshotJen Mueller is a veteran sports broadcaster and the founder of Talk Sporty to Me.She is an expert in business communication and can be contacted at

Find more leadership lessons through the WSCPA! Attend this free one-hour CPE webinar for members, Lunchtime Learning: Advanced Learning for Purposeful Change, May 18, 2018 at 12:00 PM, or find additional CPE programs in the Store.

You are not allowed to post comments.


The Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants is the only organization in the state of Washington dedicated to serving the professional needs of CPAs, educating consumers about CPAs and the services they provide, and encouraging students to study accounting and enter the profession.

Your Profession. Your Future. Your Advocate.


Washington Society of CPAs
902 140th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98005-3480

  • (P) 425-644-4800
  • (F) 425-562-8853

The WSCPA's business hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.