Growing up, Sara Choate hated math. So, finding herself at an accounting firm was a surprise.
“For a non-accountant, public relations major to carve out an interesting career path at a CPA firm is somewhat unconventional,” she says. “But as an innovative firm, KPM is willing to try something different to better serve the people and businesses of 417.”
Choate is the Human Capital Solutions Managing Director at KPM CPAs & Advisors. There, she helps KPM’s clients develop strategies to recruit, retain and develop top talent. Along with ever-evolving workforce data, she’s changing the conversation about how leaders and owners engage with employees.
“If most days your workers are drained at 5 p.m., you may be missing the mark as a leader,” she says. “To have a healthy culture, your employees must be highly engaged and thriving, and having a healthy culture is the only way to recruit and retain thriving and highly engaged employees. The two go hand in hand.”
For years, Choate has been encouraging numbers-driven owners to become people-focused leaders. From compliance and employee handbooks to leadership boot camps and culture-building strategies, Choate is helping employers develop and enhance engagement initiatives.
“Every industry is guilty of promoting people because of technical expertise and then expecting them to manage people well, but that’s just not how it works,” she says. “No magic fairy comes and sprinkles someone who is good at their job with leadership dust at night. We have to provide leaders with the tools they need to be successful at leading other people.”
At KPM, Choate walks the walk, encouraging others to utilize what she calls power skills: empathy, emotional intelligence, problem solving and self-management. Her purpose is to amplify and magnify leaders’ strengths, so they can then use a well-rounded approach to leadership instead of just looking at numbers or productivity stats. That, ultimately, helps their team members be more fulfilled and successful, says Megan Artz, marketing director at KPM.
“Sara always puts people first,” says Artz. “It’s rarer and rarer to see a positive, people-focused culture in an organization, and Sara is working to change that.”