Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ahhh... New Year "Resolutions"

Some items to consider if you are currently pondering New Year resolutions:

· If you are "resolving" to do something in 2009, first review prior "resolutions" ---

Did you fall short? Learn from the lack of results. Why did you not obtain them? What will be different this time? Was there one resolution that you did stick to or a goal that you did hit? If so, why? Reflect on it. What was different about that one? How were YOU different? Learn from your past accomplishments and non-accomplishments.

· Ask yourself what fulfilling your new year resolution really means to you.

Is it something you feel you "should" do, or is it something you can fully engage in because you CHOOSE, WANT, and COMMIT to doing it? Think about the "end" if there is one ... fulfilling your goal. What does that do for you? How will you feel? How does it help you fulfill other goals in your life?

· Do you choose to "resolve" or "commit"?

The word "resolution" has been earning a negative "vibe" over the years. You can probably think of prior resolutions you or others around you have made that lasted .... well .... not very long. A common example is exercise. Maybe you received some new work-out clothes over the holidays. Ooohhh they are all bright and shiny and the gym is undoubtedly most crowded in January when new enrollments peak. I audited Gold's Gym one year and the rise in enrollments early in the year were pretty predictable, as were the attendance peaks that always teetered out a month or two later.

So, consider a small word-change -- instead of calling it your new year resolution, how about your new year commitment, or the lifestyle change you want and are beginning on Jan. 1? Just a play on words? Maybe not. When you make a commitment, you are making a formal promise to yourself, not a half-hearted resolution.

OK, so time to craft your "resolution" / "commitment" -- Consider asking yourself the following questions:

· Is my "resolution" specific?

Exercising more is vague. Reading more is vague. Spending more time with my family is vague. Losing my tummy fat is vague. Spend some real time being VERY specific about not only what you want, but how you will meticulously accomplish it.

· How and when will I measure milestones and results?

· How will I hold myself accountable? Do I need help from others? Should I tell others?

· What are the roadblocks I will encounter and what is your plan to drive through them?

· How will I CELEBRATE hitting my goals or the continuation of the positive lifestyle change I am starting? When? Who will be involved?

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yes Man - the Movie

The Jim Carrey movie comes out this week called Yes Man. It's an issue I hear raised a lot with accountants ... "I have a problem saying no."

OK, so while sometimes there are other issues wrapped up into that perceived weakness, let's just look at that for a second...

How do you get better at saying no? That is a great question and there are lots of tips out there but the most important thing you need to do to get better at it.....


It is not a science and it is a choice. If you want to get better at this start attempting it. You will learn and you will get better if you are dedicated.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Looking for some new workout exercises? Abs!

Here are a few workout exercises that are atypical and only require an exercise ball:

The "alligator"

The "jack-knife"

I have "tried" each of these and let me tell you, in each case I realized over the next few days there were certain abdominal muscles I was not using (at least that is how I felt based on being sore!)

As always, consult a doctor before you start or significantly increasing your physical activity.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Busy Season - Energy Renewal Activities?

So for many accountants, "busy season" is upcoming and its during that time that our time management techniques are tested the most.

So, with that being said, how do you "renew your energy", especially during the busiest times, so that your capacity to get things done increases? We can always try and find more time, but what allows us to do more with the time we have? Energy capacity.

First let's start with your physical energy levels for this post. So, what helps you increase your energy levels?

Great sleep?




Walks, in particular, are SO UNDERRATED. Take a time out next time you are stressed out or your brain feels over excerpted and simply take a walk. Get crazy and take a walk outside in the cold for five minutes. Clear your head.

Oh my gosh all those examples TAKE TIME! Isn't that counterproductive when we are real busy? Yes if one feels like they are already working at maximum efficiency, but for the other 99.99% of us who realize we aren't and that the body is incapable of being at maximum efficiency for very long during a day ... these energy renewal activities potentially make us MORE productive during the busiest days.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yep - Eat that Frog in the Morning

Here is a link to the concept in movie form ... and its summarized in a much better way than I could ever do it.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Touching Things ONCE

So we can probably agree that our inability to touch certain inputs (emails, voicemails, memos, etc.) once can be a productivity limiter.

That email in your inbox, the oldest one in there ... how many times have you opened it? Glanced at it? Thought about it?

Some of the causes of "multiple touching":

1.) Indecision - something needs to be done but you are not sure or you are not ready to make the decision. You need more time or you are just unsure in general.

2.) Procrastination - this is not always the same as indecision. We might know what needs to happen, we just don't want to do it!

3.) Lack of confidence in your system - You have an email or a voicemail but you cannot delete it because it being there is what will remind you about what needs to get done. You do not trust your system to (1) create clearly defined actions and (2) to remind you about when to do them. So that old email stays in your inbox because that is your (informal and maybe frustrating) system.

So ... Are you tired of continually touching the inputs in your life because they limit the time you spend on the most important things? If the answer is yes, Do you intentionally try and touch things once, process them, and extract the ACTIONS that need to happen into a personal system you have tailored to your own needs, one you trust?!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Multi-tasking: some reflection

Should we really brag about our ability to multi-task? If multi-tasking is doing two things at once, what does that mean for the quality and efficiency of those two tasks? Would you want your surgeon multi-tasking while operating on you?

Maybe a better way to think about the accountants need for multi-tasking is more about "continual re-engagement". Work is not always one task right after the other, we have all kinds of things open at once and we must "touch" our tasks throughout the day.

But really even the young Gen Y folks I work with, the more responsibilities they get, the more they long for their own time to focus on one thing at a time. In an ever changing and continually accelerating world, the ability to intensely focus on the task at hand is a sought after skill, even if it is in spurts.

Multi-tasking in a way that dilutes your focus is inefficient, and unfortunately, it can be addictive. If you watch TV and check email at the same time, you might feel like you are getting something done while relaxing, but is that type of combined activity a long-term solution to (1) being efficient at processing email, and (2) spending time on an energy renewal activity? Probably not.

Re-engaging your focus in an efficient manner on single tasks IS different from multi-tasking.

Ask yourself:

1.) Do I multi-task efficiently?
2.) Do I consciously focus on one thing at a time during my day?
3.) Do I allow myself some "closure time" between tasks? (Even if it's not completing a task before going on to the next: Are you allowing yourself to know where you are formally leaving it ... and most importantly, what the next action item will be once you re-focus on that task again?)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Important Are You?

Working with accountants and some of their email, time management, and communication and protocol habits ... the question about how important they are comes up a lot. I am told by a lot of people that they are so important that they must be continuously checking email all the time throughout the day. I am told by them that must continuously keep their "door open" so they can be accessible to others. There may be noble intentions between those policies, culture aspects, or self directed habits, but sometimes that mentality needs to be challenged. It REALLY needs to be challenged! It is these very practices that are also identified by these same accountants as a major source of distractions and unfocused days.

Some questions to ask yourself:

Am I important enough so I can NOT be readily available to colleagues and clients for a certain amount of hours per day?

Am I important enough to shut out all distractions for a certain amount of time each day, so I can singularly focus on the most important items I HAVE prioritized?

Am I important enough so getting the work I WANT to get done actually contributes to my ability to get work done that others tell me is important and to be available to them for questions; and to be fiercely engaged in answering those questions because I feel good about what I am getting done?!?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Eating

Some ideas and reminders as you begin to jump into your "eating season" .....

"Mono" fats (mono saturated) are better for you than saturated fats. A great source of mono fats: nuts.

Consider going on a run 4 hours after your Thanksgiving "feast" instead of taking a nap. You might sleep better that night!

White meat is lower in fat than dark meat.

Whole grain carbs are generally regarded as better for you than traditional "white" carbs.

Feel good about stuffing your face WHEN you have also worked out that day!

Try to go for extra helpings on the fruits and vegetables versus the rolls and mashed potatoes.

Eat as slow as you can ... your "fullness" will catch up!

Your Success and ToDo Lists

I have blogged a lot about ToDo lists and that is because I spend a lot of time talking to accountants about them.
Here is one more ...

Do you believe that success perpetuates success? So if you have a "good day", does that inspire more "good days"? You might be saying Huh?

Here is where I bring the ToDo example to (try to) illustrate my point.

Many ToDo lists I see are ridiculously long. So maybe there is a reason for that. Maybe you are trying to be conscientious and capture everything you have "to do". That sounds commendable, but please do not get that mixed up with a way to gauge your daily success. A ToDo list is many times an action list and a "wish list" all combined into one. So you have your ToDo list but you never complete it, you never "succeed" in completing it.

Try creating a "WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE TO ME TODAY" list, where you grab the most important "today" items off of your ToDo list, and most importantly, under promise to yourself! Now you might get the same amount of items finished as you would have by using your ToDo list (although this act may help you to prioritize better) but now you can look back at the end of the day and measure your success based on a REASONABLE PLAN YOU CREATED! Now how might you feel? Now how might that feeling help you going home that night, or starting off tomorrow? Could there me a multiplier effect ... you made daily plans and promises and you held them, that probably feels good and will perpetuate!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Conflict Made Easier

Some people totally avoid conflict at all costs and others seem to seek it out. Most of us fall within those two extremes somewhere.

One of the biggest opportunities I see when working with accountants on "conflict issues"? The opportunity to depersonalize it.

People take conflict personally in most cases. Most people make it "me versus you". How does that happen? They identify their position with them self. So, if we have conflict and your position = you and my position = me, then yes, it is you against me. That means my pride and my ego are at stake and I am going to dig in and fight for that. That is REAL personal.

Next time you are in a situation of competing ideas or another type of conflict, try and bring some awareness to the trap of making it personal. De-personalize the conflict. How do you do that?

Focus on facts and actions and scenarios and ideas and solutions and benefits. Do not focus on "you said" or "you wanted" or "you" at all.

Force those involved to state the goal or benefit in coming to a resolution of the conflict. Why is there conflict in the first place? What are we trying to accomplish? That will depersonalize it (and in some cases challenge the need for conflict all together.)

Where ever there is conflict there is usually a big opportunity for growth, but your chances for a strong resolution (and growth) are going to be much better if it is not "you against me".

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Triple "A"s - Accountants' Acronyms and Abbreviations

So there are hundreds or maybe thousands of acronyms and abbreviations that accountants use, such as FASB, SAS, etc.

I wanted to list a few of the informal ones and hear some from you:

"SALY" - same as last year, classic one for auditors ... why should we plan, let's just do the same as last year.

"JIC" - just in case .... don't ever throw anything away or delete anything just in case we need it later.

"CYA" - cover your ____ .... make sure you keep things that prove you did what you should have done, so you have proof if anyone challenges you.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Got Feedback?

How often do you solicit feedback from those around you? Your family, your friends, your colleagues at work, clients? If you want to improve your relationships, your productivity, and the positive influence you have on others, you will have a lot more to work with, a lot more ideas on how to improve, if you can get others to help. It takes a little humility no doubt, but at the same time it shows a lot of strength. Who are you continuously getting feedback from?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Do you have Interruption Dependence Disorder?

Interruption Dependence Disorder or "IDD" for short - that is not a real identified disorder in the medical community as far as I can see, but in working with accountants and other knowledge workers, I see it is out there!

Ask yourself:

* Are you "easily" interrupted?

* Are there ever times where you are just not sure what to do next so you gain comfort in checking email or voicemail so you might find something?

* Have you ever been interrupted by someone or something, and then totally forgot about what you were doing first?

* Have you ever allowed your day to be one interruption after another, AND THAT IS IT?

Interruptions happen. It is difficult to be totally interruption free, but maybe if your goal is to minimize interruptions, especially the non-productive ones, first start with your attitude related to IDD.

Do you subconsciously want to be interrupted or do you feel strongly that you want to take charge of your day and minimize them? Make sure your actions and minute to minute attitude match your answer.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do You Focus on Email Enough? Huh?

The title to this blog post is not a joke. It is a question to ask yourself, only with a twist.

I hear over and over from accountants that email, while a necessary communication tool, is also one of their biggest challenges in managing their days and interruptions.

Here is the question for you ...

When you are checking email, replying to emails, and working within your email system, how focused are you? Do you see it as an opportunity to "get your stuff done" or do you see it as a necessary evil you do throughout your day just to keep your head above water?

We're talking about the intensity of your focus. Are you engaged in the one task at hand? .... Processing emails. Email is so ubiquitous now, it is such a big part of everything we do that maybe, just maybe, it takes over our days. Think about it ... when somebody comes and talks to you in your office, will you have a more productive conversation if you can be solely focused on the conversation? Email is another way to communicate with people. If you make it a task that you do "on the side", how genuinely focused can you be on it?

How productive are you if you have to continually reengage between checking email and doing other tasks? Some people may challenge you to only check email X times per day. People have different opinions on that. But first the question is, can you set aside real focused time to plow through your emails? It will get you back minutes in your day, hours in your week, and days in your year. Try it once, tomorrow. Check your email when you want, but take one 30 minute time slot, block it off and become fiercely focused on processing emails, nothing else.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Try Timing Yourself

Sometimes simply timing yourself in completing a task can be a productivity boost.

For example, You have a long memo to write. Maybe you are dreading it. Put your watch by your side and time how long it takes. Ready, set, go. You are on the clock!!

How can this help? It creates a sense of urgency within your brain about the ONE task at hand. You are only doing that one task and you are timing yourself and now you are accounting for every second you spend. FOCUS!

This might not be the best thing to do all the time, but for a change-up in your approach, especially in cases where you just want to plow through one particular task, give it a try.

No joke, I know a few people who like this simple timing idea so much that they will sometimes use those old looking kitchen timers. They will set it right next to them, set it for 10 minutes and then ding ding, see where they are at with their task when the timer goes off. The answer ... probably further along than without it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Exercise Goals - some to Measure ...

If accountants like to "measure", maybe you will like hearing some of the measurable workout and physical fitness goals I have heard over the years.... Obviously these are WAY across the board and provided for your reference:

Exercising for 10 non-negotiable minutes a day for the next 30 days.

Running a 1/2 marathon within the next 12 months.

Running 1 mile once a week for the next 6 months, lowering your time by 5 seconds each week.

Running a 6 minute mile the same day you bench 200 pounds.

Running 7 miles a week on the treadmill.

Attending 20 aerobics classes by the end of the year.

Going to the track every Saturday morning and running 1 mile and adding 1/4 of a mile each subsequent time until you can run 5 miles straight.

So, ask yourself, would a specific measurable (numeric) exercise goal be something to get you in motion, and motivated? If so, create one, commit to it, and go for it!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Do you have a Problem or an Agenda?

Something has not gone ideally with a colleague. You need to have a talk. Maybe they did not own up to a commitment. Maybe they went behind your back and said something to someone else that REALLY bothers you.

OK, they disrespected you or they let you down, and now you are mad, and you need to get to them to tell them that.

Ask yourself next time you go into a situation where you are about to "come down" on someone... what do you want?

Do you want to present a problem and work to get a solution, or do you have a personal agenda? The difference is big.

A problem can be solved with multiple (maybe creative) solutions. A problem can be solved with input from both parties. A problem is about past actions and future actions. It is de-personalized.

An agenda, on the other hand, is one-sided and provides little room for input or teamwork. It encourages defensiveness.

Which one do you want to present?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

An Exercise LifeStyle begins with Why

I have heard a lot of people, especially accountants, say "I need to get in the gym more often." That is great but WHY? You are making choices every day and not doing something is a choice. So, you are really saying I "WANT" to go to the gym more often but I am choosing not to. Admit it ... you simply have a current desire, not a planned commitment.

First off, ask yourself: How important is this to you? What makes this a compelling quest? How does exercising help the other aspects of your life, your relationships, your energy levels at work, and your overall attitude? What is the most successful outcomes you can see in the future based on you fulfilling your commitments? How does it make you feel? How does it make others see you? Lastly, What might be the cost of not exercising?! You may have a lot going on in your life, you need to prioritize this along with everything else. The answers to these questions should help with that.

Now, if you want to move forward and make a commitment, ask yourself: What motivates you best? Is it a long-term lofty goal where you measure success? Or is it more of a daily thing - your desire to feel good about your exercise regimen (and measure that success daily)? How will you measure the success of fulfilling the commitment to exercise you are making to yourself. Do you need an accountability partner?

Now ask yourself: What do I enjoy most about exercising? Some people feel you must get on the treadmill or hit the roads to burn off calories (if that is one of our goals) but there are many ways to burn calories. Pick something you enjoy, like playing soccer, or tennis, or bike riding. The benefits will be there health-wise, and you might be able to "multi-task" by spending quality time with family or friends at the same time. Once you can get to a point where exercise can be more of a "habit" then the original "commitment" ... when days feel strange without it, now you are getting somewhere.

The Fall is typically the time of the year when most people allow their exercise regimen to fall off a little bit. Why? Summer and warm weather is departing? Holidays coming? For accountants: lots of work around 10/15 and then we start to plan year-end work and get busier? If your reasons for exercising are not clear and are not compelling and it's simply not fun ... your choice is probably a lot easier.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What are your Leadership Routines?

What are your intentional leadership routines? What do you do on a consistent basis that helps you fulfill your leadership role at your company, or even at home? It is kind of fun to think about it that way and brainstorm on ideas that might be proactive "leadership" actions....

Hold a meeting with a different report on a weekly or monthly basis to catch up on their goals and career ambitions.

Solicit feedback from those that work with you (or live with you) on ways you can make their lives easier and contribute to their success.

Of course it is another matter all together to COMMIT to doing leadership routines you construct on a consistent basis. This also presents another opportunity to be creative with your time management. For example, you have to eat and some of these things could be combined with breakfast and lunch.

So .... What are your leadership routines, those things you do that influence others in positive ways, and that are above and beyond the day to day responsibilities you maintain? What creative and enjoyable ideas do you have? What are you doing already that falls in this category?

How can you commit to doing these things on a consistent basis? What might the value be in executing them consistently?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

To Dos Without "When Dos" and "What Dos"

Do you continually compile some sort of To Do list? Are you very good at adding things to that list, sometimes without being fair to yourself?

Remember anyone can make commitments ... it's the keeping of commitments that is the tough part. Ask yourself: How can you make a commitment without making a firm commitment to yourself about WHEN you will accomplish the task and how long it will take?

Oh ... you might say you do not know how long it will take because many of your tasks are complicated and complex and depend on other things, and other people for that matter. You are right! So at this point all you can do is commit to the very next action step. That is all you can do and that is all you have ever been able to do. I have worked with so many people that try and tackle a series of projects all in their mind AT ONCE! For some reason, we tend to program ourselves to do that. You know what that leads to ... STRESS !!

Of course if you do not put a deadline next to your commitments or block time to actually accomplish the next action item, all you have is an ambiguous list with no clarity or urgency.

If you don't have a deadline, you do not have a finish line and all that may do is add stress. So, do yourself a favor next time you are taking on a new commitment. First define the specific next action step and then get it in your calendar. If you cannot find the time you might actually have to say "no" or delegate it to someone else. Now you do not have a "To Do", you have a specific "to act" and a "specific when."

One technology tip: If you use Outlook and keep your open items, projects or To Dos in the form of Outlook tasks, you can click on that task and drag it into your calendar at the specific time. It keeps the task in the task list and also adds it to your calendar.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Business Clichés

If you spend enough time in corporate America and the world of accounting, you have heard them and probably use them from time to time. In a meeting you can always connect with someone using that dead on business cliché that says it all without really … saying it at all. I know it’s hackneyed and at times corny but they seem more popular than ever as a new one is born everyday. I’ve compiled my list of favorites:

1) Sharpen our pencils – Very common after you have gone to a sales proposal meeting and your prospect tells you that your rates are outrageously too high. Your response is to go back to the office and “sharpen your pencil” to figure out a better price. Almost always means you are prepared to lower your price significantly.

2) It is what it is – Very versatile and can probably be used in any situation. Typically inserted after you have exhausted all efforts at a solution and have decided the situation is totally screwed up and you are going to accept the fact that you are officially screwed.

3) Play it by ear – Conveys the fact you have no plan whatsoever and have no intention of putting forth any effort to create a plan. Be on the lookout when someone tells you they are going to “play it by ear” with the 5 year budget plan.

4) Fall on the sword – You have screwed up with a client and you plan to admit your mistake instead of trying to blame it on someone else and make yourself look good.

5) Blocking and tackling – In public accounting audit parlance this is referred to as staff level work or less complicated work that takes a lot of time but is essential for any project to be completed. The accolades always go to the quarterback, running back and receivers, never to the offensive or defensive lineman that do all the blocking and tackling.

6) Run it up the flagpole – Better to ask someone more important if what we are doing is acceptable or even legal in most states. Not to be confused with its “easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”

7) Kind of pregnant – True story. I was on a conference call with several audit partners and managers from at the time, a Big 6 accounting firm (that no longer exists.) We were discussing an important issue with a multi-national company in Texas and the client was pressing us to make a decision. The lead audit partner was evading a direct response to his demands when finally the client’s CEO spoke up and said in his best Texas drawl, “You can’t be kind of pregnant, you either are or you aren’t!” Silence ensued but his point was well taken. It’s either yes or no.

Tell me your favorite business cliché.

This post was made by our first guest blogger, Billy Tilotta, Senior Manager of Hein & Associates LLP (Houston, TX)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Purpose at the Task Level

"I know you all are really busy but the client needs this done before Monday, so if everyone can work late for the next two days ... that would be great, thanks."

Have you ever heard anything like that? Ever said anything like that? It might work, it might not. Depends on the audience. If that is what you might say all the time, to everyone, chances are it will hardly ever work. It sounds a little bit to me like Lumberg in the movie Office Space (20th Century Fox, 1999). It is not personalized and probably motivating to nobody.

Mission statements may not matter, but missions do. Purpose matters, even at the micro level. Why is it some of us can feel pride about doing mundane tasks where as others might balk? It's not about the level the person is. I have seen managing partners and CEOs perform some of the most simple tasks with great pride.

Corporate purpose is hard to "incorporate" into every employee all the time. That is why corporate mission statements are more difficult to be used as an across the board "fuel" tool at a micro (task) level. What fuels one person, might not fuel another. It is about personal, authentic purpose and that takes real leadership ... personalized motivation and "purpose-uncovering".... even personalized purpose uncovering. Try saying that three times fast.

Some final questions:

How do you look for ways to personally motivate your employees and colleagues? Can you see unlimited potential from your staff if they are highly motivated and purpose driven?

Do you feel everyone is motivated the same way?

How can you make the time to look out for their growth and personal motivation before delegating most tasks?

Should the blogger/author just shut up and stop telling us we have to hold hands with our staff or is there something to this?

"If you put a gun to the heads of your employees and said, recite our mission statement or die, they'd all be dead." - Jeffrey Gitomer

Friday, September 26, 2008

Reverse the Question

Try something next time someone asks you for some advice or a question: Turn it around on them.

Unless it is a question where there is a simple answer which you know and they do not, try turning it back to them. Ask them what they think is the answer and then see if you cannot work with their answer in giving your opinion/answer.

Why might this be more effective?

It might be an answer they remember better because of the way you involved them.

They might get the feeling that you actually are searching for their intelligence some, not just your own.

They might surprise you that they already know the answer! Sometimes people are not looking for answers, they are simply looking for affirmation of their own intentions. A "What do you think? ..." might be the best way to go.

I can still remember an exchange I had with my dermatologist 20+ years ago when she was advising me not to put a certain medicine on my face right after I washed it. Why? Because it would be irritated if you did not let it dry properly. But why do I remember the exchange so well? Probably because it was a case where I asked the initial question and she had me answer it!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ingredients Police

If you are a health nut, a wanna be health nut, of if you are just trying to improve your diet, you may have heard lately about the trend towards eliminating "trans fats".

Hydrogenated oils - I am not sure what "hydrogenated" means exactly, but it sounds like most people think it is bad for you. Partially hydrogenated oils (or "PHOs" for short) are viewed the same and these things are also called trans fats. You may have heard of some local governments banning these ingredients in restaurants, including New York City!

High Fructose Corn Syrup - This looks to be the newest evil ingredient getting some exposure....think cheap processed sugar. The scary thing is how many food items you will find at the grocery store that contain these things.

So now you know what "PHOs" and "HFCs" are and if you want to, take a gander at the next set of ingredients of food you are about to put in your cart ... but beware for a let-down on many processed foods.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Your Personal Success

How much do you measure your success based on others' success? Let me put that another way: Do your yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, etc. goals include anything about helping other individuals to succeed? Are such goals specific and measurable? Are they explicitly communicated to those people?

One quote I will never forget came from a colleague I was working with a little while back: He said to me on a voicemail: "One of my goals this year is to make you very successful. I have a few ideas and I would like to hear your ideas too."

Woooaaaahhhhh, that took me by surprise. That made me feel great and I put some detailed thought into coming up with some ideas before we talked live.

You know what else it did - it really made me feel like wanting to return that attitude in kind.... to him AND TO OTHERS. You know what else? I did support him as well. You know what else? That attitude was contagious. One more thing: It directly added to our company's success in terms of client service, profits, and MORALE.

Ask yourself a few questions as you look at your goals:

How can I support those (individuals) around me to achieve their goals?

How will doing this "come back to me"? Should I even worry about that? What type of an effect might doing this more have on my teammates?

Can I create some "hero" questions, like the one mentioned above, to ask my reports? How can they be authentic questions (to me and the situation)?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Running the Treadmill Every Time?

I recently discovered a new machine at the gym. The elliptical. OK, I am sure many of you know what that is and many of you have probably used it a lot. I run a lot of 5-Ks, I run on the treadmill a lot, but I never had used an elliptical before last week. Why? Maybe I was being sexist. I saw women on that machine more than men, maybe I assumed it was more designed for women? That sounds bad. When I first jumped on it I found out I was in over my head. After conferring with someone who knew what they were doing, I fell in love with it. Ohhh and I paid for it the next day ... I was walking like a duck.

Are you trying to expand your repoitore? A treadmill and an elliptical both may give you a good aerobic workout but the more variety you can introduce, the more fun you might have, and the more you might push yourself to new physical heights. How many new "ellipticals" are out there for you to try?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Email - a Procrastination Tool too?

Have you ever been in a day where you feel so overwhelemed that an email gets you excited? ... Because you know what to do with it. You can accomplish what needs to be done with that particular email, and if only for a second, you feel productive.

What just happened there? An email grabbed your attention because it simply showed up! What ever else you were doing, or what ever else you should be doing, were put on hold. Answering that email enabled your procrastination.

Ask yourself:

Do you ever measure your day based on the number of emails left in your in-box?

How many times a day should YOU be checking email a day? Should it be open all the time?

Is email a productivity tool for you?

Is email a distraction tool for you?

How many emails are in your in-box right now that were also in your in-box last week?

Do you set your daily goals before you check your email?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Power of Visualization

You probably heard about a lot of Olympic athletes using "visualization" techniques last month. Lisa Leslie, of the USA women's basketball team, not only spent a lot of time in preparing for the Olympics by visualizing the last Gold medal game and how they would win it, but also visualizing the Gold Medal ceremony! She thought about how it would feel to be able to wear four gold medals around her neck in her last Olympic experience. That is exactly what she did on the medal podium in Beijing.

Think about the very important smaller or bigger (maybe even extraordinary) goals you have for yourself....personal or professional goals:

Have you thought in detail about what those goals will mean to you when you reach them?

What does the end look like? What specifically is the last hurdle?

What do such goals not only help you to achieve, but also help you to "become" as a person?

How will you feel emotionally? Physically? What does that "picture" look like and what happens to you at the end? Who else is involved? How do you celebrate?

If you believe your chances of achieving your goals rise dramatically by the need for hope first, and then the need for genuine belief, try VISUALIZING victory.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Checklists - Yuck!?

When I was an auditor I always felt inundated by checklists. We had a checklist for everything. I was not a big fan.

But over the years, maybe due to a memory capacity that is in decline or a longing for simplicity, I have seen more of a value in creating checklists, especially personal ones that will save time and the headache of forgetting certain items.

One simple example is a travel checklist, which includes real simple (yet forgettable) things like a razor, a belt, and even snacks. Without it, I almost always forgot one item when making a business trip ... and some items were harder to replace than others.

One of the most enjoyable checklists to make, and I bet we all would like to be going over these more often: your vacation checklist!

Ask yourself:

Are there areas of your personal and professional life where a reusable checklist can save you time and stress?

How about a "trip" checklist, a "weekly personal errand" checklist, a "morning routine" checklist, or an initial "client meeting" checklist?

You get the point. You can probably think of others that will save you time in the future. One added bonus - you are getting things out of your head and onto a list that you can use over and over again when the situation arises.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

An Inbox Changing your Life?

I have to admit, I was skeptical when I read about some of the time management gurus stressing you needed to have a physical inbox. OK, no problem, most people do have one in their office.

But when David Allen, who is known as a personal productivity guru, stressed you needed to have one in your house, I wondered what the point was.

I tried it out. It is amazing. One place to collect all your hard-copy "inputs." By the way, my wife loves it also ... If some of my mail, a magazine article I tore out, receipts, bills, etc. are lying around the house, she throws them right into my inbox. If one critical (first) part of an organization system is "collection" of inputs, then an inbox is crucial. You need ONE place for such collection, not many places.

By the way, I bought her an inbox earlier this year, and like her with me, I probably throw more things in there than she does. It is a quick way to clean up miscellaneous items lying around the house.

OK, so the next step might be "processing" those inputs and by looking at some people's physical office inboxes that are out of control, that presents its own challenge. However, just to start at the collection phase: seemingly a small thing, an inbox at home -- it still is an empowering organizational and decluttering tool.

"If you do not have an inbox at home, your HOUSE is your inbox." - David Allen

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Commitment Issues?

Take an inventory during your day where you write down all the commitments you make. I am talking about ALL of them. Not just the commitments that are formally made to others, but all the commitments you make...including just to yourself. You will find this simple exercise remarkable.

I feel strongly that most accountants are very conscientious. We want to take on new responsibilities. We want to be able to say YES to people. The problem, if you get stuck in doing that unconsciously, can be predictable: over promising and under delivering.

But before you judge yourself on your ability to keep commitments, you must first understand what all the commitments are you are making. It can get pretty detailed. For example - you set your alarm at night at 6:00 am for the next day -- is that a commitment you are making to yourself?

Ask yourself:

Do I make commitments too easily? Too quickly?

Do I make commitments with a real perspective on what I am committing to and how much time and resources that commitment will take?

Do I hold myself accountable for ALL commitments?

Should I be making commitments less?

How could making less commitments actually help with keeping more commitments?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Do all Accountants talk the same?

For the most part, I would say yes, we do talk the same. We learned early on to think about BOTH sides of any transaction. We have created our own little abbreviation and acronym universe: COSO, CPE, C/D, CR (credit), C/R (cash receipts), FAS, FASB, FIFO, I/S, LIFO, etc.

LILO was a term I remember too ... LAST person IN that day on the team, means you need to be the LAST person (OUT) leaving that night. It is kind of nice now that we tend to value production of our people more than face-time.

Most of us know the difference between a tangible and intangible asset (For example, you cannot count shareholder's equity - which was a common joke to tell the staff1 to do back when I started in auditing!)

So, while we may know the same terminology and talk the same for the most part, there are still lots of areas where we miscommunicate...

What the end results should look like
Team roles

I am not sure I have ever heard an accountant say to me: the issue we had (on our team) was we overcommunicated! So spend a little time and ponder the most important relationships in your career - colleagues, clients, etc. How good is the communication? Can it be improved? Are your roles clear? Do they have any ideas?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Time for the Gym

I know a lot of people who want to work out but when it comes down to having a consistent routine, they struggle. Their number one reason for not working out:

"I cannot go to the gym because ...... I have too much work to do!"

OK. I wonder about challenging the notion that skipping exercise because you have too much work to do is always logical for everyone.

The assumption here is that these two items are mutually exclusive. If you go to the gym or do something else to exercise, you will "lose" that time and therefore fall behind more than if you didn't. Well I am not so sure that is always the case.

This is coming from someone who tracked my time for three weeks, and actually realized a few things:

1.) I was more productive overall on days when I exercised.
2.) I was in a (much) better mood on days when I exercised.
3.) I slept better on days when I exercised.

Now I am not ready to publish my results in the Journal of Health, but the best evidence for this was getting feedback from other people, especially about my mood. It was pretty unanimous that I was easier to be around on days where I exercised. It was an epiphany in my life and now I make it a non-negotiable routine to exercise for at least 20 minutes every day. The extra motivation is not about exercise goals, but rather ALL MY OTHER GOALS in my life. I have realized, at least for myself, that there is a direct benefit to me and those around me when I have the discipline to get that done. So, with that thinking in mind, it's actually the craziest days where exercise is more important.

When we get stressed, when we feel overwhelmed, sometimes our natural tendencies are to dig our heels in and just work longer. But isn't it really about how much you get done, your productivity, and your results?

Ask yourself three questions:

1.) Do you feel more energized on days you exercise?
2.) Does exercising correlate to higher production at work and around the house? (This is best answered with facts based on time tracking. )
3.) If the answer to questions 1 & 2 are yes, what time are you exercising today?

Friday, August 15, 2008

To Do Lists

"To Do" lists. Why couldn't we call it the "To Complete" list or better yet, "The intend to do" list? Maybe that is going too far. Crazy thoughts.

If you are using your To Do list to compile everything under the sun that you could "do" ... ok now ask yourself: How that is acting as a productivity tool for you? One way it might be working is to get everything you intend to get done on a list and out of your head. Fair enough. At least it allows you to clear your head when you are not working or when you are fiercely focused on one task.

Is it helping your daily productivity though? When you look at your list does it provide you with major clarity on what today is going to look like in terms of utilizing your valuable time?

The list many times creates stress because there is no way under the sun that you will get all those things done. How about another name: The "To Make Myself Feel bad because this list will never be totally done" List. OK, a lame name, but you get the point.

There are many technology tools out there and many ways to prioritize your To Do items. You may have a fully functioning productivity system that helps you achieve your daily goals, but I have seen even the most organized and productive people revert back to "To Do" lists on occasion.

Maybe the first thing is about being honest with yourself. Which of the items on your list are critical to you fulfilling your job and engagement responsibilities and which items are not? The introduction of a "wish list" can be pretty powerful. Some people may call it a "someday" list, but the point is it is a place to put things you would like to get done, but you do not necessarily have to.

How about taking your To Do list, review it in the morning, and then creating a "To Complete Today list so I can say today was successful" list. OK, that name is weak also. I know, and the acronym TCTSICSTWS probably does not help much either. But now you have a manageable list. Put your To Do list away (electronically or in your drawer if you keep a manual one.)

Now there is more pressure on you to indentify the most important matters on your list instead of ALL the things you feel like you must get done. Now you will better know if you are doing important things or looking for distractions. Now you can hold yourself accountable at the end of the day because you drew up the finish line and you know the how the run is going to look like, and what detours you will NOT be "doing".

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Can an Accountant have a Game Face?

That title is not the lead in to a joke.

The Olympics are here! We will be seeing a lot of highly motivated and fiercely focused athletes competing for medals over the next two weeks.

I wonder, in today's "knowledge worker" world where information flows across our screens at high speeds, where demands are biting at us from all angles, do we still have the ability to put everything aside and tackle one important item for a longer than brief period of time?

Olympic athletes talk a lot about intensity and focus in their workouts and preparation. They need to be singularly focused on the task at hand and be able to block everything out of their mind. You have seen it in some of the greater athletes of our time during their most crucial performances: Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Tiger Woods, etc. Check out Michael Phelps in the coming weeks. You see the intensity in their eyes and face!

Accountants have a lot going on; some of it is part of our job and our success, some if it is self-induced. There is no arguing with the many tasks we must complete in any one day and that technology tools are indispensible in meeting those demands. That said, there may be an advantage to developing and fostering your "game face", which we'll refer to as your ability to tune out everything else and fiercely focus on one (maybe your most important) task at hand. It builds productivity, confidence, and your "focus" muscles.

Sure we cannot focus on one task for too long, especially without a break. Tony Schwartz and Jim Loehr in their studies and book called The Power of Full Engagement, bring to our attention that we all have energy peaks and valleys and 90 to 120 minutes is normally the breaking point at which your energy levels slow down if you do not take time to "renew" yourself.

That is all good. I wonder if we even get close to that in a typical day, having the courage to focus, for a portion of our day, on the most important open item, and clearing one’s mind and activities from everything else. Ask yourself about your game face. Are you flexing and building it enough?

Utilizing Feedback - The Case for Neutrality

Feedback. Without it, how do we truly get anywhere in life? From a career perspective, your ability to obtain and utilize feedback can be one of your keys to success.

What holds a lot of people back in utilizing feedback, whether it is solicited or unsolicited? Natural emotions. What?

Next time you ask for feedback, ask yourself first about what your expectations are going into the solicitation. If you have preconceived notions, if you have assumptions in your mind about what the feedback is going to be like, then you will be at a disadvantage. I have worked with so many people who talk like feedback is really important to them, and it probably is, but many times we'll uncover their true intention in getting feedback: AFFIRMATION. They do not want to hear anything that goes against what they want to hear. They have a preconceived emotional interest in what the other person is going to say.

How could having a neutral frame of mind (easier said the done) serve you best?

It's because, with this frame of mind, you are able to listen best to the other person, ask follow-up questions, and uncover the true meaning and intentions behind their feedback.

Oh and I am not talking solely about negative feedback here. When it is positive, try the same thing. If you just jump on it right away and feel good about yourself, you may have lost a chance. If someone is giving you positive feedback...ASK THEM MORE ABOUT IT. Why did this have a positive impact on their life? What specifically was the crucial part of your performance or the result? How can they help you to see ways you can repeat that behavior in the future? That might sound kind of easy, but it's easier if you hold your assessment until the end. Sometimes you will uncover even better feedback if you stay neutral until you have really heard them out, all the way out.

The biggest challenge in this area comes when you receive in your face, unsolicited, negative (in your mind) feedback. It is VERY difficult to keep control of your emotions. In fact the person providing it will probably expect you to fight and claw and bring out your own missile defense system.

When a doctor hits your knee with a rubber hammer, your natural instincts take over and your knee jerks. When someone yells at you for not getting something done, your natural emotions tell you to immediately fight back, whether it is yelling back or emotionally withdrawing.

Try something crazy next time this happens. Take a deep breath and ask them a follow-up question or two. First off, you will probably shock them, secondly you will better unocover the real issue. THEN YOU CAN MAKE YOUR ASSESSMENT OF THEIR FEEDBACK, whether to ignore it, provide your input, or utilize it.

I know, easier said than done. You make the call on the argument for neutrality.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Tiger Misses "Preparing" the Most

Tiger Woods is not going to play golf in 2008. He is in the midst of a lengthy rehab program after the surgery he had to repair his knee. Yesterday he talked to Scott Van Pelt of ESPN about that rehab.

The part of the interview that struck me when Tiger was asked about missing golf: The first thing he said was, "I miss the preparation a lot. I miss getting out there and practicing, and preparing, and being ready, and ultimately testing myself out there."

If you are a detailed avid follower of Tiger Woods you will know that he really enjoys the preparation side of golf. He really enjoys that process so much and as he said, he sees golf tournaments as the test of his preparation process.

Do you realize how much planning and preparing is actually part of your journey and why not see it that way and enjoy that part on its own? Score yourself; reflect on your processes and preparation.

Let's say you are an auditor ... the risk assessments, the project planning, scheduling, etc. That is part of your preparation. (Maybe we are not supposed to use the word planning as much anymore with the new risk standards and the continuous auditing concept, but you cannot deny there are still a lot of project planning aspects.) How are you doing there? Can you reflect on your approach and how it led to the results you want to measure: realization, client satisfaction, etc.

Take your daily or weekly personal planning: What is your process? How does your daily planning help lead to daily success? Have you reflected on how you "prepare to win" each day and each week?

It is that reflective side that will lead to changes and improvements and growth.

"When opportunity comes, it's too late to prepare." - John Woooden

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Admitting Mistakes

My wife scraped up her relatively new car yesterday. Quick background: our two cars spend 90% of their lives in parking garages. Our condo has a parking garage, her office has a parking garage, and our gym has a parking garage. We live near Washington, DC and from here in, it's mostly garages. It is bound to happen.

Ask yourself: are you quick to admit mistakes in the business world? It's not always easy. It takes confidence and another word to mention: it takes a lot of trust.

Trust? Remember when you admit mistakes to other people they can have a major range in their reactions. Some may pummel you. "How dumb was that?" "Why did you let that happen?" "How could you let that happen?"

Others may support you. "It's not that big of a deal." "OK, you messed up, so how do we make the best of this?" "I am sure it will not happen again." "Do not beat yourself up over it." "Look on the bright side can we learn from this?"

Now this is not about competence. If you are continually making mistakes that are costly to your team and company that is a whole separate issue. Let's just focus on the reaction to mistakes, assuming they are not consistently happening. We are also not talking about intent. If mistakes are intentional, that is obviously a character issue, and that is for another post. We'll assume relative competence and strong character when talking about this issue.

What kind of mistake environment do you have with your team? Are people readily able to admit them? Remember when people try to minimize or cover up mistakes, there is usually an extra negative that comes from that. It may take more time to deal with it which inevitably increases costs. (Obviously the result could also be worse, much worse.) It also fosters an environment of distrust which will permeate throughout the team.

This might sound kind of weird but when my wife came into the house last night and finished talking about her car incident, I was kind of on a high. Not because I am a sick devious person who likes to see others make mistakess … it was because while knowing she felt bad about it, I could see it in her eyes that she KNEW how I would respond, and how she trusted me, and that encourages me to act in similar ways.

The first place to start: yourself. How can your team be comfortable with being forthright in their errors if you can't? What kind of mistake environment are you creating? Think of a future where mistake admitting comes fast and bluntly because of the environment of trust your team has created.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Can Go Wrong?

As accountants, we are bred to focus on problems and errors. We search for anomolies, for results that are not in line with our expectations. That skill serves us well.

The risk is allowing that attitude to take over other parts of our lives. If our future focus is to look for things to go wrong, IN YOUR LIFE, then you might end up being right.

Take tomorrow morning as an example. Check your attitude at the door when you leave for work. Are you expecting your day to go well, are you searching for success?

Do you feel the same way about your colleagues?

If you want to limit someone's potential, by all means search for all the things they do wrong. Search for their weaknesses.

If you want to push someone's potential, by all means search for all the things they do fabulously. Praise them for their positive actions and their strengths.

What can go right?! What do I do right?! What do those around me do right?!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Defining Your Daily Success

Runing a race without a finish line. Sounds crazy, right? Speaking of races, the Olympics are just around the corner. Can't wait!

How do you define success? Do you define it both in longer term ways and shorter term ways? Ask yourself today...what does success look like to me at the end of the day?

Maybe there are 1 or 2 very important things that you need to get done today. Great, go with those. Prioritize them. De-prioritize the other items. What exactly has to get done? Is it measurable? Is it specific? Is it visible? How can you hold yourself accountable for getting them done? What is the specific next action step you can take? Have you provided enough of a buffer in your day so that you will get them done? We all know ... "things come up."

Defining success on a daily basis can be something that provides you a lot more fulfillment and freedom. I see a lot of people that basically review their days and focus on the things they DID NOT get done and that fuels fear and stress ending your day. Focus on what you (1) said you would get done, ie. the promise(s) to yourself, and (2) what you did get done, ie. the fulfillment of that promise to yourself.

Success breeds success but first you must define it and be honest with yourself. Make the end of your day a happy ending. All promises you make and keep to yourself do something more ... they make deposits in your self-integrity bank. Build your bank by crossing YOUR finish line, daily!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

"Word Smith"ers

Young kids, "these days", don’t care about selling and grammer as much as they should. I have heard this a lot, mostly from not-as-young folks.

I know what some of you will say … How can we be professional and have grammatical and spelling errors?

But the question is…do we need to have it all the time?

Two different trains of thought on the importance of grammar and spelling: More experienced Baby boomers for the most part really live by perfect grammer and spelling. Especially accontants, we cannot help ourselves. We see an error, we feel the need to correct it.

Gen Yers not so much. They are more accustomed to talking to associates in faster ways where spelling does not matter, like instant messaging, and terms like "ttyl" are used to make communication faster. (I am sure someone could easily word-smith this blog and find some pretty obvious errors!)

So, who is right? Probably both parties. Doesn't it depend on the situation? If it's a situation where you are communicating on the fly, does a spelling error, if it does ot affect he quality of the correspondence, really mean much? In a situation where you are delivering a client report, doesn't a spelling error really mean a lot? So, instead of trying to impose your word smith will on someone, ask yourself about the situation and the real effect that a misspelled word has? Speed and correct spelling do not aways go hand in hand.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Did you get the email?"

Have you ever received a call from someone asking you if you received their email yet? You frantically check your inbox thinking one must have passed you by ... only to realize they have sent it in the last 5 minutes?

One thing to ask yourself ... What are your communication protocols? Do the people you work the most with know what to expect? If they don't they might get crazy and think you should be (1) on email all day, and (2) prioritize their emails all the time.
Some questions to ask yourself:

> What should people expect from me in terms of response times? What is fair? Clients? Colleagues?

> What is the best way for people to reach me when something really is urgent? Do they know this?

> How does the way I process emails help me reach my daily, weekly, and longer term goals? Can I reengineer my process to make it more effective and efficient?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

4 Minutes

"...if i die tonight, at least I can say I did what I wanted to do..."

That is a lyric from the song 4 Minutes (courtesy of Madonna, Justin Timberlake, and Timbaland)

It had me thinking about the changes that have ocurred in people's outlook on their career over the last 10 years. No more social security (at least the Gen Yers don't believe it will be there for them.) People will be living A LOT longer in the future. Both parents are now taking time off to be with their young kids ... had we even heard of "paternity leave" 10 years ago? Those same parents still want to move up in their companies. They still want to continue to develop skills. They are less inclined to believe their current job might be their last ... in fact that thought scares them. Baby Boomers/Veterens are working past age 65 more and more now. Younger generations see themselves as working (and playing) well into their 70s.

The old notion that you put your time in, put your head in the sand for X number of years, and then, and only then, you "can do what you wanted to" is going bye-bye. Life is much less of a big goal than it is a series of sprints and breaks. Work is not someone's life, it is a part of their life they fit into everything else they are doing. Remember "if I die tonight".

So, tomorrow when you get a little fed up with someone because you feel they have too many competing priorities, just remember they do! They don't want to hear about what they cannot do, they are busy! They want to know about how they can fulfill what measurable requirements you have (and of course how that will help them develop their skills). They do want to do what THEY want to do today, and it all has to fit. The leaders who can help them with all of this and support them will be the ones maximizing their growth and output.

"How about you!?"

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Healthy Eating Accountants?

If you are an accountant chances are you probably aren't sitting around all week with little to do. We are always running around and because of that, eating a healthy diet during the week can be a challenge. So I would love to hear about "best practices" in keeping to a healthy diet even during our most busy times.

One thing that has worked for me is to pick a few "staples" that are (1) easily eaten fast, (2) are healthy, and (3) I enjoy eating so much that I can eat it more than once a week. I am talking mostly about snacks here.

Cottage cheese - if you like that, especially the lower fat versions, it can serve as a healthy snack where all you have to do is grab it and start scooping into your mouth. Try some blueberries, or other fresh fruit for a topping.

Yogurt - if you get a big tub of the plain flavor ... again this is a snack you just grab and eat. Try throwing a fiber cereal in there and mixing it up. Mmmm good. (Of course everyone's taste buds vary!)

Apple Sauce - sounds simple, and again that is the key. If you like apple sauce buy the small packs for on the go or a big jug for the house. The time that will pass from that moment of extreme hunger until you get some food in your mouth is real short!

So go find your own healthy "staples" that meet those three criteria, and at least part of your diet can be improved.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Working out, High Tech Style

OK, so wearing an iPod while working out is pretty common for many people. Does it improve the experience? Sure it can. It may help some people get through it, and it may help some people exercise better while listening to their favorite inspirational songs. Now some are taking technology to the next level. Here are two tools you may be noticing more and more in the gym and on the running trails:

1.) The Nike+iPod toolkit - as Apple says, "your shoe talks, your nano iPod listens." Using the toolkit you can track every stride you make in your Nike shoes. (select shoes required along with the kit you must buy) Then you can go to and insert your goals, track your progress, and even link into a community of others doing the same thing. It's pretty cool.

2.) Heart rate monitors - Polar seems to be the company doing the most here. They have equipment you can buy which comes with a watch and a heart rate monitor. (If you have seen the movie "The Incredible Hulk", Universal Studios 2008, you know the risk of letting your heart-rate reach 200!) You can track your heart-rate during your work-outs. The watch will tell you if you are in your "zone" and it captures a lot of good data you can review such as calories burned, time spent working out, etc. You can see it on your watch on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, and even download it to your computer. Many of the elliptical machines and treadmills at many gyms are pre-programmed to pick up the data from these devices. So you do not even have to put your hands anywhere on the machine to display your current heart-rate. Very cool!

Monday, July 7, 2008

How Well do you Lose?

I was watching the epic 5 hour Wimbledon final yesterday ... what a match! Rafael "Rafa" Nadal defeated Roger Federer in 5 sets. The match took so long (and after two rain delays) that the awards were handed out when it was getting dark in London. It was after 9 pm.

Roger Federer will go down as one of the best tennis players of all time. He has already won the second most grand slams. He won 5 Wimbledon titles in a row before last night. He has been ranked #1 for 232 weeks in a row. He was hurting after such a tough loss. Really hurting. But I could not help but feel more admiration for him in the loss. The way he handled it. The class.

We will all suffer "losses" in life. If I was Roger's friend, I would talk to him about his convictions and values and ask him how he was able to "win" in the hearts of so many people while losing in his own?

How do you "lose" in life and at work? Can you still win at the same time?

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Just-in-Time Training, Baby Style

I was reading my weekly baby email this morning, it was telling me how my uterus has been changing lately ... OK, so it's not my uterus, it is my wife's, but it is fascinating that I can receive an email that tells me what is going on with our incoming baby on a weekly, facts, etc. It is great.

It is also fascinating how many DVDs are now out there that provide information on child-birth. One in particular, "In the Womb" by National Geographic, was great. It had the latest "4-D" technology and shows pictures of babies in the womb during every month. We really enjoy them. We rent DVDs from the library now about once per month. Last week we found a 6 hour DVD which was a full-child birth class. No wonder I was reading the other day that attendence at child-birth classes is going down. There may be other reasons, but the amount of information out there allows you to learn so much of the information contained in "traditional" child-birth training classes. For the record, we have decided to still attend the class we signed up for, mostly to get a few unanswered questions answered and to make sure we know the lay-out of our hospital.

It had me thinking about "traditional" training. Seems like it will really be changing. Instead of going to a traditional training class exclusively, we comb internet sites, we receive weekly, timely emails, and we have even heard of "baby coaches" who aren't really mid-wives, they are people who coach you through the process. I was telling my wife the other day when we took our first trip to Babys"R"Us to register for her baby shower that we needed a coach! I know what a bassinet looks like now, pack-n-plays, changing stations, and playyards, and of course a crib, but you don't need them all and I felt the desire to have my own personal coach to help us out with certain questions and advice.

I probably need a "new father coach" but that is another story. (Responding "whoa" to my wife getting on the scale at week 20 because she had actually gained some tangible weight ... I was told later that was not the way to react, and now she loves telling that story to all friends and family.)

So having a baby coach, having access to DVDs, and internet sites which include message boards, FaceBook even has related groups you can join on the subject ... does that replace traditional training? As I have said, not yet for us. We are still taking a child-birth class, but I can see that happening for a lot of people in the future. It is more "just-in-time", and it is more convenient as we can have access to these things when they are most convenient and relevant to us, not based on having to sign up for something and commit an entire weekend.

I am sure you have already seen your professional training changing already. It will be exciting to see just how far we can go with the "just-in-time" concept.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Think about your last day at work before a recent long vacation? How did you feel? Probably pumped because of what was about to happen.

Another question for you ... How well do you think you managed your time that day? Chances are, if you reflect on that day, you will probably say you were pretty productive. Why is that?

Maybe it is because you:
1.) Looked to close out projects or at a minimum get them to a good stopping point.
2.) Delegated some work to the appropriate person.
3.) Said "no" to more people.
4.) Were more productive just because you were in a good mood, so that rubbed off on your own work, and most likely on others too!

So what is there to learn from this? Go on vacation a lot more?! Well, how about bringing that attitude to work more.

Plan something real fun for the end of a day. You might be surprised how that motivates you. You might be more productive by going home at 4:30 than you would have been by going home at 6:30.

How about journalizing your last day before a vacation? Reflect on it later, on a normal day. What kinds of things did you do that day? Why were you more willing to say no and delegate then? How did those actions work out? Could you challenge yourself to do that more?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Engaging Gen Y

Lots of talk about engaging Gen Y, lots of time put into that issue. I wonder though, are we starting to get to the scarey part? (Scarey for some.) Will firms now have to not just worry about engaging Gen Y, but also making sure their firm is set up for Gen Y to take over?

I can't seem to get the Jedi Council from Star Wars out of my head. Yoda is off on some far away planet fighting with the Wookies, yet he, through the use of technology, virtually sits in on an importat "just-in-tim" collaborative Jedi council meeting. The decisions are not made by one person, but many. Ever heard of second life? Hmmm.

Millenials are now reaching manager stage. The way they will manage is completely different from the way Baby Boomers have traditionally managed, and slightly different from Xers. It will be more collaborative. It will be more virtual. It will also be shocking to firms who have not thought this through. For sure one thing is going to be exciting.

Your "In"box part1

How many emails do you receive a day? How many in a week, month, year? Probably lots. How do you process your emails? Do you have a system that helps you do it in an efficient way?

I have worked with many people one-on-one in their time management. Email is an area I focus on with EVERYONE. Why? Because EVERYONE I know spends a lot of time processing emails. Some process emails continually through the day. Others set certain times during the day to do it. Beyond that though, ask yourself one simple question:

Does your "In"box sometimes work as your "Indecision"box?

How many emails are currently in your inbox that have been in there since the last time you processed emails? How many have been in there since last week?! It's likely that if there are many like that, they are still there because you cannot make a decision on what to do with them or you are using your inbox for something else ... as a ToDo box or a I'll do it later box. In any case it has lost its real intention of being an input box. Now when emails stay in there, they are being re-processed by your brain continuously every time you open up your email. This leads to stress and inefficiency. Do something crazy today. Process all your emails.

To be continued.....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Just-in-Time Training

In the 1999 hit movie the Matrix (Warner Bros), Trinity, the heroine who is one of mankind caught in a virtual world controlled by computers, is facing a dilemna. There is a helicopter in front of her, she does not know how to pilot it, and they are being attacked so she needs to learn fast. So, she makes a call and asks for a download of the military helicopter. The person on the other side of the phone loads the program and it is immediately downloaded into her brain. That sounds great in a movie about a virtual world.

Is it that far from what people are looking for today? The internet is making this kind of scenrio possible already for certain skills. Technical skills expecially, lend themselves to this type of training. The first and sometimes forgotten part of this is identifying the skill needs an individual (emphasis on individual) needs. Sure, company programs can be great training and can be great engagement tools, but they do not supply personalized customized just-in-time training that will be different from person to person. So you are going to need a mix of both to keep up with your ever demanding and evolving employees.

Always Letting Yourself Down?

How do you feel at the end of the day in terms of your production and accomplishments? Some days you probably feel fulfilled. Others, maybe not? We can be hard on ourselves. We all tend to have the never-ending ToDo list and that can bread guilt. There is always more we CAN do.

Try something tomorrow morning. Instead of focusing on your etire To Do list, choose at least one and at most two item you feel are most important.

For those one or two items, what specifically do you want to have finished? What does the end of your day look like? Paint the picture of what you want to have accomplished. Give youself a buffer in time. Things will come up, distractions will tug at you, and many things take longer than we project. Remember we can only work in the present but we can sure can worry about the future. Let go of everything else!

Personal integrity is an ongoing battle within all of us. Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly making implicit promises to our self about what we intend to get done. Stress can come from a lack of clarity in this area. We are pushing ourselves to get lots done, but we really do not have a handle on the promises we are making to OURSELVES. So, be clearer with yourself tomorrow morning. Promise to do those one or two things, and under promise!

Now at the end of the day, instead of focusing on what YOU DID NOT GET DONE, on how others held you back, etc. you are focusing on what you (1) set out to get done....the promise you made to yourself, and (2) the deposit you made in your own personal integrity bank, because you did get it done!

We are taught not to overpromise and under deliver to our clients, but how can we do that if we practice doing that with ourselves?! Basically DO WHAT YOU (under)PROMISE YOURSELF. Sounds simple, huh?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Do Mission Statements Matter?

Mission Statements. Most companies have them. Some have very long elaborate mission statements that sound really good. Problem is, as you probably already know, most employees either don't know about them, cannot remember them, or they don't care about them, i.e. it has no effect on their daily work lives.

If you study some of the most successful and well branded companies in the world one thing stands out about their mission statements. They are usually very short and obvious. Disney case in point: "To make people happy". Disney employees know their mission statement. They live it.

So let's say you are working at an accounting firm. Does your firm have a mission statement? Probably. Do you know it? Maybe? Does it matter to you? Possibly, but most likely not.

Here is where Gen Y comes in. These young kids have big dreams. They do want to be part of something special. They, however, are a little less trusting of big company initiatives. The mission statement was probably formed way before they arrived. Why should it matter to them? They had no part in creating it. You might say, well they chose to come work at this company so they should have been attracted to our ideas, mission, values, etc. Hmmmm, maybe, maybe not. Did you, during the recruiting process, have in-depth talks about their values and goals and look for an alignment?

The chances are you probably did not. Now what do you do?

You do it now, but at a different level. You do it at a more personal level. Get your small team together and discuss these issues. What are our convictions? What do we care about? You will need to get individual input, you will need to get individual buy-in from the team memebers. This is why I suggest you do it at a more micro-level. GET THEM TO CO-CREATE IT. GET THEM TO DOCUMENT IT. GET THEM TO BE CREATIVE IN HOW THEY CAN SHARE IT, AND REMEMBER IT.

Of course ... make sure the team mission statements and convictions you uncover are in line with the company's.

If you can do all this, your smaller team will co-own what THEY have created, and now you are getting somewhere!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Working out Helps your Leadership Skills? 3 Reasons

A well-defined and adhered to work-out regimen can help you develop your leadership skills. How do you ask?

First off, it improves your energy levels. Lifting weights on consistent basis, for example, has been proven to burn lactic acid, the very thing that tends to build up inside you during your day and drains your energy capacity. Aerobic activity gets your heart pumping and blood flowing. Have you ever completed a hard run and then felt better immediately after it than you did before it? How do you feel DURING the day at work when you worked out in the morning or at lunch? Do you notice a difference? An extra kick in your step? Positive effect on your ability to lead, sometimes simply by attitude?

Another reason: The discipline needed to stick to a plan (for example working out 4 times a week for 40 minutes each) help builds your self-integrity. We are all busy. There are hundreds of reasons and rationalizations we can use not to work out. It takes a disciplined person to get past all of those and make it a non-negotiable routine. Suddenly, you are dictating part of your time-blocking instead of letting others do it for you. You will feel good about yourself. Your colleagues will notice that, and they will notice your discipline. Remember the workplace is changing: People want to know you outside of work. It is ok to admit you invest in yourself every day. Tell people how working out helps your life overall and your production at work!

Third: It has been proven that it takes disengagement from left-brain activities to put yourself in your creative zone. Why is it most people say they get their best ideas in the shower or on vacation? It's because they are disengaged from all the daily and hourly tasks and responsibilities that flood their brain and keep them in the details. Using a work-out as REAL TIME to think big picture can be a real competitive advantage for you. Of course focus on the activities at hand! Be careful! Watch those machines! But use the time to refresh yourself mentally. You will be surprised about the positive and creative thinking that will flow from you. One idea is to bring a digital voice recorder with you to the gym every once in a while. Whenever you get inspiration on a really good idea, record it! Use voice recognition software to have it automatically dictated into your computer. Wow, now you are being productive. I guaranty you if you try this once, you will have more creative ideas captured during your 40 minute work-out than you did in the last week of your "office" time...ideas that will help you be a better leader both personally AND professionally.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Recruiting interview - Suprise Surprise!

You have been scheduled to interview a recruit. Something had to be moved last minute and now you will be the first person to talk to this aspiring professional.

You are introduced and something occurs to you....Why is there another person, an older person, with them? Who is this guy? This person could almost be their father. Oh my gosh he is! Their father came, totally unannounced?! Does he know how the recruiting world in accounting has worked for the last 50 years? Obviously not.

This scenario is becoming all the more familiar. Sounds crazy but Gen Yers are very attached to their parents and their parents are very attached to the careers of their kids. If you have not experienced this one, you will definitely notice more parental involvement in one form or another. Get ready.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Mentoring Programs

One of my goals this year is to talk to many CPA firms. I like to know what has been successful and what has not. Mentoring Programs seems to be a hot topic. I need to talk to more firms because many of the firms I have talked to who have initiated such programs have, to date, seen the results fall short of their expectations.

Am I just being too skeptical in trying to draw some conclusions? When I see a firm who sees a NEED for a formal mentoring program, I wonder about their current INFORMAL leadership!

I also wonder how mentoring can be formalized? Think about the mentors you have had over your career who made a difference. Did someone start a formal program to get you a mentor? The best mentoring relationships I have experienced and heard about stem from the mentee making the choice (1) to search for a mentor, and (2) who that person is!

I cannot wait to hear about some of the successful programs going on right now so I can rebuke myself a little bit, which has happened before! To be continued ....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Should You Be Totally Paperless?

PDA phones, blackberries, laptops and desktops with two and sometimes three screens to use, scanners, editable PDF files, voice recorders with voice translation software, etc. Between all the tools we have to make us paperless knowledge workers, one might think of you as a dinosaur if you keep track of any part of your time management system on paper. Most of us have seen the old Seinfeld episode where George is keeping every receipt, appointment, etc. that he has in his wallet that he cannot even close. He lost everything in a wind-storm!

I was there at the beginning of some of the paperless initiatives. Back in 1996 at Ernst & Young, our audit team was selected to be part of a pilot team tasked with implementing the firm's paperless package ahead of everyone else at the firm. I was young, a staff at the time. I felt privileged and very committed to the cause. Our audit team was ACTUALLY PROVIDED WITH 15% more hours in our overall budget because of the implementation.

That audit was a struggle. Some of us were very on board with our plan, while others were not so much. (Probably some teaming issues!)

I still remember the day, when after a pretty heated argument about how to best clear review notes, the partner decided from now on all review notes would be printed off and signed off on by the reviewer. I lost that argument :) We took a few steps back before we took a few steps forward. The experience was very informational. It also had me intrigued with the potential for accountants to utilize technology!

Now, 12 years later, I am going to ask you to consider something that goes against my love for technology: Consider printing out your weekly calendar on Sunday night. That's right, open up Outlook or whatever you use, and print out the upcoming week. This might seem like a big departure from your current system if you are paperless.

I have heard too many of my coachees tell me even when they get all their “To-Dos” completed in a week, they are not sure what they really accomplished. A hard-copy view of your week may do two things: (1) It allows you to see the bigger picture. It allows you to view your time commitments versus your goals. You can reflect on your time-blocks before your week and compare them to your goals. (2) It also allows you to cross things off your list as you get things accomplished during the week. Yep, use a pen or pencil.

Could you do both of these things on your computer? Sure. However, doing it in hard-copy for one week will teach you some things about yourself, it will be new and force you to think about your day more versus the auto-pilot mentality we can get from looking at the same computer screen every day. And if you do want to go back to the electronic way, I bet you will change up your system a little bit....for the better.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tackle the Most Difficult Items on your List First

We naturally avoid the most difficult things on our ToDo lists...

> Auditors enjoy doing "cash" first on audits. It is easy. It gets us warmed up. we feel good about getting something .... anything done.

> Consultants sometimes jump right into the work without gathering all the important requirements and doing proper planning.

The problem with that is usually the easiest thing is also one of the least important things. It is easy for a reason. There isn't much judgement involved. It's fast. It can be done with little thinking.

Here is a link to an excerpt about Brian Tracy's book Eat That Frog! where he gets a point accross about tackling the most difficult thing first in your day....

A senior manager who I talk to at Hein and Associates in Houston Texas ... he was using this term before I even heard of the book. "Eat your frog in the morning" he professes. Simple but very good advice....and a catchy term! Discipline is sometimes about doing things we do not like to do, so we can do the things we enjoy. Getting that one thing done that you have been avoiding, which many times is impotant, out of the way first thing makes the rest of your day down-hill!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Time Management for Knowledge Workers

There are some good tools, resources, authors, etc. out there on time management. David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology, Mission Control, and the Franklin Covey methodologies just to name a few...

I like to listen to successful people I know talk about time management. They are usually hard on themselves in that area. But they must be doing something right! Time Management is not a science, it is definitely an art.

So there are a lot of good systems, tips, electronic tools, and blogs out there on time management, but there is not a one-size fits all time management system. What I thought I would do is list out some of the characteristics I see consistently in the good time managers I observe and coach....Here are 7 to begin:

1.) They protect their time .... They do not allow others to distract them. They work privately when they need to, they demand others request time from them, they demand a good reason for someone else to get time from them, etc. The best time managers in many respects can SOMETIMES be the hardest people to get a hold of and there is a reason for that.

2.) They time-block .... They proactively set time aside in their calendars to get the most important things done. Not only do they block their calendars, but they know exactly what they want to come out of each block they make. What is the end product of that meeting? Do we have enough information to even hold the meeting? Good time managers will challenge poor ones in ways that may make them feel uncomfortable.

3.) They respond to less important matters on their time .... It's difficult to proactively manage your time if you allow others to dictate your responses. Email can be a great example if this. Are you allowing email to suck you into responding to unimportant emails just as fast as the most critical matters?

4.) They are continual students of time management .... they learn from themselves. They find out when their peak periods are during the week for getting certain things done. They understand you cannot engage your left and right brains all the time at the same time. They separate activities that utilize different parts of their brain. They also combine activities that are synergistic, such as working out with listening to an important podcast.

5.) They value the power of important routines .... they do things like daily planning of their time. They do that consistently. They do it religiously. They use routines in other ways also. They check in with key colleagues on a consistent basis. They reach out to clients on certain days, etc.

6.) They have a formal time management system .... They might not all be the same, but they all have one. It is always evolving.

7.) They are fully engaged. While it may be difficult to get a hold of them (see #1), when you do have their attention, they are fully engaged in the activity at hand. They are not checking email at the same time. They are not thinking about other things. They are fiercely focused on the activity at hand.