Monday, December 28, 2009

Easy things first, right?

Why, when scheduling multiple tasks, do we generally choose the "easiest" one first?

It is because "easy" represents the least amount of change. It is not ambiguous. You probably have experience in doing it. It will not take as much critical thinking to do it. You can just, well, DO IT! You are wanting to be productive and you know you can be productive with the easy task, so you go for it. Maybe you are looking for a little confidence and doing what you already know may give that to you versus the harder tasks.

There is a big problem with starting with the "easy"and ending with the "difficult" --

When we still have that difficult thing to go, it's in our head, and it's negative. Whether we think this way or not, we have also told our self - I fear the most difficult things, so I will simply procrastinate.

When we have completed that difficult thing, it may still be in our head but we are done, the thought is positive! Then all of a sudden, something happens in our day - MOMENTUM! We are running downhill, not uphill. We are telling the world (and maybe most importantly yourself) to bring it on. Less fear. Less uphill running (procrastinating.)

So what do you do about this?!


You have 3 chores to get done Saturday morning. Start with the most difficult. End with the easiest.

You have 3 things you must get done at work tomorrow morning. Start with the most difficult. End with the easiest.

PRACTICE wherever you can! See where it can take you. See how you can build your own momentum.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I told you so!

Have you ever reflected on a decision and felt the need to tell somebody else - I told you so! (Meaning they should have listened to you.) Has anyone else ever said that to you?

It's pretty common and sometimes it is in jest. But sometimes it is real serious and makes the other person feel defensive.

It is also in most cases, completely counterproductive. Think about it. If a decision was made, there is not much value in telling another person that basically they were wrong and you were right. (unless it is designed to set up a learning opportunity but the words "I told you so" are probably not the best way to start that conversation.)

This saying can make others feel:

1.) Defensive
2.) Less confident
3.) Less fired up about "team-work"

Ponder # 3.) for a second. If you are part of a team and have to make a decision, even if you disagree at first, once the decision is made, you need to do whatever you must to support the decision. If you have the attitude that tells others you disagreed you are (1) not really into this, and (2) looking for the opportunity to tell others they were wrong and you were right.... you will definitely accomplish some things - you will promote factions, individualism, and lack of a team!

Last thought - Don't be a "I told you so" (because you were wrong) person. Instead look for opportunities to be a "I told you so" (because you were right and I believed in you) person!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Email "processing" on your phone vs. your computer

Whether you have a blackberry, droid, or iPhone .... chances are one of the most common things you do with your phone is check email.

I have not met one accountant in my entire life (yet) that has been able to replicate the way they process emails on their phone with the way they do it on their computer. Using their phone, they might not be able to do some or all of the following:
- Save sent emails into the appropriate folders
- Have an (electronic) task or calendar (or both) open at the same time as an email to check on a project. That is right to date there are no "dual-monitor" phones yet!
- Accept appointment requests (although some phones are now allowing you to do this.)

So why does this matter? Most if not all of us are checking email on our phones and laptops. But, we must understand the limitations when using our phone. You will be more efficient using your laptop because you are not limited in the same ways. So when you want to "ferociously focus" on your email processing and only touching things once, just realize your laptop provides the best medium to do that. Sure, use your phone when you need to and want to, but if the email is not urgent ..... consider ..... GULP (I know this is a tough one for some of us) ..... letting it go until you can fully process it later.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Interrupt "yourself" lately?

In looking at your own personal time management many people will focus on interruptions, and rightly so. We live in an increasingly fast past world. We may feel like we are getting "pinged" from many different sources, and we are!

But before you focus on trying to limit external interruptions from others, think about yourself first. Internal interruptions are when you decide to take something else on right in the middle of doing something. The "source" is you.

So you decide to surf the web instead of finishing that memo.

Or maybe you are at home and you decide to go grab something out of the refrigerator before you are done finishing some paperwork. Then once you are into the refrigerator you realize your forgot to mail a letter and you start to think about that, and then you see that your cell phone has a voicemail on it you haven't checked and you do that! Now you have forgotten what you were originally doing!

All of these are self created interruptions and they can kill your focus and productivity (and your momentum). They can be as common (or more common) than outside interruptions. We'll talk about some ideas/strategies in another post but the first thing you can do is to become more aware of it by catching yourself when you INTERRUPT YOURSELF!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ask someone for 7 minutes of their time

How many time has somebody asked you if you have a "second" and then 1/2 hour later you still are not finished with them? The problem here is not that the encounter or task took longer than 30 minutes, it's that the person requesting your time did not provide you enough respect to ask for a realistic amount of your time...probably because they did not even think about how long it would actually take.

It's easy to get caught in this habit. Everyone feels busy, you have to "get stuff done" but you don't have time to think about how long that "stuff" will take. Then when we work with others we have no idea how long tasks with them will take also. So both people's schedules are now being run by the seat of your pants.

Surprise somebody the next time you need a little bit of their time. Take a few minutes to think about how long it will take. If you are not totally sure, tell them how much time you estimate it will be. Try using an uneven or uncommon time amount. "Can I get 7 minutes of your time?" That will surprise them, maybe make them laugh, but if you have thought out how long it will actually take, you might be close!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Goals Undocumented typically mean Goals Unachieved

GET BOLD. Document your goals. Make them: Specific. Measurable. Time-sensitive. Then get time put in your calendar to start on them. Share them with others!

But do not forget .... you have to ask yourself, what happens if I meet this goal?

If the answer is not much, especially at an emotional level, then the chances of you achieving it are lowered.

A goal needs to be emotional for you. There needs to be a "vision" aspect to your goal. It needs to evoke a sense of your future self where you have accomplished something that makes you "feel" like you are now at another level. The problem with most goal-setting is it does not ask that question: How will I feel when I reach this goal?

You have probably read somewhere those that document their goals have a much better chance, on average, of achieving them. Part of that might be that documenting your goals makes you really think them through but part may be documenting your goals may make you CHANGE them or decide to eliminate one altogether. If you are not emotionally invested in it enough to at least write it out, how much are you going to be invested in doing all that you can to make sure you realize it?!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do you have a back-up of .... yourself?!

So your computer crashes and you might be covered. You have probably, through work or through other avenues, created a back-up system so if you computer crashes or gets stolen, lost, etc. you will not lose everything.

So do you have a back-up system for yourself? What happens if you "crash" by getting sick or having to attend to some important personal matters? It's a good question for you as we face what might be the worst flu season in many years. The flu can wipe you out for up to a week or more. What happens to your job in this case? What happens to your team? What are the protocols?

It might be a good idea to ask these question with your main colleagues. What do we do when someone is out for a while? How would we cover for each other? How do we ensure nobody is "irreplaceable"? How do we ensure the team is up to speed on the most important matters? (not just one person.)

Be ready for the unexpected. Just having these kinds of conversations will reduce stress levels when something does happen, and heck maybe these kinds of questions are good "team-building" questions anyway.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Unhealthy Accountant

Due to the author being under the weather, we'll be back in November! Please "consider" getting your flu shots.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Don't have time to listen to someone? ..... DON'T !!

Have you ever been caught by someone in the hall when you were rushing out the door or on the way to a meeting, or worse yet, right when you are in the middle of doing something? They just need a "few seconds" and need your ear, so you give it to them, and they talk to you right as you may be moving away from them.

What have you done?
(1) You fell for the "few seconds" line! How many things really take a "few seconds"? The interruption itself has already taken a few seconds!
(2) You have reinforced their behavior - if they can find you they can get you!
(3) You have allowed an environment to be created that is less than ideal to truly listen to them.

Now I know sometimes these practices have to happen, but certainly many of them, including the behaviors they reinforce, can be challenged. If you do not have time to fully engage and provide them a powerful listening ear..... DON'T DO IT. Out of respect for them, tell them no, and tell them how they can get your ear (and how you would like to be able to provide them your FULL attention at another time). Better yet, spend some time (later) talking about your communication protocols, boundaries, and needs.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Can an Accountant be "In The Zone?"

I know a lot of accountants who are currently in one of their "busy seasons" until the October 15th deadline. I bet at one point during a very busy time you have felt like you were "in a zone", where time was just flying by and you were getting lots of work done. (despite lots of pressure)

You have probably heard athletes talk about when they are in a "zone" and what they were doing (whether it was shooting a basketball or running a race) came effortlessly .... even though we know a lot of effort was required.

Many accountants will laugh at me when I try and use such an analogy, but it is worth investigating.

Be reflective. Why were you so productive? What did you do? What about your environment did you set up that aided you? What did you "enjoy" about that busy time?

You probably flexed your muscles a bit, and started to reach levels of productivity you either did not think were possible or had not achieved before. Remember you can wait all your life to try and find the most enjoyable thing you can do vocationally; but sometimes just a pursuit of excellence, in no matter what you are doing, can BECOME enjoyable because you are challenging yourself....and you ARE WINNING.


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Emoticons versus Body Language

Had a nice conversation today with an avid "learner" in the accounting profession and she mentioned something to me that really hit home ....

Younger accountants (and most professionals for that matter) are not as adept at translating body language as their older colleagues for the simple reason that they do not have as much practice! Think about it -- they have spent much more of their younger years communicating via a computer. They might know the various emoticons well :) :( ;) from their instant messaging communication, but they have spent less time on average talking and communicating with people face to face.

Ensure your younger staff are trained on body language and other non-verbal cues. You have probably heard it can be up to 90% of total communication.

"Listening" to our clients and colleagues is now as important as ever, but to listen you must be able to hear ALL of it. Make sure they know how.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Document or Review any Personal Goals Lately?

I found it interesting that the average American spends less than 1 hour a year documenting their personal goals and reviewing them. That is because most people do not even document their goals!! (Source: Day-Planners)

So, the average American spends more time biting their fingernails in any year than reviewing their goals.

If you do not have any long-term goals documented ..... I will promise you one thing -- you will have a much better chance of NOT meeting them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The CPA Exam - More Than Just a Test

Click title above that links to the article we wrote about how passing the CPA exam can be a major learning experience ... much more than just a "test".

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do Accountants Lie? 1 Sign .....

The answer is a resounding YES!

Per Paul Ekman, author of Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage, the average person lies 3 times for every 10 minutes of conversation. That statistic is pretty daunting. So if I talk to the "average person" for 10 minutes, there will be 3 lies .... no actually 6, if I am also like the "average person"?!!

Now maybe the "average accountant" is better at not lying than the "average person." I'd like to think so. We have strong ethical codes and guidelines we have to follow, and hopefully most accountants are qualified for their integrity upon entering any organization.

But have you ever caught a colleague lying, a client lying, or even yourself lying? Chances are the answers are yes to all three questions.

Below is one typical sign sign of a liar. In future posts we'll discuss:

(1) Other signs
(2) How you can become better at "not lying" all the time, including eliminating the "little white lies". The first tip will be one you can probably guess right now -- you have to WANT to become better at this.

Liars typically provides MORE details - When you are lying you are lying to yourself and the other person. You have to convince BOTH and liars struggle with silence because they must talk them-self through the lie at the same time they are talking you through the lie. Thus, if they are silent they are only listening to their own lie and they also feel like you may be listening (even though you can't) and in an effort to "prove" their lie, they will overindulge in the details of that lie so you both will be over-convinced.

Isn't learning about lying FUN?!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What "Labors" You?

Since it is the Labor Day holiday, maybe it is appropriate to focus on your work. I know, I know. Many specifically do not want to focus on work this weekend!

But maybe there is some value in asking yourself two questions:

1.) What is the most laborious thing you do at your job? (What is the one thing you do that you like the least?)
2.) What is the one thing you do at your job that you LOVE?

I know most accountants feel like their job descriptions are set in stone, but that simply is not the case. You have no doubt noticed some at your organization who have excelled even when there may be only one or two things that they do REALLY well. But they do them really well, probably because they also really enjoy doing them. What is the one thing you do well and love ... and how do you do it more? Oh yea, and that one thing you like the least, how do you do that less? Sounds too simple, doesn't it? It's not if you decide to be intentional about doing what you are good at and love.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Brett Favre's Secret

Even if you aren't a football fan chances are you know who Brett Favre is. Now he is coming back again out of retirement to quarterback the Minnesota Vikings. In his first press conference he took the mic and the press probably wanted to grill him! Here is a guy who has repeatedly said he was retired only to change his mind. He was also about to play for one of the Green Bay Packers' (his first team) biggest rivals.

So what did Brett say in the press conference that may have had a small effect on the reporters and also reminded some of his fans why they like him, and why they root for him? Here is an excerpt...

Another thing I forgot to mention was that when I said no earlier to Coach Childress and Coach Frasier, my 10-year old daughter who was neutral in this whole deal. So I asked her, “What do you want to do daddy?” She said, “Whatever you want to do daddy.” I said, “That’s a good answer but what do you want me to do?” She wouldn’t say until after the news broke and she started crying as we sat on our back porch. Anybody who has children, I can be chased by five defensive linemen and that doesn’t scare me but when my daughter cries it softens me up. She said, “I wanted you to go back and win one more Super Bowl.” I said, “Ugh. Why didn’t you tell me that before? She said I didn’t want to make that decision for you.” It’s amazing what you learn from your children. She said, “Can you go back?” I said, “Too late.” I found myself tearing up this morning as I brought her to school, and she said, ”Daddy, it’s going to be fine. You go up there and do what you got to do. We will be up there soon enough.”

When the opportunity arises, whether it is a business or professional setting .... consider telling your employees stories. They work. Make them personal to you or to them or both if you can. Most people appreciate that. Most people can relate to stories, and maybe most importantly, most people remember them ... and the connection you made!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dumb down your message

Many accountants (not all) are guilty of tech-speak. We get caught up in the latest acronyms and technical jargon and we do not realize that most of the outside world (including many of our junior and even senior colleagues) have no idea what we are talking about half the time. Sometimes people don't call you on it for many reasons, including the insecurity of believing they SHOULD know what you are talking about....but they don't. The result is costly miscommunication.

(By the way the latest acronym I have heard is "squash" or "SQCS" which is short for Statement on Quality Control Standards which are designed to provide guidance on a organization's internal quality control standards and are issued by the Quality Control Standards Committee, the senior technical committee of the AICPA. Are you kidding me? Squash!?)

We should be more encouraged to consistently dumb down and simplify our messages. If you have ANY doubt that the other person might not know what you are talking about it, you are probably onto something.

What is interesting is many times it is the MOST senior/experienced people that I'll see call others out ... "I have no idea what you just said, could you tell me that again in simpler terms." That takes confidence and lack of insecurity. That takes a desire for effective communication, not effective "I can prove how smart I am in with how much jargon I know" miscommunication.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Unsolicited Positive Remarks

How much do you go "out of your way" to talk about others good traits, characteristics, and performances?

And just maybe sometimes .... it might be good to talk to others "behind the back" of the person you are talking about!

"I was working with Suzy and I tell you what, she knows her stuff. Here is what I mean specifically ...."

"Ted really worked hard on that last project. He made the deadline and the quality of his work was remarkable."

Here is one, maybe unintended, result that happens when you start doing this ... people TRUST you more! That is right -- when you start talking others up, the people you are talking to will trust you more. Think about the opposite approach: When you talk bad about others behind their backs - the people you are saying these things do will pick up on that and realize -- hey this person might do the same thing to me one day! Trust is lowered, even if they agree with you! ... and the same happens when they see you as someone who talks others UP! Trust is raised.

Be on the lookout for positive actions and then TALK TO EVERYBODY about them.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thank You Emails

The "thank you" email -- There are literally tens of millions of these sent every day. No other information in the email, only a simple thank you.

The main simple and obvious reason I've heard for sending them:

To express gratitude! Than sounds nice!

Do you value the appreciation of others around you expressed in the form of "thank you" emails? Chances are it might sound nice but it really does not resonate. The reason? It is precisely the same as the reason we send them .... it takes no time to do it. We know a hand-written card or a face-to-face gesture takes more time and effort and thus we appreciate that more. So if you want to really express gratitude, do it in a more memorable (but maybe less frequent) way.

Challenge your "thank you" emails all together and see if you don't send out less but do other things, just maybe better things, in their place.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Don't Ask For It, Demonstrate It

Want to be appreciated more at the office? Throw some appreciation to those around you.

Want your colleagues to act more like a "team"? Act more like a teammate to them.

Want more communication? Be a better communicator.

Do these ideas sound obvious?! .... then be obvious. People will respect and gravitate more towards your actions then they will in responding to your pleas for improvement.

I was recently involved in a discussion (close to an argument) with one of my family members about the act of listening. We both thought the other did not listen (and we were both probably right.) So finally, after being stubborn for too long, I just decided I was going to stop everything and listen to his every word at our next lunch. Guess what happened? It became reciprocal. It was hard at first for me, but it was a great feeling in the end because it led to much better results.

Lead by action....then watch others emulate.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Responsiveness is part of your Brand

Are there any companies you deal with that are very unresponsive? They don't call you back, even when THEY said they would. They don't respond to inquiries fast or maybe not at all.

Maybe it is a cable company, a telephone company, or a shoe repair company.

So how do those actions (non-actions) affect your perception of that company? Probably ... pretty negatively. You are forming (or have already formed) a perception of their company and non-responsive is a word that is helping you to describe that company. Pretty soon you get to a horrible conclusion: "They don't care about me."

Now turn it around and think about your responsiveness ... YOUR Brand. What perception do people have about you? Is it what you want? Not sure what it is -- ASK THEM! Do they think "you care about them" based on your responsiveness?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Read their reports!

At my daycare each day the teacher(s) create a report which tells us certain little information about our baby's day, things like how many meals he had, what books were read to him, and of course the all important count on how many times he used the bathroom (with some added detail!) I LOVE this reporting, maybe because I am an accountant but I hope also because I am an "into it" parent.

The other day, I happened to notice that one or two of the parents consistently do not take the reports home at night. At first, in my judgmental way, I thought how wrong that was. But who am I to judge? There may be a reason for it and it does not mean they are unconcerned parents.
But then I was thinking ... what do the teachers think?! These teachers hand-write these reports every single day for each parent ... even for those they know will not (maybe never) take them.

Now sure they may have to do it for internal reasons, but ....

Could that affect the way they perceive those parents? Maybe. Oh my gosh, could that affect the way they perceive those babies? Hopefully not, but maybe?!?!

Now let's look at the "reports" you review....reports where your staff will expect you to review them. Of course there are the quality control standards at your organization that come into play, but beyond that ...... Why isn't everything your staff does reviewed by you or someone else? Not just reviewed but "acknowledged"?

If you work in a public or internal accounting shop, do your clients/colleagues know how much you care about your staff? Do they SEE you valuing their work? If you are suppose to look at something a staff created ... do you always "read their reports"?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Put your Money where your Mouth is !

Does your organization go on and on about how important your people are? So then your income statement should match, right? Where are you spending your dollars? If "your people" are so important, why did you just fire half your training staff? Now maybe there were other reasons for doing this, but you can see the perceived missing link between what a company "says" when it is easy to say something, and "does" when it is not easy to back it up....when it's "because of the economy".

Think about your own personal life also. What does the way you spend money say about what is most important to you? What is YOUR link between the two?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Procrastination Reason #3 (of 10) - Lack of REAL Commitment

One reason we may procrastinate .... we never really COMMITTED to doing something. When you do not have a clear set goal or commitment, it is easy not to do it. You might "want" a lot of things: You might want to finish that never ending project. But, what .... are you committed to doing about that? If you do not commit to SPECIFIC ACTION, then it does not matter what you "want."

Procrastination no more ....

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do something weird ....

Want to increase communication levels and lower barriers to trust with a specific colleague? ... Maybe someone who you have not been "best friends" with during your working relationship?

Go get an ice cream cone, go and hit some golf balls (if you know they like golf), or go grab a drink (even a diet soda is fine!) after work. This works REALLY well with someone you work with whom you have never done anything like that. It gets you OUT of the common physical work area (and ATTITUDE!)

Ask them how they are doing .... how they are REALLY doing. Listen. Understand. Don't judge. Just be a part of their world for a little while. In one hour I bet you can build more trust with that person than you have in your entire time working together.

You will surprise them and MAYBE they will surprise you.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Sugar Coating" Needed Feedback

Have you ever noticed many people like to "start with the positive" when they really are just trying to sugar coat the real reason they want to provide you feedback?

There is a real difference between being part of a positive outlook and throwing out a positive thing so you can feel like you won't hurt the feelings of another person.

If you feel like you are going to hurt the feelings of another person ... you probably will!

What is the desired outcome of your feedback and of your message? What is the POSITIVE desired outcome? What will they be able to DO with your feedback? If you cannot see a positive outcome, if you cannot go into a feedback session (formal or informal) with a constructive viewpoint FOR THEM, then you will certainly pass on that negative outlook to them.

People don't hate constructive feedback when they TRUST the other person has their good intentions in mind. In some ways, when you need to provide someone some constructive feedback, it works as a good barometer on the trust level in your relationship overall.

Build trust and the doors will be open. Don't have it and the doors will be closed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Try this for one day ....


Not being heard sets up barriers and kills productivity and relationship-building.

Try one thing tomorrow: EVERY SINGLE person who talks to you - try to listen to them with a curious ear and an attracted body - by that I mean SHOW them with your body posture that you are very interested in what they are saying.

Go for quality over quantity. Have a busy day? Don't have too much time to listen to another person -- go for quality! For example, try something like "I only have 5 minutes but I want to be as attentive as I can be to what you have to say, so let's duck into this office so I can be fully engaged for 5 minutes. Fair enough?"

I promise two things if you do this tomorrow:

You will surprise the heck out of some people.

Your interactions will be significantly more efficient AND you will start building more TRUST.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Want to be a HERO?

One simple idea if you want to be a hero to someone else, maybe a colleague, friend or family member:

Catch them doing something new, something that is an act of GROWTH.

The other day I was leaving a hotel with my wife and we realized after we were home (2 hours away) that I forgot my garment bag in the closet, and it was full of clothes!

Now this kind of thing has happened to me before, and in the past I would have blown a fuse. I didn't this time for some reason. After a few days and calls the hotel found my clothes and shipped them up to our house.

My wife's simple comment: "I was surprised how well you reacted to realizing what happened. You weren't like that before." I loved that comment. People love those kinds of comments because they show someone is:

1.) Aware of changes you want to make in your life.
2.) Watching for those positive changes.
3.) Reminding you of the change, and the GROWTH.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tipping is Contagious, so are complements

Have you ever seen a tip jar completely empty? Maybe it is with a sushi chef or a at a pizzeria, deli, or barber shop. (On a side-note has anyone noticed MORE tip jars lately?!)

The question is -- Why are they almost never empty? Is it because they never empty them? I doubt that. The skeptical auditor in me says it is because they are stuffed to attract more tips! So some of them are fake! Now maybe I am wrong, maybe I am right ... but I also reflect back to the times when I have actually dropped a tip in that jar and I bet every time there was already money in the jar ... maybe lots of money.

So, does the perception of "lots of tips" made by others inspire me to tip more? Maybe!

I cannot help but relate this to an average accountants' day. How many complements do you see (and hear of course) others making to your colleagues? Do you think that could be contagious too? So if you hear lots of complements going around the room will that make you want to join in and look for ways to complement others? If you think the answer might be "maybe" ... START the complement "tipping" yourself. Just don't fake it!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Who is Living up to YOUR Expectations? Cringe!

Let's say you have an uphill battle ahead of you, maybe it is a project that you know will be challenging and you are going to need to rely on someone, REALLY rely on them.

"I expect you to" .... ugh! I cringe when I hear that phrase, partly because I have used it before and also because it doesn't work most of the time, especially when said in a mandatory-like tone.

People want to live up to high expectations but they do best when someone takes the little time to express BELIEF that they WILL do it....that they are already capable of doing it....not because it is "expected" of them by YOU. It's not your expectations that will motivate them as much as their expectation. So instead be a catalyst to help them see their own capabilities.

A few short comments can do wonders for somebody's confidence....especially at the outset of a project.

"You will do great at ..."
"I can't wait to see how you ..."
"I suspect you will thrive ..."

If they take your comments and run ... GREAT. If they have any doubts ... ask a follow-up question: "What do we need to do to help you ......... ?"

Expect greatness, but express to them THEIR greatness, and you will get it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Procrastination Reason #2 (of 10) - Fear of Failure

#2 Fear of failure!

Sometimes people procrastinate doing something because they fear they will not be able to accomplish the (sometimes complex) task. They will fail! Their mind races into the uncertain future with the fear-cloud of failure hanging overhead.

One of the biggest reasons people procrastinate when facing a tough task or project is the fear of diminishing them self (in their view.) Thank about it ... if you don't try or don't start, you might not feel like you are risking failure. You did not try or start, so you did not fail! You know how we accountants are risk averse!

The problem with that is not doing anything at all ... all that does it keep you in the EXACT same position you are right now! If that is what you want, if moving forward is not a goal, then by all means do nothing. Hide out under your fear cloud.

How do you fight the fear mind-set? First of all, you recognize it. You identify fear as your obstacle and you identify the specific fear. Define the fear clearly. What are you specifically fearing? What is the outcome? How does that outcome affect you negatively? What is the real risk here?

Now you need to take a different perspective (because the perspective you were taking before was not working!)

What will it take for you to overcome your fear? Be intentional about it. Ask yourself:

What is the cost of NOT getting this done, of not trying at all?
What is the cost to your confidence and your personal brand of allowing fear to stop you in your tracks?
Is it ok if you fail?
Is it ok if you try and fail? How can that be a good thing? How can that be a learning event?
How will it feel if you can overcome your fear?
How do you specifically get started in overcoming your fear?

Procrastination no more!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

It's the kitchen's fault!

You have probably been there....unfortunately many times. You are at a restaurant, your order gets messed up, and then you're eating one hour or more after you first arrived.

It is interesting to see how a "mistake" is handled in this scenario. Somebody messed up. In this case when it happened to me this past weekend, our waiter blames it on the kitchen. They LOST our order. Somehow it vanished, and the waiter (our hero) re-submitted it as fast as he could. He told us he had nothing to do with the problem. The manager at the store came over to our table and basically gave us 50% off our meal. The waiter then reminds us what the total WOULD have been had we paid full price. Translation: my tip should be based on the full price. I did not mess up, the kitchen did.

What has he done? He blamed someone else at his company. He did not take responsibility for the restaurant's mistake. Does it really matter who messed up? The customer starts to paint a negative picture of the restaurant in general. What would have been great .... the waiter taking full responsibility and showing a little more empathy for the CUSTOMER, not spending time blaming the kitchen!

Remember this when working in your teams. If you are truly a team then any mess-up as seen by outsiders is a team mess-up! Teach shared responsibility.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Procrastination Reason #1 (of 10) - Getting Started

#1 The task is too much - You don't know where to get started!

Sometimes people procrastinate doing something because the project or task seems a little overwhelming and fear of the ENTIRETY of the project stops you in your tracks.

How do you fight that mind-set?

Define the very first thing! What is the very first thing you must do to get started? How specific can you be in defining that? Is it looking up somebody's number? Is it opening up a book to do some research? Is it writing the opening sentence in a memo? Make it simple. Make it easy. Make it something you can visualize yourself doing right now ... and then just do that one simple thing.

Procrastination no more!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Roles and Goals, Roles and Goals

What are the most important roles you serve in your life?

What are the biggest goals in your life, in your week, in your day?

Time management is really about priority and energy management.  What are you prioritizing? How are you expending your energy and showing your intensity?   ....  your roles and your goals should help you answer these questions.

Ask yourself as often as you can .......
What am I doing right now and how does that help me to reach a goal or fulfill an important role?

Ask it again when you are doing something new.  And then ask it again.  Life is short.  Live it on your terms.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Competition "versus" your peers

If you are competing "against" your peers because you feel like there is a finite "pie" and you have to get your piece, a big piece before anyone else gets their piece....if you feel like you must guard ideas, you must beat them, better them, you must take credit where you can, you must be the "recognized" leader, you must be the one to get that promotion in these tougher economic times, and they will not....something will happen:

Your actions will make that a reality and you will create an environment where others will feel the same way.

However, if you feel the pie's size is not limited, and it can be made much bigger by people like you working together with others, giving other people credit where you can, allowing others to use your ideas, recognizing and reinforcing the greatness in others, and creating infinite promotion opportunities through a collaborative environment....something else will happen:


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Want to achieve a goal? Here is some perspective, maybe inspiration

If you have not already seen it, this video is inspiring, and it tells us something about achieving goals, maybe an AMAZING goal, and believing in yourself in the face of major obstacles. It is about DJ Gregory who was born with cerebral palsy and was told he would be never walk in his life.

Warning: The video in the link below on ESPN is 12 minutes 22 seconds long. When you have the time, watch it. Even if you are not a golf fan, I bet you will enjoy it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Taking charge - be a problem OWNER

I was at a dealership on Tuesday night trying to get our car fixed .... once again. Basically there is a glitch in the computer system that tells us we have low air in our tire basically all the time. I was mad this time because we DID have a low tire and the tire was almost flat. We had taken the car in before and they fixed the signal only to have it turn right back on the next day.

This time I pressed them a little bit on it. Now they told me it was an issue with the model in general. Their answer for me ... call the car company or send them a letter and they will then ensure it gets fixed. This had me more mad because I was wondering ... Don't you work for an authorized dealer of the same company?!

I am sure we have all been through this before ... someone at a company telling you they cannot get something resolved because it is either not their "department", they are not "authorized", or their company is set up where they are "just a contractor" or something like that.

All we want in these situations is COMFORT that our situation will be resolved. We want ownership of the problem. We do not want to know it is not "their problem" because we believe "our problem" is always their problem.

Remember this when dealing with your teams. Encourage "problem ownership". If you work with outside and/or inside "clients", empower younger staff to be problem owners when they arise at clients. They do not have to be "problem solvers"... maybe only someone else can do that. But the client wants to know someone will take charge for them and own the problem.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Relationships during "Busy Times"

So maybe you have just finished a "busy season" recently? You have been working hard, pushing others, and pushing yourself to make deadlines. Those types of times can test your communication, priority management, and other skills. They also test your .... RELATIONSHIPS.

Maybe now is a good time to review your relationships and get feedback on them from the source - those with who you have important relationships ... those with whom you really rely on when you are busy.

So what can be done to improve those relationships? How are the communication protocols? Are you interrupting each other more than you should? Are you helping each other RELIEVE STRESS or are you helping each other CREATE more stress? How is the team work?

What can be done to take your relationships to a new, better level? Don't just come up with questions and ideas on your own ---- ASK THEM.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Busy Season? Try slowing down like an NBA commercial

I know many of the readers on here might not be NBA basketball fans and those same readers might be going through one of the busiest times of the year. This week's theme. Slow down. Take a few minutes each day just to observe life and those around you. Slow down and listen to the person you are fortunate enough to be talking to...not just what they say but HOW they say it. Be comfortable in the moment. You can only act and live in the present. You can only see what life is in the present. You can only appreciate it in the present and you only have one life, which is a series of "moments."

There is an NBA commercial going around which will probably win some awards. It shows one play in slow motion. It is beautiful and set off to a great new classic song called "Fly" by Ludovico Einaudi. What makes it memorable? We are brought into the world of a basketball player. We are there. We see them. We see them in slow motion. We feel the game.

So, what is your music? Who are you slowing down for?

Link to commerical on youtube:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Do you "dump" on people? Learn from potty-training

We have all been in situations where we just "dumped" on another person. Maybe you were in a bad mood and a project was delayed? Maybe they told you some information that ended up being incorrect? Maybe something happened at home and now a "fire" has started at work and you are pretty disgusted.

...So you let them have it! I have seen even the nicest people do it once in a while.

If you take time in being reflective on your days, maybe you realized it later. Maybe you apologized. Maybe you learned from it. Maybe it helped to spark a more positive behavior.

I learned the other day about a new progressive, maybe weird maybe not, form of potty-training technique. You take your little kid into a very clean and empty room with preferably tile-flooring and you let them hang out there naked for a while. You can probably guess what happens. They use the bathroom and you know what? Eventually they become very AWARE of what just happened! Their own awareness of the event leads to learning and, eventually, new behaviors.

Now I am not endorsing this potty-training technique. I found it curious and was thinking how accountants could learn from that technique. I just wonder what people are capable of if they become more "AWARE" of how they treat others. How many times a day do you deal with people where you are "not at your best"?

How do you become more aware? Unfortunately we cannot use the same technique. Some ideas ...

Ask your colleagues for feedback - Do they feel better about themselves after dealing with you?
Make it a goal for a few days or a week - You go into each interaction with "awareness" of how you can treat the other person the best.
Ask your colleagues to be ready to grade you on future interactions for a little while. (I had a client do this one - it worked suprising wonders) The act of doing that may in itself make you more aware of your interactions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Too Busy! Are you listening or mining?

I know so many accountant who are SOOOOOO busy. They have very little time during their day and they work at what appears to be a frantic pace. They have little time to .... deal with people!! At least that is how they look sometimes. There can be many causes of this: time and energy management practices, interruption reinforcement, etc. The effects can be draining. When you feel real hurried there is a skill that can take a HUGE hit - your listening skills.

Have you ever been part of a conversation where one person is only half-listening? Heck, they aren't really doing that. What are they doing? They are "data-mining". They are listening only as much as they feel they need to in case something "big" is said that affects them. Other than that they may be glancing at emails, thinking about what they will do next, and many other multi-tasking items.

What can happen in these situations?

The other person probably feels like they are only being mined. The other person might pick up those same habits. Opportunities to be efficient may go by the wayside because the parties are not fully engaged. Relationships are hampered. Information is lost. Collaboration suffers. In summary - "inefficiency" happens. So maybe the best thing to do, if you want to be more productive, is to SLOW DOWN when it comes to communicating (and especially listening) with others?!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's Just the Two of Us - You & I

Most accountants work with a lot of people during any one year, even one week or one day.

Who do you work with most? How are those relationships? There is a word used in the coaching community that I love. It is called relationship design.

How much time do you spend thinking about your personal relationships at work?
Do you intentionally, proactively study the "design" of those relationships?
What is working? What is not working?
What general expectations do you have of each other? Are they clear and known?
What style of collaboration does that other person prefer?
What is going great in the relationship? What behaviors do you reinforce?
What motivates that other person?

Don't have time to spend focusing, reflecting, and improving individual relationships? If that is true, it will be obvious to those people and they will probably emulate you. It's probably what they are accustomed to.

LEAD change.

"A relationship, I think, is like a shark, you know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies." Woody Allen

Friday, March 6, 2009

Today I did nothing

In the 2001 movie Office Space disgruntled worker Peter took a day off (unbeknownst to his boss) and chose to just stay in bed all day. He said something like "today I did nothing and it was everything I ever thought it could be." He was proud of doing nothing.

Have you ever told yourself you were going to carve out some time for yourself just to relax? Conversely have you ever discovered that for the last few hours you have basically accomplished nothing? What is the difference? In results ... not much. But there is a big difference in the effect those two activities might have on you.

The first scenrio: You gave yourself permission to intentionally relax. It was probably empowering and it probably provided a source of energy renewal for your future activities. Maybe an energy boost?

The second scenario: You probably felt a sense of failure. You had intended to do some "stuff" yet you didn't do anything. Now you might be drained.

So, the effects are NOT the same. The only difference here: Being intetional about what you do (or "not do" in this case) Be more like Peter, be more intentional about your decisions and actions.

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Art of Saying No ... continued

OK, so in another post I talked about the need to simply practice saying no if you want to get better at it. That suggestion sounded painfully obvious yet many of us do not do it. We feel we should just somehow get real good at it so we can say no, and if we are not real good at it, we will not even try.

So let's talk more about this common problem accountants face. Saying no is not always easy, so maybe the best thing to do is in situations where you feel lots of tension and you must say no, see if you can manage the situation where you don't have to! OK, here are two questions/considerations for you...

1.) Do you want to help this person but cannot? Tell them that. Maybe there is a work-around or a smaller way you can contribute. Maybe you do not have to say no, but say you want to help but cannot commit enough resources to get the job done they want so is there something else you could do?

2.) Do you expect (be careful about assumptions) they will fight you on anything but a "yes"? Try turning the onus on them. Make it a team thing. Tell them your general priorities and time constraints and SHOW them that there is no way it is fair for you to say yes TO THEM.

For the next "Saying No" post, we'll discuss always starting with "NO" ... confidently!

Friday, February 20, 2009

"SMART" goals are missing something

You have probably heard of the "smart" acronym tool that can be used to help you create better goals.

S = specific
M = measurable
A = attainable
R = reasonable
T = time-based

What is missing? The WHY! Why does this goal matter? Where does it bring me (or my team)? Now maybe that is not the goal of using this tool, and I have seen some people expand the "m" to mean "motivational", and the "s" to mean significant, which sounds good. If you are setting a team goal specifically and you are leading the goal-setting process, make sure you ask WHY, not only from your perspective, not only from the team's perspective, but also from each individual member's perspective!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good listening is not just WHAT, but also WHY

The other night my wife was talking about her next workday. She had a big deadline so we were talking and I volunteered to take our kid to daycare the next day to help. She agreed.

Later that night, after I had fallen asleep watching a ball game on the couch, she approaches me and mentioned that she cleaned the dishes while I was asleep (something I usually do) and she prepared our kid's food for the next day. Then she says, "So that makes us even."

What was my reaction? It was about me. I said, "I do not always worry about us being even."

I was not listening to the WHY. Why was she saying what she said? If I had been thinking about what she was saying from her point of view (instead of my own) all she was looking for was appreciation. That's it. Simple.

So what is the point beyond learning from this blogger's mishaps? Listen to others so intently that you not only hear the what but you feel the why, THEIR WHY, not your why. It will help you become a much better listener and speed up your communications because you understand the "Why."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

My day was "very busy"

How was your day?


What does that typically mean? I'll make a lot of assumptions but for many of us -- busy does not equal productive. You would think it should be the opposite. If one is "busy" that should mean they are "busy getting stuff done." But typically it doesn't. Busy may mean a lot of things: multi-tasking, fire-fighting, interruptions, unscheduled meetings, and generally running around and doing lots of things, though maybe not completing lots of things.

Let' do this again ....

How was your day?


For many "productive" is about completion and discipline. I was productive because I completed something that was hanging over my head (usually because I said no to other tasks or distractions).

So what is the difference for you between PRODUCTIVE and BUSY and how do you start with that tomorrow morning?

Friday, February 13, 2009

"One thing leads to another"

That was a song by the Fixx that was released in 1983. For the young readers on this blog you have probably heard some sort of remix of the song in the last 5 years. It has been re-released many times in many different ways.

So, what does that saying have to do with accountants? I am sometimes shocked how accountants do not always see the interconnectedness of their "personal" time management with those around them.

If your colleague manages his time real poorly, does that affect you?
If your staff or boss manages their time badly, does that affect you?
If you are bad at project/client management, does that affect your personal time management?

It is all connected ... one thing does lead to another. So how do you improve others' time management skills? You can't! Only they can. What you can do is ask yourself questions, such as:

1.) What behaviors am I reinforcing? Specifically, when someone else does a great job in managing their time and the results are obvious, do I reinforce that through specific praise?
2.) Do I make others aware that we are all part of a team and the efficiency and effectiveness of a team helps or hurts all of us? Do I encourage group accountability and feedback?

One last point -- you start asking questions like this and pretty soon one thing will lead to another -- your teams will start asking them too.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Leadership Questions - the series - post I

Based on some feedback I am going to try a new series of posts (they will be interwoven in all the other posts we make here) specifically on topics of Leadership for Accountants. They will be provided in the series of questions. As with all our posts, the aim is for them to be (1) brief, and (2) thought provoking.

This weeks' two questions:

1.) Have you ever defined what the word leadership means to you? ... Truly spent some real carved out time (and space) and documented your thoughts?
2.) Have you ever asked others around you if they see you as a leader, and if so, specifically "why", "how", and "when"?

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Multi-Tasking Quiz - What is Your Score?

Count the number of questions where you respond "Yes" :

1.) I have eaten a sandwich with one hand while typing on my laptop with another.
2.) I have completed work while sitting in a live training class.
3.) I have looked up a contact number on my phone WHILE driving.
4.) I have conducted a full meeting with a colleague while checking email basically the entire time.
5.) I have put one call on speakerphone (mute of course) and used my cell phone to make another call.

Score of 2 or less: You .... serious?
Score of 3-4: You are a typical accountant.
Score of 5: Look out! You will go to any extreme to multi-task. You may be dangerously addicted.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What is on YOUR peoples' minds? Do they always tell you?

There is a quote in this week's Business Week from Frank Blake, CEO of Home Depot, when asked about leadership:

" what extent do people feel comfortable saying what's on their minds?"

Ask yourself that question about your colleagues. Ask them if you are not sure about what their answers would be. If there is some hesitancy in their answer ASK THEM how the air can be cleared so much between the two of you where there is no hesitancy.

Friday, January 23, 2009

How much time do you spend "thanking"?

Do acts of appreciation make us more happy? Maybe. When expressed to others they can sure make those other people happier!

How much time do you spend in expressing appreciation to those around you? Sure the obvious times are when someone does a great job on a project, but what about the less obvious opportunitties?

Appreciation fosters positivity and confidence and reinforces good deeds.

How much are you showing appreciation to those around you? How much time are you spending looking for specific opportuntities you can express appreciation to those around you.

THANK about it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

"I am Bad at Estimating How Long Something Takes"

That is hogwash. Accountants are good at estimating the time it takes to complete tasks and projects. We have experience. At one time or another in our careers, we have been tied to a meticulous budget. Of course, for most, meeting a budget typically meant "miracle making"!

It really is not the time estimation that trips us up. What we are may times bad at ... estimating the time it takes to deal with distractions, interruptions, and the "switching time" costs of multi-tasking.

Tomorrow take a look at one small task you have to get done and before you do it, estimate how long it will take. Then just do it! I bet you will be pretty accurate. Is that because smaller, quicker tasks are easier to estimate? Maybe, but it is also because they are easier to get done in one fell swoop.

It is not the "estimating" part that is hard. It is the discipline to do what you plan to do next without interruptions and distractions.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How do you Introduce Your Colleagues?

OK, so maybe you have created a "laser introduction" for yourself. It describes you and what you do in a way that gets people interested.

How do you introduce your colleagues to others? Most of the time you just introduce them with their name. You are at lunch with a colleague and you see somebody you know and you make the introduction. Simple.

What about in a more formal situation? Maybe you are introducing a colleague to a client? What do you say? What are the one or two POSITIVE & MEMORABLE things you can say about your main colleagues?

Why does this really matter? It matters to your colleagues. A positive introduction tells them what you think about them and it also sets the tone to the client. If first impressions are so important then maybe first introductions are REALLY important.

Think about it. Consider spending some time in creating fascinating introductions of your colleagues. They will appreciate it and they will really remember it. They might even live up to it!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What is your warm up routine? (at work)

What gets you going in the morning once you have started your work-day? How do you set the tone to have a positive attitude and positive day?

What is the routine you utilize to get you going each morning? How do you plan your day, so you know specifically what you want to get done that day? How do you plan NOT TO get interrupted?

What renews you?

Working with a team all day? What can the "team" do to warm up?

Surprise people with bagels? Have each person on your team share a joke each morning? (no joke I met an audit team that did that one busy season) Hold a 5 minute beginning of the morning team update? Get creative ... whatever gets peoples' blood pumping.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What is your warm up routine? (at the gym)

So we are told about the importance of warming up before exercising....something to get your blood pumping and your muscles loose.

Some ideas, many of which you may already be doing:

Getting on the treadmill or an elliptical or a stationary bike for a few minutes. Walk or jog 1/4 of a mile (equivalent to one time around a track).

Walking up and down some stairs.

Shooting some baskets on the basketball court.

Jumping rope.

Make your "warm-up" automatic, make it a routine, and make it fun!

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