Thursday, September 2, 2010

Being somewhere else, not HERE

So I provide lots of training and speeches and I am notorious for:
  • leaving things behind after my presentation - my clicker, mouse, etc. I have done that more than once.
  • taking things that aren't mine. In Orlando two months ago I actually did not realize I still had a mic on until I was emptying my pockets at the airport!!!
So, why do I do these things? I feel it is because my mind is not settled and I have little awareness of what is going on around me. I am thinking about the past (How did I do? Did they like me?) and I am thinking about the future (What are the people who want to talk to me afterwards going to say? When is my flight?)

Notice a few themes:
  • It's all about me. How am I being perceived? What is going to happen to me? It's kind of a shame because there are potentially rich conversations to be had with people after a presentation. It's hard to listen to others when you are only listening to yourself!!
  • I am thinking about two times - the past and the future.
Of course the "now" is all we ever have! It's interesting how that works -- how much of our mind is preoccupied with the past and the future, but the only time we can be "in" is the now.

Where is your mind today? Where is it right now? What are you missing out on by not being in there "here and now"?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Your opinions are like a ....

Opinions are usually an "answer". Holding your opinion may act, in certain circumstances, like an "invitation".

When I tell you that golf course was terrible or that presentation was great, you may agree or disagree or come somewhere in between, but my expression taints the conversation for most. If I really want to know YOUR opinion, if I want to learn more about how you view the world, my opinion is not near as important as my desire to listen and be curious.

Your opinions are useful. Sometimes they are very needed. Sometimes they are just what IS needed.

Yet sometimes your opinions are like a rear-end. Everyone has one and, sometimes, maybe it's best to just sit on it..... Especially if your goal is to learn about another versus "tell."

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Listening when you "talk"

So, if you have been reading this blog for a while you can probably tell that "listening" has been a topic discussed many times and the challenges that go with trying to be a deep, strategic, results-based listener are MIGHTY.

Part of the reason why listening is such an underrated skill (and great opportunity) is that we do not realize how much we have to do it. So when you are talking, when you are up in front of a group and you are the speaker, does that mean you can turn off your listening radar?

Actually it is quite the opposite. You need to listen when you speak. You need to be in tune with your audience in such a way that you can react and respond to all the signals they are sending, even when it might seem like it's difficult .... when you are worried about what YOU will say. We'll focus on this mighty challenge in future blog posts.

First, start with a little awareness by answering one question: What do people who are good listeners "do" while they are speaking to prove their continual listening??

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Thought to "CPA" parents

For those readers that are parents, I wanted to mention a thought I had that hit me hard. Maybe, just maybe it will resonate with you. It seems, based on my limited reading and personal reflection that a child you have is going to pick up some (but definitely not all) of your characteristics. Since we don't really have control over which ones, might as well try to live our core convictions as best we can. And it's not just as simple as doing it at home. We need to do it throughout our life, including in the workplace. We can't be one person in one domain and then "turn on" another person when we come home. Think about it. Your core convictions (your heartfelt values) should be about what is most important to you, but your kid(s) are always watching. What do they see?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Without a documented goal, you may stand still

Have you heard that you are three times more likely to obtain a goal if you simply write it down? Why is that?

  • It reminds you of what you want. It is easy not to do something you are NOT thinking about very often.
  • It forces you to "see" it and then you will probably want to "plan" it and "act" on it more.
  • In a small way, writing it down makes it more of a commitment - not just in your head, but now it's out there!

Think about it this way, if a goal IS VERY IMPORTANT to you, why wouldn't you do whatever you can to make it part of your "dashboard" and make it more a part of your daily thinking and "doing"?

You are driving the car, and its your goals that should be helping you push on the gas.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Email "signatures" - no big deal?

I have been working with a lot of accountants on their email habits lately. Surprisingly to me, the signature you put at the bottom of emails has been a big topic of conversation.

Some considerations:

  • If you are looking for a consistent way to represent your organization's "brand", a consistent signature seems appropriate.
  • If you are focused on providing the other person what they probably most need from your signature .... how can they contact you immediately if they want to talk live (i.e. email is just not efficient based on the issue(s) that need to be discussed) then give them your phone number. Some I've worked with get creative with this. They will have one signature with their office number and one with their mobile number depending on where they are that day. (Obviously these folks want to be immediately reachable!) Nothing can be more frustrating to someone to try and look through an email thread and not be able to find your phone number!
  • Too much really can be too much! It might be nice to provide all of your contact information. (That makes it easy for us to create a contact file of you.) However, when you add your twitter account, your facebook page, your blog, your resume, and your life history, we may get annoyed. Note for twitter and linkedin and facebook pages, there are small icon-links you can create to save space. For example, here are the directions for linkedin. Facebook and Twitter directions are here.
  • Don't spend too much time in focusing on your signature. Maybe create it once and be done with it?! If you have considered these options listed above, you are probably going to have a "responsible" signature. If you want to change it every so often go for it. It may have a "branding" impact (and that may be important to some) but don't let this consume too much of your time .... so you can get back to all those emails!!
If anyone wants to learn how you can save hundreds of hours a year for yourself, become more sane by getting out from inbox overload, or save thousands of hours for your organization contact me at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Procrastinating? Start simple - call yourself out on it

Have you found yourself procrastinating lately on some "big" thing? First off - call it out!

Call what out you ask?

Call yourself out!

(1) I am procrastinating.

The next question is why? There are lots of reasons for procrastination. Maybe the biggest? Fear.

So again, call yourself out.

(2) I have a fear right now.

Now, the natural next question ... What is that fear? But you don't get that far along until you first "call yourself out."

Links to other posts on Procrastination:

Reason #4 Lack of Confidence

Reason #3 Lack of Real Commitment

Reason #2 Fear of Failure

Reason #1 Getting Started

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fire-Fighter ?!

Have you ever used the term fire-fighter to describe your day, or to describe your (all too common) role?

Many of us would not relate the word fire-fighter to hero. A real fire-fighter swoops down on a fire and with all her/his great dexterity and skill, they put it out. Most I know don't see this label that way. They see it as major burden, as something they don't want to do (putting out fires) .... something they would rather not do in fact.

A real fire-fighter does not know where the (next) fire is going to start or when it is going to happen, but that is their job and they are ready. Most leaders I know who describe their fire-fighting role describe it in similar ways. "It is something new every day." But is it?

The question is -- is firefighting your job? Or is it a role you have grown into in your current role?

The other question is -- what does being more and more of a fire fighter tell you? What does it tell you is lacking? In your team(s)? In yourself?

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Were you a coward today? It shows.

Cowardice in the workplace. What does that mean?

I'll try and define it : cowardice in the workplace is lacking the courage to take desired action where there is a perception of opposition. What happens? Inaction.

Have we all experienced this? Sure.

An example - holding a "difficult conversation" (what a buzz term that is these days!) Are you able to hold the conversations you need to get the organizational or personal results that are required ... even when these conversations are not perceived as "pleasant"? What a great opportunity to show some cowardice! Just avoid it!

Guess what though? It is a perpetual thing. If one feels cowardly after not taking an action or holding a needed conversation, then the best way to reinforce that is by continuing to do it.

WHAT WE TYPICALLY DON'T REALIZE: Our bodies don't hide this. If you act cowardly enough, it will show up in how you talk, walk, and even in your posture.

It can go the other way too...

Have you ever heard somebody say something like: "I finally mustered the courage to stand up to John and it felt great." I'll bet that breakthrough carried forward with that person, their confidence grew, and their courage to make similar actions grew. I'll also bet they started to hold their head a little higher, and their back straightened up slightly as well.

If you want to practice becoming less "cowardly" by using your body as an aid, try this:

If you have a difficult conversation ahead of you, practice it with a colleague and for the first 20 seconds hold your body in the most "cowardice" way you know (slouched, head down, whatever that means to you.) Now stop yourself after those 20 seconds and try it again. You can say the exact same things you said the first time, now you must hold your body in the MOST confident way you know (upright, head high, good eye contact, whatever that means to you.) Notice how your perception of yourself changes because of the way you intentionally choose to use your body. Notice how your perception of the future action may have changed. Now try and be intentional about using your body strength to help you "strengthen" your actions.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Simple To-Do list tip to help you feel more proactive

If you are big into To-Do lists, and I know a lot of accounts who are ...

Try one simple thing tomorrow when you are reviewing it. Ask yourself, what is the MOST important action I can take today that is not on this list? Consider your career and your team and your organization from a "big-picture" perspective. What is that ONE thing that might make the most difference if a new outcome can be achieved by doing a new action (that was not on your list.)

Now, since you have just potentially added something to your calendar and list of commitments, challenge the other things on your list. What are the TWO things that are of such lower priority that you can either remove them all together or move them to a future date?

You add one thing, you take away two. That sounds good! Also you have started not with your To-Do list as your starting point for priorities .... you have started with thinking outside of your To-Do list to prioritize your actions based on a longer term perspective.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The first step to BETTER EMAIL

Email overload! Ever heard of it? Ever really .... really .... really ..... felt it?

It seems to me I have never ever met someone who has told me ....

"Brian I don't receive enough emails"
"Brian I don't really spend enough time in processing emails"
"Brian I always get my inbox down to zero every day. I wish that were more challenging."

OK, email can be a very complex issue for some, though in some ways, it SHOULD be a simpler issue, but we'll save that for another time.

First, let's start simple and end this blog post: If you feel like you could be more effective in the way you process email, just ask yourself ONE question before you write or read EVERY single email you work with from now on .....

What is the call to action?

Just ask yourself that question and see what happens.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The question you MUST ask when you miss a deadline

Missing deadlines stinks! There are lots of reasons why they happen. Let's focus on what happens when they DO happen ... when you missed a deadline.

First off, one or many people are probably mad if it is a high priority item.

It is easy to:
  • Blame others.
  • Talk about how the deadline was unfair (now after it's too late) or how circumstances changed.
  • Provide excuses.
The question that can really help is one that may seem counter-intuitive to "excuse-providers" .....

"How did missing this deadline affect you personally?"

This does not have to be the first question, and maybe it should not be, but it needs to be asked. Also, if it affected more than one person, you will have to ask it more than one time! (Because most everyone will have a different answer.)

What this question may do:
1.) Right away it shifts the attention to where it should be - the impact. By asking that question, you are telling the other person you care because you want to know what this (missed deadline) has caused.
2.) It makes it personal and while people understand organizational impact, they "feel" personal impact much more easily. In short, the question is a sign of empathy.
3.) It shows a willingness to want to solve the issue. Before you can do that you need to know the issue (which may be bigger now that a deadline has been missed). So, it boldly inquires about where you are now (and does not try and sweep anything under a rug.)
4.) The answer to the question may open up new possibilities .... How do we adjust now? What can be done, salvaged, etc.?
5.) It shows you want to LEARN from the event. It shows ownership not just in the specific deadline missed but in working forward to ensure it does not happen again. You can work with their answer in making changes going forward.

Hopefully you will never miss a deadline in your life again, but chances are we all will. Can this question really "do" all those 5 things? Try it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What do you bring to the Toughest situations?

The New Jersey Nets of the National Basketball Association almost set the record for the most losses in one season in the history of the NBA this year. They were real bad for a real long time.

I was shocked to see how well the NJ Nets coach (Kiki Vandeweghe) endured and "reacted" to those tough times. You could see the pain and the passion. You could not see total negativity.

In our careers, just like in sports, when things go bad an opportunity arises. How do you handle it? How do you respond? How do you "show up" during tough times?

When a project goes "south", when a colleague "stabs you in the back" .... That is when your leadership qualities will show up (or not). It's easy just to react negatively. It is much harder to react based on what is important to you (defined even before the event occurred.)

We all will probably feel negative towards such events, the question to you, right now, before the next one happens .... how do YOU WANT to react in a way where you show up at your best? If you don't know, if you have not thought about it, your choices are more limited.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Client Service: problems = opportunity

Many accountants who serve clients, whether they are your colleagues or an actual external customer, have experienced a time or two (or three or four) where something did not go right. You messed up. You fumbled.

Nice post from CPA Success illustrates the point: It's not just when things go "right" with clients but what happens when things go wrong? .... That is when you can build up two big things: TRUST and LOYALTY.

Trust because if a client KNOWs you take "mess-ups" very seriously, they know they will be taken care of to the best of your ability. They also know you care a lot when it happens. Loyalty is built when your "mess-up" becomes memorable .... IN THE WAY YOU RALLIED TO THEIR SIDE TO TAKE OWNERSHIP. Everyone is human. We all know we are not perfect, but we all expect certain fundamnetal things to happen when a vendor "messes up", but it rarely happens.

And the first place to start, and sometimes the hardest ....
Admit the mistake. Admit it. Come clean. Be blunt. Be serious. People "rarely" do this, but we all crave it.

By doing that, you will show them you take them (and your service to them) very seriously!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Short Course on Leadership

I love this quote so much I had to make make the quote itself .... today's blog post:

“Ph.D. in leadership. Short course: Make a short list of all things done to you that you abhorred.

Don’t do them to others. Ever.

Make another list of things done to you that you loved. Do them to others. Always.”

– Dee Hock

Monday, March 15, 2010

Outsource everything you do

Outsource EVERYTHING you do. That sounds daunting, and maybe crazy, doesn't it?

OK, so maybe you cannot outsource everything you do in your job tomorrow. But there is some value in TRYING to do that.

What if you had to do it? What would you need to do? Maybe ....

1.) Inventory everything you do.
2.) Challenge what can be done by someone else.
3.) Get everything in "order" so someone else can do it.

That third point is a big one. I have seen entrepreneurs who have had to delegate or outsource some activities that they typically did to someone else. It forces them to look at them in a new way. They have to bring structure. They have to ensure the task is clear and is working in an efficient way already. In short, they have to CHANGE the way they do the task BEFORE they give it to someone else. Guess what? If you do this and even if you decide not to outsource it or delegate it, you will have made the activity more efficient for yourself!

Do you do the billing for your firm or company?
Do you book your own flights?
Set up your own meetings?

Pretend processes like these have to be taken over by someone else tomorrow. You will make changes. You will benefit. These activities will take you less time. Eventually you will get so much more efficient and be able to focus on THE activities that you are both good at and enjoy and bring the REAL value to your organization, that you will be able to delegate or outsource all these other things!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The most powerful start to learning

"I don't know."

Whenever I hear a coaching client say that, I know they are already on a better path. Whenever I hear a partner at an accounting firm say that, I know they are on the right path to finding out an answer. And in the rare cases where I hear a staff accountant say that, I sense confidence.

The first thing you need to do when you want to learn something new or better yet, try and get a new result in your life, is to admit...

"I don't know."

I don't know the answer. I don't know how to do something. I do not know how to change. I do not know how to do it better.

If "you don't know" you really do KNOW where you are at, and admitting that is powerful because it is the first step in wiping the slate clean and uncovering what might be possible. It's the first step in admitting that what you have learned or done to date has you in this position --- not knowing the answer.

When you come face to face with your true gap in knowledge, with some humility, you are setting yourself up for learning.

People do not get in trouble for saying I don't know. They can really get into trouble for implying they know something when they have no idea. Also, when you do not come clean, you have not framed your problem, which is .... you guessed it "You don't know."

Do you have a problem or barrier or habit that you want to change? Say it one last time: "I don't know." Now let it sink in. Now you are ready. Believe it or not the next steps will be easier than you think if you can come clean and admit your place.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My day was "Very Busy"

Ever get asked how your day was and your answer is dominated by the word "busy". What does busy mean to you? For some answering you were very busy is not the same as answering you were very "productive". In fact they may feel VERY different.

Busy might mean: lots of calls, lots of emails, lots of fires to put out, lots of switching from task to task, lots of ideas floating through your mind, lots of talking about acting on things, etc. In short it means you had a lot going on but it does not necessarily mean you had a lot getting done.

If you feel "productive", however it may be more about making tough decisions, completing something that had been hovering, finally acting instead of talking, and yes, generally, completing more work.

Busy might mean opening more things, productive might mean closing more things. Busy might mean more YESes, productive might mean more NOs. Busy might mean more plans, productive might mean less plans but more prioritization. Busy might mean more more, productive might actually mean less.

Lastly, despite the fact that world might not be cooperating with you at all times, it's important to remember that most of your day is really about the choices you make and control.....

Is being and feeling productive really a choice and do you control all the things that go into feeling productive? If you say yes, you will probably be right and if you say no, you will probably be right also. So how will you describe your day tomorrow?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Relationship Responsibility

How are you taking responsibility for your relationships?

Let's focus on "work" relationships for now (though all of this will apply to all your relationships).

When you look back many years from now, how do you want to look back on your relationships?

Think about it this way, when it is time for you look back at your career or a certain job, how do your relationships help? How do your relationships feel? How much of YOUR success is based on relationships?

Now here is such an obvious reminder - your relationships are developing with every passing moment. Every encounter. Every discussion.

Some simple questions to help in a more "day-to-day" way, especially when you feel REAL busy:

How do others feel about themselves when they leave your presence?
How are others reminded (this afternoon!) about how you feel about your relationships?

You OWN your relationship if you take responsibility for them, so what is it going to be?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Action compliments are nice, but "YOU" compliments ROCK!

We have all probably heard that compliments can be more powerful when you provide detail.

So "I like your tie" is nice, but "I like your tie and how it matches your eyes" will be more memorable (though possibly corny and in some cases be viewed as a pick-up line!)

So "the workpaper you prepared was well done" is nice, but "the workpaper you prepared was great, especially the way you linked the results of the analytical procedures performed in revenues to the related expense accounts."

Providing more detail makes a compliment more memorable and people will know better what kind of "actions" to repeat.

BUT there are also other types of compliments, those that may be harder to pick out and those that will be less common, but can be VERY powerful. These are "YOU" compliments.

What are "YOU" compliments? I distinguish "you" from "action" compliments because action compliments describe specific actions a person did, where as "you compliments" go beyond that and provide more about what level that person has achieved.

Let me give you some examples. Notice these comments are NOT necessarily specific, but they are about the other person. (They may in fact elicit follow up questions from the person being complimented.) They are, however, loaded. They make the receiver of the comment think about their contribution...

"I like the way you approached the meeting this morning. You brought your best self and your attitude rubbed off on others."

"I was surprised by how well you handled that criticism from Ted. Most people would have just fired back and fought him, but you are at another level now in the way you lead others."

These "YOU" comments make people ponder where they are, where they have been, and in short they allow people some time and space to feel proud about their growth. When you can do that more often, when you can just be on the look-out more often to uncover these "YOU" compliments, WATCH OUT for the kind of empowering environment you help create based on how people will respond!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Do you TRUST your "system" or is email hijacking it?

Touch things once! I have blogged about this previously. You have probably heard that comment from many sources. We are only supposed to touch emails once, and letters, and memos, and file folders, and blah blah blah.

The question is -- Why is this so hard? Why do we touch things multiple times?

Think about some emails you receive .... emails that invariably sit in your inbox longer than they should .... emails that you glance at multiple times. This may be because:

1.) You are not sure what to do with it.
2.) You are sure what to do with it, but you need it to stay there to remind you later "what to do".
3.) You are waiting on someone or something else before you take action.

These examples are all inputs that need to go into your "system". Unfortunately when an input comes to us in the form of an email we forget about our "system" and work within our email "system".

Let me explain that a little better with an example: If someone (let's call him Ted) walks into your office and requests you to attend a meeting next week, but you are still not sure if you are going to be on a business trip, you must DO something with that request. "Ted I'll have to get back to you ..." (and you make a note somewhere, put it on a list, make a to-do, etc. so you will know to get back to Ted)

However, if someone sends you an email with the same request to be in a meeting next week, the very same meeting that you are not sure you can attend yet, many of us have conditioned our self to simply leave the email in our inbox. There it is - instead of putting it into your system, you have made your email inbox work as an extra part of your system. Now you have multiple systems!

Put another way, it's as if you told "Ted" to just stay right in your doorway and continue to ask you to attend the meeting UNTIL you are able to get back to him. Poor Ted! He is going to get tired standing there with his mouth open, but Ted actually becomes part of your system because you know he will be there!

So challenge yourself to "process" your emails and take the actions to where they need to be (a to-do list, action list, your calendar, etc.) -- YOUR SINGLE (TRUSTED) SYSTEM!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"The Vacation Phenomena" for Time Management

Many accountants (and others for that matter) have noted to me they "manage their time" well right before they go on vacation. Could it be the excitement of the vacation that gets their energy and productivity levels revving? Sure, and there are two things I have noticed when you explore the vacation phenomena a little more ..

(1) They plan! They review their open projects and priorities and plan to act to be where they need those items to be when they leave.

That sounds obvious but why can't we do that more on "normal days"? Where do you need to be at the end of the day? They take the time to reflect on where they are versus where they need to be....and they prioritize! Their to-do list will not be completed but the most important actions (and results) will! Interestingly, I find those about to go on vacation more realistic with what they will actually be able to "get done" and they also are better at saying "no", another skill we can challenge ourselves to do more.

(2) Related to #1, they look for closure! They want to know anything that is delegated is thoroughly understood. They want to get certain projects either finished or to a pretty specific and measurable milestone. In short they want to know exactly where everything stands when they leave and they want others to know that also.

Since most of us continually work in teams, wouldn't it be great if that happened more .... we all know where we "stand"?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A New Year Goal - Two considerations when creating it

New Years Resolutions: They are sometimes exciting to create, exciting to start, but many times they are not as exciting to continue....

Why is that?

Two BIG reasons:

1.) If you have a new goal and chances are it is pretty big, have you actually created a realistic plan around achieving your goal? What keeps you on track? How is it SO motivating and inspiring that you will "sacrifice" to ensure you stay on track? Where do you start? How have you documented it? How have you shared it with others? How are you (or others) going to hold yourself accountable? How do you allocate the time needed? and that brings us to #2 ....

2.) If you are going to be doing something "new" chances are that will take up some or a lot of your time. So, the simple but sometimes difficult question is: What will you NOT do so you can do the "new" thing(s)? What will you eliminate in your life so you can replace it with your new goal(s)? You did not achieve them in the past and you filled up that time with something else, so what is it? Consider documenting that also. That can be just as powerful.