Saturday, December 6, 2014

Don't Underestimate the Quiet Ones

Last night was the kind of night a parent lives for.  My 11-year-old performed in her first drama production, and she nailed it.  I was a wreck as I waited for her to come on, praying it would go well after all her hard work, and it went beautifully.  

To most people, my daughter seems shy, timid, introverted, and perhaps lacking confidence.  Underneath that quiet exterior lies an assertive girl who knows her mind, knows who she is, and doesn’t miss a beat.  After rehearsal the day she first performed her part for the group, a fellow cast member said as we walked out: “You did a good job.  I underestimated you.”

It’s easy to underestimate introverts.  But it’s a mistake, especially in business.  Dr. Lynda Shaw writes

Introverts are often misjudged as shy, possibly boring and with a tendency not to speak up, potentially because they lack opinions and ideas, but in reality they may just be preferring to take a back seat initially to enable them to assess a situation. They may be fantastic listeners and are often thorough.

Some corporate executives may view introversion as a barrier to leadership yet according to the book Quiet: the Power of the Introvert by Susan Cain, introverts tend to be more successful in the workplace. When employees are passive and looking for leadership from above, it pays for the boss to be an extrovert. By contrast, in environments where the business model revolves around more teamwork and interaction, it may be better to have a more reflective boss.

If I have learned anything from working with some amazing, smart, talented introverts, and from living with my tenacious, strong-willed, introverted daughter, it is to never underestimate the quiet ones.  They just may be your best assets.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Are your ears open?

Yesterday, after a fun Thanksgiving, my parents gave me the treat of taking my kids to see Disney's new movie Big Hero Six. The kids loved it, and my six year old quotes it all the time now, but the reason I mention it is because of what my 11-year-old said. 

She caught us off guard when she explained to us in detail how this Disney flick was all about loss, the stages of grief, and how different people handle loss and grief.

This was one of those times I was reminded of how often wisdom comes when you least expect it, and perhaps from where you least expect it.

In our CPA firms, are we listening for pearls of wisdom from everyone possible?  Are our ears open for that great idea, that next great innovation from the young and the old alike?

Rita Keller quotes William Allen White as saying:

“Youth should be radical. Youth should demand change in the world. Youth should not accept the old order if the world is to move on. But the old orders should not be moved easily — certainly not at the mere whim or behest of youth. There must be clash and if youth hasn’t enough force or fervor to produce the clash the world grows stale and stagnant and sour in decay.”

I won't claim to be humble, since once you claim to have humility you've lost it.  I will, however, strive to keep my ears and my mind open for all the great insights and ideas that are out there and that most definitely are not my own.

Friday, November 21, 2014

How "Groundhog Day" Changed My Life

It's the time of year when 1st graders like my son bring home decorated turkeys along with essays on the things they are thankful for. One of my son's essays expressed gratitude for school, and listed several reasons why he was thankful. I applauded the message and said how wonderful it was that he enjoyed school and recognized it was a blessing.

It came as no surprise the next morning when he reverted to his usual self and complained when it was time to go to school. He went on to clarify that his essay was written under duress ("I had to do it"), and he's really not thankful for school.  He just likes "home days."  Funny enough, he is delighted each evening to recite the day's events in detail to relive all the fun he's had.

This reminded me of when I learned an unexpected lesson in my Introduction to Film class my freshman year of college, certainly not where I thought I'd hear a message that resonates with me still almost 20 years later.  The movie for the week was, I thought, your run-of-the-mill comedy with Bill Murray called "Groundhog Day."  I enjoyed the movie, but didn't exactly find it life-changing.

Then the professor began to speak on the simple message he believed the film shares:

You can choose to live your life with gratitude or with resentment.

With this in mind, the movie did take on a new meaning for me, as I saw the protagonist's motives and actions change when he stopped living in self-pity, and began living for both himself and others.

And so, whether at work or at home, my intent is to exemplify gratitude for what I have, rather than waste energy feeling resentment.  There are much better things to devote one's energy to!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Key to Success? Grit.

Yesterday, I enjoyed lunch with a former, very respected colleague who said something one could choose to take as a compliment or otherwise, I chose to take it as a compliment (as he intended). We were discussing our respective goals for the future, and he said: "If you decide you're going to do something, I wouldn't want to stand in your way."

I like to think he was saying I have grit. This got me thinking about my favorite TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth: The Key to Success? Grit. It's only 6 minutes long, and worth every second to watch.

Some of my favorite words from her address are: In all her studies, she says that "one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn't social intelligence. It wasn't good looks, physical health, and it wasn't I.Q. It was grit.

"Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it's a marathon, not a sprint."

I hope to exemplify the passion an perseverance she speaks of as I work toward my long term goals.  A marathon of life awaits.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Look Before You Leap

"Look before you leap."

An old saying, and perhaps too heavy on the caution side.  This week, however, I should have pulled this particular cliche off the shelf and dusted it off.

Visiting Twitter, I saw Going Concern posted: "Let's Exchange Heated Words About: The Top 30 Accounting Undergrad Programs."  Curious, I clicked the link, and saw my alma mater was ranked number one.  Without bothering to peruse the site, I simply clicked to comment, entered my name, and typed "BYU rocks!"

Little did I know the storm that would ensue. 

In the past, I've interacted online with individuals who are upfront about their identities and engage in civil discussion.  It was, in hindsight, quite foolish of me to assume this would automatically be the case in a popular accounting-related website.  As one commenter pointed out, if I had taken the time to go through the site before commenting my two words, I would have seen that no one uses their real names there. 

What's done is done, and I learned quite the lesson.  Not all accounting sites have the same crowds, and I better take the time to look before I leap.  Even if the leap is just writing two words out of school pride.

Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Meet the Firms

Last Thursday, I attended a "Meet the Accounting Professionals" event at a nearby state university.  It was great fun, especially since my last "Meet the Firms" was as a student over a decade ago.

Finding a few stellar candidates was the highlight, of course.  Meanwhile, I felt sympathetic to those candidates that did not come across well.  After chatting with colleagues, I've come up with a few simple dos and don'ts for candidates attending such events...
  • Do keep your resume to one page.  Some candidates said "I tried to keep it to one page, but just couldn't."  They should have tried harder.  This is a must.
  • Do research the firms beforehand.  It says a lot that you take the time to learn something as simple as a firm's primary niche, location, or relative size. That being said...
  • Do not use note cards.  It's great to research the company, but don't read the research from a note card.
  • Do not overstay your welcome.  When the conversation stops flowing naturally, it is likely time to say thank you and give a farewell handshake.  That said, don't suddenly leave if it's going great and the firm member is clearly engaged.
  • Do speak loudly enough to be heard.  I'm not suggesting shouting at people, but in a busy event the firm member should not have to lean in or repeatedly ask "I'm sorry, what was that?"
  • Do not appear desperate.  Talk of how far you drove or how hard you've been looking for a job is not advisable.
  • Do have questions ready.  Don't leave it up to the firms to ask all the questions.  Keep in mind you are approaching their booth.  
Those are just a few thoughts after the event.  It was such fun I might attend again next year.  In the meantime perhaps a candidate will tell me what the dos and don'ts are as a firm member attending.  Hope I got at least some of them right...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

So sorry to be a nuisance

An everyday occurrence at a department store yesterday got me thinking.

I was at the service counter returning an item, and the clerk helping me continued to carry on a conversation with her fellow clerk. Apparently, someone was either fired or moved from the service desk, and it was quite a scandal. The other clerk has a theory about what was behind it all, but I wasn't there long enough to hear what it was.

What did I find interesting about all that?  Not the actual conversation, as I really didn't care about the drama of the service desk.  What I noticed and disliked was the way they acted as though I weren't there.  As the customer, I should have been the focus of the clerk's attention, but that most definitely was not the case.  Instead I was made to feel like an inconvenience, someone to "deal with" so they could get back to the real issue at hand of their conversation.

When a client calls, or stops by, do we perhaps make them feel that way?  That they are someone to be dealt with so we can get back to more pressing matters?  I hope that's not the way I treat my clients.  I'm sure to be more aware of it going forward, having been treated like a nuisance myself.

Best to give clients our full, undivided attention.  They are sure to notice and appreciate it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Gadgets and Gizmos

"I've got gadgets and gizmos aplenty. I've got who's-its and what's-it's galore..."

Like the Little Mermaid, many of us have gadgets and gizmos aplenty.

With so much technology available to us, we'd be smart to ask ourselves a couple of questions:
  • How are we using technology?
  • How do we want to be using technology?
For some, electronics are primarily a recreational thing, and that's great.  For others, including myself, electronics are hopefully a means of being productive. 

A recent study performed by LinkedIn looks at our uses of various social media, mainly that we view our personal and professional networks differently.  Are we looking to kill time, or to invest time?

You're probably going to get a lot more satisfaction from your gadgets and gizmos if you decide what you really want to use them for, be it personal or professional or a mix of both, and then actually do that.

(So I guess this was a stating-the-obvious post today.  I like to think I'm good at that.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dealing with disappointment

Some things in life are universal, such as disappointment and loss.  Whether it's losing a job, failing the CPA exam, missing out on a promotion, or losing a loved one - everyone experiences it at some point.

With any loss, the healthiest way to deal is to let yourself actually grieve.  Be mad, be disappointed, be sad, be angry, be whatever - because what happened sucked.

The goal is to eventually get to a place of acceptance.  This isn't white-washing the situation and pretending it never happened.  It's accepting your life has a new normal.

As the experts say:
Acceptance is often confused with the notion of being “all right” or “OK” with what has happened. This is not the case. Most people don’t ever feel OK. This stage is about accepting the reality and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. We will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually we accept it. We learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which we must learn to live.

For me, the new normal is life without the grandfather that I saw every week and adored.  Whatever your loss and the resulting new normal, I hope you can make your way to acceptance, which I'm on the journey to. 

Life's too short to live completely in the past, or with "what-ifs" hanging over you. Try to move forward with a different job, another sitting of the CPA exam, life without the promotion, or life without your loved one.  Make the best of the new normal that you can.

Why do I write about this?  Because even we accountants are human, and some times stuff happens.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Don't Deny the Facts

If you've read a few posts on this blog, then by now you're likely aware that I'm a fan of Seth Godin.  He writes for marketers, but his insights apply well beyond the marketing realm.
Today he wrote about one of my favorite topics: facing truth so you can make things better.  This is the stuff of G.K. Chesterton and the optimists, pessimists, and improvers.
Mr. Godin writes:
Transformational leaders don't start by denying the world around them. Instead, they describe a future they'd like to create instead...
Gandhi didn't pretend the British weren't dominating his country, and Feynman didn't challenge Einstein's theory of relativity or the laws of thermodynamics. 
It's okay to say, "this is going to be difficult." And it's productive to point out, "our product isn't as good as it should be yet."
Just remember when you're facing the truth about yourself, your career, your organization, or anything else in your life, to still celebrate what's going right.

In terms of the glass half full or half empty, take the improver approach.  You'll be glad you did.