Basecamp | AICPA ENGAGE 2019

 

BASE CAMP

Seek higher peaks
June 9–13 | Las Vegas or attend online

Base Camp is where all AICPA ENGAGE 2019 conferences converge

Think of it as your first stop on the journey to discover the latest resources and hot topics for the accounting & finance profession.

See what's new

Podcasts

Amy Vetter, CPA, CGMA, CITP, CEO, The B3 Method Institute (QuickStart Training) | View speaker biography

Original podcast can be found here.

Amanda Wilkie, PMP, Consultant, Boomer Consulting, Inc | View speaker biography

Original podcast can be found here.



Videos

Learning to go beyond disruption

Posted by AICPA on Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Human Intelligence: Emotional Intelligence

Posted by AICPA on Friday, March 1, 2019
 

Articles

Let your humanity disrupt your technology use, not the other way around

By Mballa Mendouga

Ping! Behold: the sound of the first morning email. Unfortunately, that undeniable sign of the work day starting is the exact kind of wakeup call you needed. I wouldn’t say rolling out of bed at 7AM is the easiest thing after a late-night session of mindless scrolling, but hey, you spent the entire previous day responding to emails and fixing that PowerPoint pitch for your client. You deserve a little tech-fueled R&R. “Alexa, play ‘Island in the Sun’”

Your life is complex, and technology has been there for you, simplifying it every step of the way, right? It helps you get up for work, it helps you do your work, it helps you socialize and plan. What’s not to love? So, you mosey on to the bathroom mirror, eyes still glued to the screen, stumbling with exhaustion, and there it is. There’s that embarrassing weekly notification: “You average 8h 46m of screen time a day!” (I don’t know if Android users get these, so if not, here’s a glimpse of the dark side).

“WHAT?!”

No wonder you’re so tired – so stressed! No wonder you toss and turn all night! Unplugging is hard, but is your willful ignorance finally taking its toll? Do you have a problem?

In continued celebration of Women’s History Month, the Go Beyond Disruption podcast hosted the insightful Amy Vetter. Vetter, a CPA, CGMA, and yogi, who helps finance professionals make their way out of that technological blackhole. She shares tips on mindful technology – the practice of being present, aware, and thus intentional about our technology use. This promotes healthier relationships with our gadgets and an all-around healthier state of being. Here’s are four things we learned from her:

  • Women need eight to ten hours of sleep at night, and men need seven to nine – and it’s not happening. Long work hours, late-night television and phone-use before bed are keeping people from meeting their sleep quota. Sleep clears emotions from the day before and ultimately allows us to be more present at work and with our families. It’s a vital component for optimal brain function. Maybe the email can wait until tomorrow morning.
  • Your choice to focus on text messages rather than people is hurting your relationships. Consider the message that you’re sending a person who’s prepared an entire presentation only to see you check your phone several throughout it. What about the experience you’re creating for someone trying to have a conversation with you? Use your emotional intelligence. What you’re really saying is, “I’m bored, and you’re just not that important.” Rude! Try using the ‘do not disturb’ feature on your phone to give people your full attention. A better option is to take your phone off the table altogether. These baby steps to unplug from your phone in moments that should prioritize human connection can lead to long term success in personal and business relationships.
  • It might be time to delete this lie from your resume: Strong ability to multitask. The truth is, you can’t – or maybe you can, but it’s hurting more than it’s helping. According to Vetter, multitasking actually makes your IQ drop a couple of points. So, avoid the deadly trap of scrolling down your timeline or reading your email while you watch TV. It’s to your benefit to stay sharp. After all, the robots are coming!
  • Vetter is founder of the B3 method: Business + Balance = Bliss. Some business situations – whether meetings, projects or presentations – create stress for us. Take the time to find the best ways to balance this stress. Whether it’s taking a walk or listening to music, it’s important to give our brain a rest so we can be more efficient and more productive during the day. These activities are healthier substitutes for technology use before bed.

One thing we know for sure: disruption is here. Technology is fueling change in all areas of our lives at an alarming rate, and all these changes can become stressors. Yoga has been Vetter’s tool of choice, but she encourages anything that will allow you to be alone with your thoughts and feelings to take inventory on your personal needs. But first, you must unplug to figure what it is you need to alleviate stress. Your well-being depends on it.

Learn more by listening to Vetter’s episode of the Go Beyond Disruption podcast.

***

Mballa Mendouga, Communications - Manager, Corporation Social Responsibility & Campaigns, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Original article can be found here.

Are you overlooking emotional intelligence in your career?

By Kari Hipsak, CPA, CGMA

You’re in the office and see a colleague approaching. You likely say hi and ask how they’re doing. Your colleague will likely answer with some rendition of good, great or for those who prefer grammatical accuracy, ‘doing well.’ Are they actually great, or did your colleague just lie to you? Many people respond without giving much thought to the question. They may say they’re doing great as they struggle to hold in sadness, frustration or anger. What happens when you read between the lines using your emotional intelligence (EI)? Communication becomes more personal and meaningful when the parties exhibit EI. Being able to transcend normal interactions using EI is becoming increasingly important as technology advances to complete mundane tasks. Machines may be taking parts of our jobs but using our human attributes to be a team player, is more important than ever before.

In a nutshell, EI is the ability to express your emotions appropriately and manage or respond to relationships empathetically. Having EI doesn’t mean you have 100% control over your emotions. EI is recognizing your emotions and the emotions of others and reacting properly. EI puts you in a position to better understand the relationships around you, which is important at work to make the most of your everyday interactions with colleagues. Sympathizing with another is a task no machine can do in a warm way.

Everyone has a certain level of EI, known as their Emotional Quotient (EQ), and everyone will test at their own level. We’ve all had life experiences that have shaped us, and it’s important to acknowledge those experiences. I, for instance, grew up in a household with an autistic brother. I sincerely believe the experiences I had growing up shaped my EI. You may believe like I do that other people have been dealt more difficult cards, but that doesn’t make anyone’s journey less transformative to their EI development.

If you don’t feel your EI isn’t at its fullest potential, it’s possible to flex your EI muscles.. Here are three ideas to help you get started:

  • Be aware – Acknowledge your feelings and how you react to certain situations.
  • Practice empathy – Try putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • Acknowledge results of your actions – Pay attention to how people respond to you. Do they shy away or open up when you tell jokes?

A certain level of judgment when refined can be used in numerous situations throughout your career. Just a few include:

  • Confidence – Reading the room can give you insight into your audience during a big presentation. Adjust your method if your audience isn’t as engaged as you’d like.
  • Advancement – Want to ask your boss about an opportunity for a promotion? You might want to reconsider the timing on a day when their eyebrows are constantly furrowed in frustration.
  • Teamwork – Before you get too frustrated with your colleague, and say something insensitive that may lead to long term tension, acknowledge their emotions. Do they seem completely disinterested in work that day? Our work and personal lives are connected. Maybe something from home is weighing on their mind.

If I use the phrase, “random acts of kindness”, everyone knows what that means. We do something kind for another not knowing their emotional state. Emotional Intelligence gives us to the tools to act with intent. Going back to your interaction with your colleague, did you notice if their smile seems forced as they said they were great? Maybe they don’t want to talk about what’s really going on in their lives, but it gives you an opportunity to acknowledge them as a person with emotions and provides an opportunity for an emotionally intelligent intentional act of kindness.

During this time when more and more jobs are at risk of being automated, one thing separates people from the technology that can do each job more effectively – you. Your experiences, the things that have shaped you and made you able to connect with your colleagues are imperative to organizational success. Be a human - you were made for it.

***

Kari Hipsak, CPA, CGMA, Senior Manager – Firm Services, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Original article can be found here.

Needed now: female financial planners

By Susan Bruno, CPA, PFS

Mind-blowing. That is the word that pops in my head whenever I see the statistics on women needing financial planning and the corresponding number of women planners available to provide those services. The numbers tell a story that needs a new ending:...

  • Women age 65 and older are three times more likely than men to be widowed, and 46% of women over 75 live alone.
  • 55% of women between 25 and 34 prefer working with female financial advisors.
  • Women represent only 15.7% of the financial planning industry
  • Only one third of women surveyed by Prudential in 2015 said they were either on track or ahead in their retirement plan.

The current story is we have millions of women in the U.S. who need a financial planner to help them prepare for their post-retirement years and live comfortably (and perhaps independently). But the reality is these women have limited or no options to work with a woman planner. The plot thickens when you consider almost 40% of approximately 310,500 financial advisors plan to retire within the next 10 years, according to a 2017 report by Cerulli Associates. That means even fewer female planners will be available unless serious recruitment gets underway.

Before I go on, I want to be clear that my concern over the lack of female financial planners is not a reflection in any way on male planners or an inference that women planners are better. It’s simply a different dynamic. Women planners can add another perspective. Women are wired differently (literally and figuratively), as this Forbes article points out, which enhances their ability to communicate and see the big picture, vital skills for financial planning.

Financial planning is similar to certain other professions in that a client trusts someone with their personal information and relies on their expertise to make decisions that may substantially affect their life. Some people prefer one gender over another when they seek a planner, just as they would a doctor or a lawyer. Women may be more comfortable discussing their financial habits or learning about investment strategies with another woman, particularly if they want to admit that they don’t understand something.

So why is there such a shortage of women in the industry? The Cerulli study indicated the majority of women advisors see work-life balance as an obstacle. I find this statistic puzzling, as I see flexibility as one of the major benefits of being a financial planner. Think about it: You’re not tied to an audit or tax return deadline, and to some or even a great extent, you can meet with clients at times that work well with your schedule. Need to pick up your daughter from soccer practice at 4 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays? No problem, you simply avoid scheduling appointments during that time.

My theory is that this statistic represents a larger issue – misconceptions about the industry. I think financial planning gets lumped in with other services such as asset management and investment advising, which can discourage a woman who is more interested in helping people with life choices than acting as a broker. I suspect a lot of people have no idea that part of being a planner is knowing about things like disability insurance. Bottom line: If you have good people skills (especially listening), good math skills, and a desire to learn and help others, you could be on the way to becoming a stellar financial planner.

It’s clear what the challenge is. But the question is, how do we address it? This problem didn’t evolve overnight, so it won’t go away that fast either. But firms can take steps now so that in a few years, we will be talking about this subject differently.

Mentoring
Mentoring is perhaps the most critical action to start encouraging women to consider financial planning as a career option. I have found mentoring extremely rewarding. I won’t sugarcoat the effort involved – it’s definitely an investment of your time and energy – but I have never regretted it. If you’re thinking of mentoring or setting up a program at your practice, I would suggest keeping an open mind about eligible mentees. We may be prone to associating mentoring with interns or junior staff, but anyone can benefit from it. Is there a senior manager who is great with clients and dropping hints she is ready for a change?

Examine and Debunk Misperceptions
As I mentioned before, flexibility is a benefit of being a financial planner, and the more we can educate women about that, the better. However, firms should be upfront about how much flexibility is truly allowed – touting a work-life balance will lead to problems if the firm culture doesn’t encourage it in practice. Similarly, examine the revenue model, where other misperceptions may lie – if someone starting out does not need to take a pay cut or build a significant client base to retain their current salary, make sure everyone knows that. Finally, as a profession, we need to continue to inform women of the skills that help make a good financial planner (e.g., problem solving, listening) to encourage them to join the ranks.

Expanding college curriculums
We also need to encourage more colleges and universities to offer financial planning courses, which would be instrumental in prompting students to consider planning as a potential career choice. Up until 10 years ago, very few schools offered it. Given the pending shortage of financial planners, I hope we see this option on more curriculums.

I consider myself lucky to have worked for someone who understood the value of offering holistic advice to clients (a partner at Deloitte, Haskins & Sells) and brought me into this field years ago. I love what I do and I love being the first person my clients come to for advice, and I am excited about the prospect of more women pursuing financial planning and enjoying those same rewards.

Next month, I will be part of a panel at the AICPA ENGAGE conference talking about the incredible potential of female planners that has yet to be tapped, and ways that firms can recruit, reward and retain them. I hope you can join us.

***

Susan Bruno, CPA, PFS, Managing Director, Capital Wealth Advisors. Susan creates customized solutions for high-net-worth individuals and families. Recognized among her peers for her leadership, advocacy and philanthropy, Susan is the co-founder of DivaCFO and CollegeCFO.com. DivaCFO is a women’s empowerment platform to help women take charge of their personal finances and CollegeCFO is a student-driven initiative to help prepare young adults ages 18-24 for a successful future.

Original article can be found here.

Give feedback that feeds performance

By Kristen Rampe, CPA

As a training and leadership development consultant for accounting firms, I’ve found that providing feedback is one of the top challenges for management. When it’s done well and promptly, giving performance feedback can yield huge benefits – more productivity, better relationships, and more loyal, engaged employees. However, providing consistent, timely and honest feedback is something many managers struggle with.

The performance review is a prime example of inconsistency in how many supervisors provide feedback. In written reviews managers often address issues that they’ve avoided in face-to-face discussions. By the time the employee reads the review, they feel blindsided. Without a dialogue, how can they share their perspective? How can they fix a problem they never knew existed? This pattern applies to many, if not all, other industries, to the point that major companies such as General Electric are scrapping annual reviews altogether.

Being timely is just as important. I often hear from supervisors who sometimes delay difficult discussions, fearing the reaction they’ll get. Or they’ll use email in place of a verbal conversation, which may result in the message being interpreted more harshly than intended.

The fear most managers have is in appearing disagreeable, or just plain mean. To offer ideal feedback, I recommend my clients describe specific actions or behaviors in the most neutral terms possible, rather than using labels such as “unprofessional” or “uncooperative.” When an employee repeatedly comes in late, for example, point out what time they are arriving and ask what could help them arrive earlier. You can even ask what’s keeping them from showing up on time. Adopting neutral language reduces defensiveness, which makes the conversation easier for both parties.

I also recommend explaining the impact of their actions. CPAs can certainly relate to an impact that involves numbers such going X dollars over budget or wasting X number of hours (or billable hours lost).

However, I’m not suggesting that feelings be completely omitted from the dialogue. As a former Big 4 accountant, I know that discussing feelings is not a common practice. A study of consulting firms that included law and accounting companies bears this out. These industries employ a concentration of “insecure overachievers” who work extremely hard and refrain from sharing their feelings, blaming themselves if they experience burnout or fail to meet expectations.

While drama does not belong in the workplace, feelings do. None of us are robots, and it’s healthy to acknowledge our own and others’ feelings in any situation.

But discussions of feelings should take place outside the context they create. If you are angry about what someone did, hold off on that feedback until you’ve cooled off a bit. I say this from experience, and here’s a real-life story about it.

A finished project I’d requested from an associate was not at all what I’d asked for. I was annoyed and angry, and initially wanted to criticize every issue I had with her report. Instead, I calmed down first, then invited her to my office to talk about it. After hearing her explanation of what she thought the assignment was, I realized how my directions were misinterpreted. It was a lesson for me on being clearer, and on the value of pausing before discussing heated issues.

We all need those lessons, so here is a short list of DOs and DON’Ts for giving feedback.

Don’t:

  • Take the easy way out by emailing someone about an issue and shutting down avenues for hearing their side of the story. Speak with them first and listen to their perspective with an open mind.
  • Describe the problem or behavior using labels that are broad, harsh or subject to misunderstanding.
  • Explaining to someone that they are talking over other team members who are trying to contribute to the discussion is much more helpful and clear than simply saying they are not acting like a team player.
  • React immediately if you’re angry or frustrated with the person

Do:

  • Review how often you are providing feedback. Is it timely? Can it be done more regularly to give the person an opportunity to make changes?
  • Pay attention to the balance of negative versus positive feedback. How often are you telling your team members what they are doing well?
  • Make sure it really is a problem before bringing it up. In other words, avoid nitpicking and focus on consistently demonstrated behaviors.

By taking both the work AND the worker into consideration, you can have a productive conversation that can reward good habits and help change bad ones, without creating new problems for you and your team.

***

Kristen Rampe, CPA, Principal - Kristen Rampe Consulting. Kristen Rampe, CPA, is the owner of Kristen Rampe Consulting, which provides leadership development, coaching and training to forward-thinking accounting professionals and their firms.

Original article can be found here.

Send the right message without saying a word

By Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA, CGMA, CITP

Actionable Professional Body Language Tips

Do you remember the last time that someone changed your mind at work? What did the person say that convinced you to change your thoughts? Was it the words they said or how they said it to you?

In professional settings, the nonverbal messages people process consciously and subconsciously change the way they perceive messages. Are you a person that conveys positive and powerful non-verbal cues in your interactions with others? Body language plays a crucial role in how people respond to your words and retain the information you transmit.

What is the expression on your face?

Let’s start at the top and work our way down. It takes a human less than a second to understand another human’s emotions through their facial expressions. What countenance do you have when you are talking to someone? Are you smiling, smirking, frowning or straight-faced? What are your eyebrows doing? To communicate well, you should show the proper expression for the tone of the conversation while raising your eyebrows every once in a while, which signals that you’re listening to the other person or that the other person should listen to you more intently. If you are listening, you should be nodding your head slightly; either no head movement or too much nodding can indicate discomfort or hesitation to agree.

If it’s appropriate, smile during conversations and while listening in meetings. When you smile, you change your body chemistry to produce less cortisol (stress hormone), and you feel better. People also tend to smile when others are smiling, so you will bring positivity to others with your smile.

Are you embracing the situation with open arms?

Crossing your arms can send the message that you are not interested in what other people have to say or that you are nervous to talk to people. Crossed arms also creates a physical barrier between you and the other people in the room. Uncrossing your arms is difficult to do because you may be cold or unaware you are doing it. One way to ensure your arms are uncrossed is to use complementary hand gestures as you are talking. If you let your hands speak with you, your passion will be more evident.

What your mid-section is doing matters.

Your chest and back should be straight. If you are slouching, you will bring less oxygen into your body, which will make you more tired, out of breath and unfocused. Your core should be tight. Engaging core muscles helps lengthen your back. When you lengthen your back, your shoulders have a tendency to rise up with tension toward the neck. Exhale, and move your shoulders down to put them in the right position, which will help you retain energy, vocal power and a strong physical presence.

Mirroring others’ positive gestures is an excellent way to establish rapport with the person or group you are addressing. For example, if you are in a meeting and the other person puts their hands on the table, you can help build trust with that person if you do the same behavior.

If you demonstrate too aggressive or too passive of a behavior, the other person may behave the opposite way. For example, if you take up a large amount of space with your gestures – standing tall, hands on hips, wide eyes – then the person you are talking to may slouch, cross arms or look down. Be mindful of what your nonverbals are conveying, and adjust for the situation.

Where do your feet want to go?

You want your feet to be pointing toward the person or audience you are addressing. If you are listening to someone, be mindful of where your feet are. If you want to invite someone else into the conversation, turn your feet slightly toward that person to indicate it’s okay to join. If you want to demonstrate respect for another person, stand with your legs and feet together. If you want to portray power, stand with your legs and feet hip-distance apart.

When you walk into a room, if you walk slowly, you convey contemplation and calmness. If you walk quickly, you convey confidence and competence. Think about the tone of the meeting and adjust your gait.

How are you feeling?

The way you feel will affect your body language. If you are either nervous or confident, your micro-expressions will give you away in your face, body and voice. If you anticipate an important interaction (meeting, presentation, discussion, etc.), prepare your mind and body. One element that can help is music. If you need to calm down, listen to relaxing music, and if you need to build confidence within yourself, listen to anthems and upbeat songs. Find what works for you, and be aware of what you need to do to prepare for interactions with others.

Put it all together

Positive body language works because of the mirroring neurons in the premotor cortex of our brains. These neurons are activated when we see others perform behaviors, and we feel the same behavior in our brains. Implement positive body language from head to toe, and your charisma will make you a better interpersonal communicator.

***

Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA, CGMA, CITP.

Original article can be found here.

6 Ways to Up Your Networking Game

By Heather Hollick

I used to be afraid of networking. As an avowed introvert with a moderate case of shyness, too often I would pass up opportunities to meet and connect with people. Much later in life I would discover that networking was an acquired skill and was well within my reach. I let go of my fear of rejection when I realized that networking was not about me, but was about building relationships and finding ways to be helpful to others. I can do that. You can too.

Networking, at its essence, is the simple but profound activity of creating, freshening and strengthening an array of mutually beneficial professional relationships with a diverse cross-section of people. Here are a few tips that will help you up your game, especially when meeting people at events or in large groups.

Prepare Your Introduction
When someone asks, “What do you do?” for goodness sake, don’t just tell them what you do. Come prepared to respond with a couple of sentences that will give people a sense of who you are and the impact you aspire to have on the world. Most importantly, assume that their intentions, like yours, are to be helpful and give them something to work with. For example, don’t recite your job title, tell them the kind of people you work with and the ways in which you help them. Try sharing something that you are working on — at home, work or in your career. Good networkers will be intrigued and will try to respond in a helpful way.

Honor Your Personal Preferences
Play to your strengths. Introverts and extraverts should network very differently. At events, for example, it’s natural for extraverts to gravitate to the center of the room, dancing in and out of conversations along the way. This is how extraverts get their bearings and find their energy. It’s no less natural, however, for an introvert to plant themselves near the outside of the room and observe: not paralyzed, but confident; not fearful, but curious. This is how introverts get their bearings and find their energy.

Don’t push yourself to the center of the room unless you are inclined to do so. People will find you where you are. Step out to a less hectic place if the room is too noisy to hold a conversation. On more than one occasion I have retreated to a quiet lobby from a busy conference hall only to have a small cadre of like-minded networkers follow suit. The calmer environment made for much more productive networking.

Watch the Body Language
Not only do individuals tell a story with their body language — arms crossed, shoulders slouched, for example — but groups of people do as well. When you are looking for a conversation to join, read the signals of the group before inserting yourself. For example, when two people are standing face to face, directly across from each other, they are engaged in a closed conversation. Interruptions are not recommended here. Instead, look for two people standing in a ‘V’ formation. The open arrangement of their feet is a subconscious signal that new members are welcome in the conversation.

Similarly, a group of three or more people standing in a closed circle is not open to new members. Look for groups in a ‘U’ shape with an opening at one end. That opening is for you. Feel free to step up and join in.

Ask Good Questions
Show empathy and ask interesting questions. Instead of asking people what they do — an actual dud of a question — try asking, “What are you working on?” This is a wonderful, open-ended question that invites both parties to lean in. It can elicit responses ranging from the trivial to the sublime. As they answer, rack your brain for information, favors or introductions that may be helpful.

Extend a Hand
Shaking hands is an important ritual in America and other western cultures. Lean in to a handshake when meeting someone (“It’s very nice to meet you”) and again as you part (“It has been a pleasure talking with you”).

Keep at least one hand free. Avoid the temptation to laden yourself down with all manner of food and beverage, napkins, notebooks, handouts and handbags. If food or beverages are involved, carry them in your left hand, leaving your right hand free for handshakes and the exchange of business cards.

Follow Up
Follow-up is essential to building good relationships. When speaking with someone, make a special effort to remember names, dates and points of interest. Make notes to yourself as soon as it’s convenient and update your address book when you get back to your desk. Then, send emails, pass on any articles or information and offer to make introductions that seem appropriate or compelling.

Before I Go
An active network is a tremendous asset, the lifeblood of any vibrant career. It’s also uniquely yours, something you carry with you throughout your life. The secret to being a good networker is to embrace it with a spirit of helpfulness: it’s not so much about meeting people as it’s about the creating and freshening of connections, and it’s not focused on getting something, but rather the constant exchange of favors and information.

I wish you success.

***

Heather Hollick, leadership, career, team and life coach. Heather is on a mission to make the world a better place to work, and has a knack for helping both introverts and extraverts find their voices and make an impact. She is the author of the upcoming book, What Are You Working On? — A Guide to Life, Careers, and the Art of Networking. You can learn more about Heather at: HeatherHollick.com.

Original article can be found here.

3 Tips to Help You Remember What You’ve Learned

By Michael Grant

You’ve probably heard the expression use it or lose it. It turns out this applies to learning as well as physical fitness. There is a force that gradually erases all the great insights and instruction you stored in your brain during a learning event called "The Forgetting Curve.” German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus first researched this concept in 1885. The curve illustrates the decline of our memory retention over time if we make no attempt to retain our learning. The further we get from the educational experience, the less information we remember.

The speed at which we forget information is influenced by various factors including the difficulty of the material, how meaningful the information is and how it’s presented. Stress levels and lack of sleep can also have a negative impact. Thankfully there are steps you can take to help you retain what you learned. Here a few of my favorite tips to help you remember.

1. Leverage note taking apps for efficiency
Most learning events (conferences, workshops, virtual classrooms, etc.) present a vast amount of information in a very rapid manner. If you can’t successfully capture rapid-fire insights, then you can’t retain or apply that learning because those insights escaped you. Leverage technology to maximize these moments and keep you in the race for valuable knowledge. Instead of frantically searching for a new pen once yours inevitably runs out of ink just when the best key takeaway is being shared, consider exploring some powerful apps to increase efficiency.

One of my personal favorites is Evernote. This app has the capability to format text, integrate images in-line with text (using the camera feature to photograph whiteboards or slides is popular), search within notes and tag locations and much more. Evernote is downloaded on both my iPhone and iPad. I use it to synchronize all my notebook entries.

2. Share and distribute
Summarizing your key takeaways and insights as if you were planning to teach them could be one of the best ways to retain and apply learning. Research studies show that you can only teach something when you’ve retained that information. An easy way to do this is to share your insights with colleagues at work, via social media channels and/or communities of practice. If you leverage technology apps for efficient note-taking, you have the capability to post directly to Twitter or LinkedIn.

3. Designate a drawer and bookmark browser articles
At your workstation or in your home office use folders for storing articles, slides and participant workbooks from conferences and workshops. Digitally you can store infographics, articles and whitepapers in your online browser bookmarks. Or create a Pinterest board for your professional development. You can pin things you want to read or review later and even share your board with your peers.

Each person has their own preference pertaining to hard or soft copy documents, but mine is to walk around, even if I am just pacing around the office, with documents in hand. I use one color highlighter to mark the strongest, most relevant points and a different color for the nice-to-know points. These valuable documents are then stored in a drawer designated for professional development. My calendar is blocked for two hours of professional development each week. Pulling open my drawer can push my efforts forward towards retaining and applying learning insights with greater intention.

Actively engaging with educational materials and sharing your learning will help you make the most out of your professional development opportunities. Determine what works for you and create a plan before your next learning event to help you commit your new knowledge to memory.

***

Michael Grant, Director, Learning Design & Development, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

Original article can be found here.

Social Media: The Conference Success Secret Weapon

By Liz Rock

Conferences give you the opportunity to network and become energized about the accounting profession and the direction in which it’s heading. Most people know the standard networking methods – attend receptions and collect business cards. But how can you make the most of the experience before, during and after the event?

Social media is present at almost every conference, giving you the opportunity to develop high-quality connections while staying in the loop on all the happenings.

Here are five ways you can utilize social media to make the most of your time and money:

Join the conversation.
As social media becomes omnipresent, if you don’t look to these platforms, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to join conversations about conferences and events. Follow the event hashtag on Twitter and Instagram or see if the organization hosting the event has LinkedIn groups you can join. By using these interactive forums, you can see who else is attending an event, set up conference meetups, and even reach out to influencers who may be on site.

Take and steal digital notes. While you may spend hours planning your schedule prior to a conference, you can’t be in two places at once. When you follow an event hashtag, your peers are putting out quotes and tidbits of information from all different sessions. Not only are they visible for everyone to read, they’re also archived, giving you the ability to go back and learn something new, even if you weren’t physically sitting in the room.

Ditch the business cards.
There’s nothing worse than meeting someone at a reception who could build and enhance your professional network, just to get back to the office and not being able to find their business card. To ensure that you’re able to connect and develop that relationship, pull out your phone and connect with them on LinkedIn. No time to connect on LinkedIn at that moment? Ask to take a photo of their conference ID so you can connect with them when you do have a free moment. Not only will you have the opportunity to learn more about their background, but you’ll eliminate the risk of not being able to follow up.

Engage with brands.
Prior to the event, make sure you’ve followed different brands that will be on site, especially the organization hosting the conference. Most often, they’ll be posting updates or reminders on social about sessions and events that are going on. They often times also use social media to “go live” and give you backstage access to the event and exclusive interviews with speakers.

Follow up.
Often times, your to-do list grows when you return from conferences. You’re excited about new ideas and want to hit the ground running. So how can you find time to connect with the long list of people you met? Be sure you’ve connected with them on LinkedIn and followed them on Twitter. Not only can you stay in touch, but these are peers that will be readily available to help you grow your ideas and utilize learnings from the event. Don’t underestimate the power of the connections you made!

***

Liz Rock, Associate Manager--Enterprise Social Media, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Original article can be found here.

CPE – How to go from scatter-shot to strategic

By Aaron Saito, CPA, CGMA, CVA

Continuing Professional Education or CPE for short is the requirement for CPAs to maintain their accounting proficiency. CPA’s typically are required to renew their CPA license every two years and as part of the renewal a minimum number of CPE credits must be obtained. The specific CPE requirements are regulated by each individual state board of accountancy and vary slightly from state to state. The real question is what the best ways to obtain CPE as there are literally thousands of courses available and new ones available every-day.

With all the CPE choices, it is easy to suffer from analysis paralysis. To help narrow the choices, I advocate you take a strategic approach to CPE. Just like you own your career, you are empowered to select the courses you take. As everyone’s time is extremely valuable before diving in headfirst I suggest taking a step back and perform a self-evaluation of what, when and how you want to learn. Level-setting on these three critical questions ahead of time will pay dividends in the future, by ensuring you are taking CPE that fulfills your own personal development goals, fits into your hectic schedule and taking CPE in a way that suits your learning style.

Individuals learn via a variety of methods which are broken up into four major categories;

1. Visual – learners who prefer to take in information using charts, graphs, diagrams
2. Auditory – learners who learn best when information is heard or spoken
3. Reading – learner learn best from reading the material
4. Kinesthetic – learn from physical doing and experiencing things

Typically people prefer learning a certain way. When information is taught via the preferred method the content resonates quicker, is retained longer and is more enjoyable to learn. For instance, if you learn best auditory, I recommend not taking your CPE thru books. As it will be a struggle to motivate yourself to read the information let alone retain it. Likewise, for kinesthetic learners online web-cast of an expert performing a mono-lecture with a test at the end doesn’t sound like the best either. Remember, there are literally thousands of CPE options, understanding the best way you learn and matching that to CPE programs will be the most rewarding from a professional development perspective.

After understanding what type of learner you are the next question is what type of CPE content do you want to learn. This typically breaks down into three buckets;

1. Short-Term Technical – What are the technical courses required immediately to perform your current job and your clients expect you to know?
2. Long-Term Technical – What are the future upcoming technical accounting issues that you want to learn and that will be applicable to your career path in the future?
3. Non-Technical – Non-technical trainings are ones which develop your non-accounting skills like leadership development, and executive communication. Soft skills become increasingly important the more advanced you get, so do not forget to include these in your CPE trainings.

Think deliberately around the CPE course you want to take. Think about your current strengths and weaknesses and your long-term goals. There should be a strong correlation between the CPE you are taking and that long-term development plan. Too often people get caught in herd mentality and take what others are taking, but before you do ask yourself how the course will help your long-term career goals?

Often we try and “just fit it CPE”. However, by being diligent and performing a little bit of investigation ahead of time you will not miss out on opportunities to take enriching courses which you can schedule your day job around, instead of the other way around. Again, when you think of CPE as a part of your professional development this change in mind-set creates a win-win for your career and your company.

By taking a holistic approach to CPE and being focused on the content you want to learn and how you want to learn it, it will pay dividends in the long-run and make the learning more impactful and fun. So think strategically about your CPE.

***

Aaron Saito, CPA, CGMA, CVA

Tips For Getting Involved in the Accounting Profession

By Jessica Iennarella, CPA/CFF, CFE

Are you interested in making connections with other accounting professionals? What about contributing to the development and future of the profession? Getting involved within the accounting profession has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my career to date but, determining how best to get started can be challenging. The following are a couple of suggestions for dipping your proverbial toe in the professional pool;

1) Consider starting your involvement journey by reaching out to your state’s accounting society. Oftentimes state societies face a harder challenge in recruiting talented, passionate young professionals to volunteer their time. Depending on their current volunteer needs, they may be able to offer more tailored options for you to give back in a way that is most meaningful to you.

2) Volunteer to assist with planning a conference. At least a portion of most accounting conference planning teams are comprised of volunteers. Assisting with planning a conference includes deciding which topics make it on the conference agenda and finding engaging speakers. This is a great way to help make conference materials the most relevant they can be to you and your peers.

3) Write an article about a topic you are passionate about. In the early stages of your career, you may not be in a position to write about a technical topic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t contribute by writing about non-technical topics and tips. Published works often have strict word requirements, which will help you learn to write concisely.

4) Consider teaching a class. Again, early on you may not be qualified to teach on a technical topic but it is never too early to start practicing your public speaking skills. If public speaking is intimidating, consider opportunities to participate in a panel or speak with a partner. Volunteering to speak with students about the accounting profession is a low-risk way to get started, while motivating the next generation of CPAs.

5)The AICPA, as well as some state accounting societies, have scholarship funds. While final decisions are typically made by the societies’ staff, there are frequently more initial applications than can be effectively reviewed by the staff. Volunteering to review scholarship applications is a way to give back while also helping deserving recipients get assistance with starting their own journey.

6) Most professionals can benefit from mentoring at any stage in their career. You may not feel like you have the experience to be a mentor, but if you are in the profession, then you are underestimating yourself. When you were in high school or college, how valuable would a mentor experience with a young professional have been? Mentoring can be as rewarding for the mentor as it is for the mentee and those connections often outlast the official mentor program.

7) Volunteering with the AICPA is an amazing experience, but one which is highly coveted. One of the best ways to get a head start is to connect with other AICPA volunteers who can later assist with recommendations during the application process. You can also inquire if committees have ongoing task forces which are in need of assistance outside of committee members.

Get a head start with making connections and come network with your peers at the 2019 ENGAGE experience in Las Vegas. I hope to see you there!

***

Jessica Iennarella, CPA/CFF, CFE, Forensic Accounting Supervisor, HSNO The Forensics Firm

Tips For Building Team Trust

By Jessica Iennarella, CPA/CFF, CFE

Most of us will have to work in a team at some point in our careers. For many of us, teamwork is a regular part of our workday. Think back to a team you felt was particularly productive. What types of behaviors were present? Were team members anxious, stressed out and/or engaging negatively with each other? Or were members in sync with each other? Building a team that is in sync usually involves building trust between team members. The following are suggestions for strengthening trust amongst teammates:

1) Establish open lines of communication. Several communication styles exist, and while none are wrong, some are less compatible than others. For example, if you are a visual learner and your teammates only present information verbally, you may feel like you are one step behind. Teams should identify how each member communicates best and spend time strategizing a plan that best integrates styles. Trust is easier to build when team members are able to communicate effectively.

2) Members are more likely to trust their fellow teammates if they feel able to achieve success within the team. Set up team members for success by identifying each individuals’ strengths and weaknesses. Tests such as Gallup StrengthsFinder and VIA Character Strengths Test can assist team members with identifying their unique blend of strengths. Consider divvying up tasks by strength area rather than by more quantitative metrics. Team members who give each other opportunities to play to their strengths and succeed, are more likely to build trust.

3) Be constructive when discussing team failures. Most teams experience failure at some point. Those teams who engage in the blame game may split up or experience ongoing failures, as public finger pointing deteriorates trust. Team members should be willing to admit their mistakes, starting with the team leader. A team atmosphere that allows for constructive criticism and honest discussion is more likely to result in a team that learns from the failure and moves forward with lessons learned. If team members perceive the team environment as a safe space, they are more likely to contribute freely.

4) Take time to celebrate team successes. Team members may lose sight of the big picture if the only time the outcome is discussed is when it falls short of expectations. Celebrating the team’s success allows the opportunity for team members to bond over a positive experience. The more teammates associate positive feelings with each other, the easier building trust will be.

5) Get to know something personal about each other. This suggestion comes with the obvious caveat that professional integrity and respect for privacy should be maintained. However, most people find it easier to trust someone whom they see as more than just a job title or role. Starting meetings with ice breaker questions, such as the game two truths and a lie, can help teammates build a more complete picture of each other, while staying professional.

Learn more about being part of an effective team and building trust by attending courses from the EDGE track at the 2019 ENGAGE experience in Las Vegas. I hope to see you there!

***

Jessica Iennarella, CPA/CFF, CFE

Suggested reading

By Caleb Bullock, CPA

As most of us can acknowledge, being busy is an occupational hazard in the life of a CPA. It’s easy to burn out trying to get to the end of a never-ending to-do list. Busyness is an easy excuse to make when trying to legitimize a lack of consistent professional reading in our lives but most successful professionals would agree that the continuous learning that often comes with professional reading is critical in continuing to develop your skill sets, open your mind to new ideas, and refresh your perspective. Over the past few years, I’ve made an attempt to put away the ‘busyness excuse’ and get serious about professional reading. If you are in the same boat, consider checking out some books that should be on every CPAs reading list this year.

1. The Carrot Principle by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton

Who should read? If you or your company is struggling with motivating top performers, moral or have an abnormally high turnover rate, this book is for you!

Summary: I usually reserve ‘can’t put it down’ books for fiction novels, but I started and finished this book within a 2-day span. The Carrot Principal is an engaging read that does a deep dive into what intrinsically motivates employees. Surprisingly enough, most employees will describe their motivations as being monetary, i.e. bonuses, raises, etc., but research presented in the book describes a drastically different truth. Employees have a higher utilization rate, higher moral and have a tendency to be actively engaged in the mission of the firm / organization when motivation comes by way of recognition. For example, the book argues (with mountains of evidence) that a staff accountant that has gone above and beyond the call of duty will respond more positively to a ‘shout-out’ at a staff meeting, a congratulatory email to the entire department or personal ‘thank-you’ from the boss than with an extra $100 in their next paycheck. The best part? Recognition is free!

Final Thoughts: A ‘must read’ for every manager and above.

View book


2. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Who should read? If you want an intimate look at how promoting culture can change everything in your organization, check out Delivering Happiness.

Summary: An engaging and fun read from start to finish. The book is written more like an autobiography than it is a meticulously researched business book with case study after case study. This may scare some people away, but I found it to be a refreshing look into the mind of a successful entrepreneur. While the book is an inside look into the ‘garage to Wall Street’ stories of companies like LinkExchange (which sold to Microsoft for $265M) and Zappos, the central theme is culture. While almost 100% of companies claim to have an emphasis on culture (I can personally attest to hearing the ‘culture’ pitch at every single CPA firm I interviewed with out of college), few go to the lengths that the book describes.

Final Thoughts: An eye opening look into how a strategic emphasis on company culture can have a very real and measurable correlation to company growth. The book doesn’t require a lot of concentration and is an easy listen on audiobook.

View book


3. Give and Take by Adam Grant

Who should read? If you consider yourself an introvert, read this. It’s also a great read for extroverts. Ok, everyone should read this!

Summary: Good people (the concept applies to both ‘guys’ and ‘gals’) finish last. If you’re a ‘good person’, this has probably always bothered you. This book describes why this is, in fact, not the case. A deep dive into what makes up your reciprocity style, how it affects your relationships, and confirmation that helping others drives success. I absolutely loved this book. You’ll experience an eye opening realization and gain an understanding of why people do what they do and will, hopefully, allow you to evaluate your own motivations and actions.

Final Thoughts: If you’ve ever taken the Myers Briggs, or other strengths based assessments, you’ve likely had an eye opening experience about what motivates you, demotivates you and why you work affectively with some people and not so much with others. This book had a similar affect. An easy read with countless case studies and engaging story telling makes this my ‘must read’ of the year.

View book

***

Caleb Bullock, CPA

Networking

By Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA, CGMA, CITP, DTM

What do you feel when you hear the word “networking?” Some people feel confident or excited attending networking events while others feel uncertain or nervous. Regardless of how you feel, this blog will help you maximize your networking skills and make authentic connections with the people you meet.

Tip 1: Set Goals for Networking – Is your goal to meet as many people as possible or to meet a few people and build deeper connections immediately? Either one or a combination of the two is fine, so let’s break them down.

Quantity (many people)

Benefits: You may be new to a group of people and want to meet as many as possible; you will learn how to talk to people with different personalities; you may have a message you want to spread to many people.

Challenges: Be careful to still be authentic even if you may be looking over your shoulder for the next person to talk to instead of giving people fuller attention; you may build weaker connections with people immediately if you only talk to them for a short amount of time.

Quality (fewer people)

Benefits: You should be able to develop a more meaningful connection with a few focused conversations; you may be more comfortable with medium or deeper level talk instead of small talk, which is more natural during longer conversations.

Challenges: You may not find the right people to build your longer-term connections; ensure you talk to the people where mutually-beneficial connections can be made – if one person will.

Tip 2: Know the proper body language techniques based on your goals

If your goal is quantity, try to talk to larger groups of people. Ensure you are smiling and emanating positivity. If a group is closed off in a circle, lightly tap someone on the shoulder, and instinctively that person will turn and create space with you to enter the circle. Keep your body at more of a 45-degree angle to the circle to tell others nonverbally that the circle is open for others to join.

If your goal is quality, longer conversations, ensure to maintain strong eye contact, maintain a more closed posture standing directly in front of the other person instead of a side angle.

Regardless of what your goal is, ask questions of the other person and tilt your head to indicate interest and listening. Additionally, ensure you have an appropriate and firm, one to two-pump handshake when you meet someone and when you leave the conversation.

Tip 3: Exit a conversation appropriately

If the other person is exiting, look grateful even if you are disappointed the conversation is ending. Keep the ending positive and thank them for their time.

If you are the person ending the conversation, mention a need to leave, desire to refresh a beverage, or express that you want to speak to someone before they leave. Also thank them for their time, and exchange business cards or immediately add the person to LinkedIn to be able to connect later. Follow-up with people quarterly or monthly depending on how the connection progresses.

Make networking one of your strengths! What other tips do you have? Please comment below.

***

Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA, CGMA, CITP, DTM, Controller, Litera Microsystems

Mentoring

By Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA, CGMA, CITP, DTM

Would you like to have someone looking after your career from start to finish? Do you desire to help someone through their career, too? Mentoring relationships are one of the most rewarding parts about being a professional. You should have several mentors and mentees in your careers, and this blog will help explain the benefits and where you can look for mentoring relationships. Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, Past Chairman of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, is an advocate of mentoring and says, “Imagine the worst bumper to bumper traffic you can imagine. Having a mentor is like a high occupancy vehicle H.O.V. lane. They help you get to where you need to go faster.”

Below are benefits of finding an effective mentor:

Mentee Benefit #1: More effective decision-making. When you have a significant decision to make in your role or in your career, you can talk to your mentor to ensure you are on the right track with your own values and if necessary, the profession’s ethics. Your mentor will be able to offer advice from experience and help you think through alternatives.

Mentee Benefit #2: Better accountability. If you set goals for yourself, ask your mentor to keep you accountable for them. These goals can be results-driven, developmental, and aspirational. Some examples include: (1) Results-driven: Experience with and completion of a specific project, (2) Developmental: Completing a certification or designation, (3) Aspirational: Working as a Partner or CFO in the future. Consider both mentors inside and outside of your company. A mentor outside your organization may help you focus on the bigger picture of your career and your overall work-life flexibility. As Kimberly mentions in her analogy above, a mentor can help you achieve your goals faster.

Mentee Benefit #3: Consistent advocacy. Your mentor should be one of your biggest advocates and can provide you with the confidence to pursue new opportunities. Your mentor can recommend you for a role at your current company, a new organization, or a volunteer position. A good mentor will stay with you through several changes and help you grow through the stages of your career.

Below are benefits of serving as a mentor:

Mentor Benefit #1: Serving the profession and helping others. You will be able to contribute to the growth and sustainability of the profession by coaching people to become better leaders and decision-makers.

Mentor Benefit #2: Constant learning. You will learn from the people your mentoring about what issues concern them and how to better address those issues in your own work environment and career. You will each have different work experiences that you can share and learn from collectively.

Mentor Benefit #3: Improved communication and coaching skills. You will be working on your listening skills as you listen to what is important to your mentee and how you can best help. You will also be providing advice and speaking from your own experiences on how your mentee can best advance in their goals.

It is important for your mentoring relationship to have a confidential component to it. You and your mentor should sign a non-disclosure agreement to make it more official and to establish trust. Several formal mentoring programs offer this agreement as part of the onboarding process.

Where do you find high-quality opportunities to find a mentor and serve as a mentor? Please refer below for some good resources.

  • AICPA: https://www.aicpa.org/career/mentoring.html
  • State CPA Societies: Please refer to your local CPA Society website. Some CPA Societies have specific programs, such as the Illinois CPA Society Women’s Mentoring Circles.
  • Business Schools: Please refer to your business school or a business school near you.

You will benefit from mentoring relationships at all phases of your career. Seek to be a compassionate mentor and to find one for yourself! You will elevate yourself, your mentee, and the profession! Do you have a positive mentoring experience? If so, please share your experience with a comment below.

***

Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner, CPA, CGMA, CITP, DTM, Controller, Litera Microsystems