S5EP18: Optimizing Emotional Intelligence

“Emotional Intelligence helps you connect with your feelings, turning that into action, and making informed decisions about what matters most to you.” Peter Margaritis

To succeed in the highly competitive world of financial consulting, accounting professionals must possess the right mix of technical experience and soft skills, or think of them as power skills, or better yet, emotional intelligence — EI. EI plays an increasingly significant role in today’s business environment. Therefore, you must optimize your EI to improve your bottom line and increase your organization’s job satisfaction, engagement, and retention rates.

EI is the ability to understand, use and manage your own emotion in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. EI helps build stronger relationships, succeed at work, and achieve your career and personal goals. It can also help you connect with your feelings, turn that into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.

The four components of EI are defined as self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management. Self-awareness entails how you understand your emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. Self-management refers to controlling and managing yourself and your feelings, resources, and abilities.

 In social awareness, you assess whether or not you recognize the emotions in others. It is about reading the emotional landscape and responding with empathy. Social awareness skills will help us understand professionalism in the workplace and make it easier to share information, communicate, and collaborate with others. Social awareness is a fundamental part of creating relationships with the people we work with and the customers and clients we need to build our businesses.

When we understand the top three elements of EI and apply them correctly, CPAs can begin to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well on a team and manage conflict. Improving your EI requires that managers first understand how people feel about their jobs and help them to improve morale.

Three main elements, empowerment, meaningful work, and recognition, can drive and engage workers to stick around even when they’re unhappy with their pay or leadership. However, disengaged employees are three times more likely than engaged ones who quit within six months, resulting in a loss of productivity and cost amounting up to $3 million per year.

Improvisation plays a critical role in EI. In business, life, and sports, EI separates high performers from mediocre and average performers. Improvisation is the ability to adapt to change. It is the yes and philosophy of improv and EI leadership. This skill is also crucial for career development. Improvisation allows people who may not have a natural knack for talking themselves out of trouble to get creative by thinking on their feet.

Think about how you build an EI culture in your organization from start to finish. The first thing is to hire people skilled at managing their emotions and reading those of others and then develop a culture that promotes the skills, so employees see the value in developing EI.

S5E11: An Accounting Firm that YOU Should Hire with Courtney DeRonde

“It’s really about understanding what is your way that you uniquely contribute to your business, and most of the time, it’s not going to be where you’re spending most of your time.” Courtney DeRonde

Today, my guest is Courtney DeRonde, a CPA and managing partner of TDT CPAs and Advisors— the boutique advisory and accounting firm for small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The company helps overwhelmed, successful leaders, understand and maximize financial information to achieve better results and move the organizations to the next level.

As the owner of a firm and managing partner, she also has first-hand experience running and scaling a small business. Courtney understands the need to help and teach clients the importance of being more financially literate. When TDT takes on clients, they learn more about their business to become a better partner, not just for a transaction.

The first question that successful business owners ask is, “how does my business make money?” As businesses grow and scale, you get the increased activity that you’re not directly involved with anymore. Therefore, the mindset shift is looking at good information that tells you where your business is making money.

The second question is about cash flow, and it is a shift from how much I have to what is flowing in and out of business over the next few weeks. Continuously looking at that helps eliminate surprises because most financial surprises are not usually positive. This mind shift allows you to be prepared and take action if things don’t look good shortly and not just look at where you stand today.

Our approach with our clients is very much from an educational standpoint, and the goal is to empower them to understand and use the information that we give them to make decisions.

The third question is about determining the highest leverage of time and talents. It’s really about understanding how you uniquely contribute to your business is. Most of the time, it’s not going to be where you’re spending most of your time.

Your product needs to be profitable, but it doesn’t have to be the best. It would be best to focus on the mix of something that you can do profitably and something that people need. Once you get something out there, you can improve it and make it better.

Often, people don’t have accurate information in their heads about costs and overheads just because no one’s helping them understand how all of this information flows. Pricing is a big part of how we help clients with recognizing and getting information around margins.

There’re certain times when it might make sense to lower your margin on a particular bid because of the future opportunities that can come from it. The main thing is knowing your actual margin to avoid paying to do the job instead of getting paid to do it.

If the price is a very sensitive issue, you need to give clients a couple of options. This gives them the opportunity and the agency to decide what they want.

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S5E8: Great Leaders are Active Listeners

“Learning how to listen effectively is a critical part of communication and building stronger connections.” Peter Margaritis

 Being an active listener creates many advantages in life and work. However, mastering the art of active listening is easier said than done. Active listeners pay attention to what others are saying without thinking about how they will respond or how the conversation might affect them. They listen to a big difference in what the other person is saying – not what they hear.

We can all become more active listeners. Here are three essential tips to consider as you work toward becoming a more active listener – and communicator!

Listening = Communication

Communication is an essential part of any relationship, whether personal or professional, so learning how to listen effectively is a critical part of communication and building stronger connections. Without communication, there would be no relationships.

Active listening skills are learned, not innate

The keys to becoming a great listener are awareness and practice. A common mistake in conversations is getting caught up in what we want to say – instead of listening to what the other person is saying. So instead of just waiting for your turn to speak, spend more time actively listening. Then respond when you’ve genuinely heard what’s being said.

There’s no easy shortcut to learning active listening skills. However, what you can do right away is to PAUSE in a conversation and consider what the other person is expressing with thoughts and ideas. Respond by asking questions. Let them talk. Make eye contact. Repeat what you think you heard and get their affirmation that you listened to what they said – not what you wanted to hear. The more you practice these skills professionally and personally during your conversations, the better you’ll get at them!

When you’re in conversation with someone, your natural tendency might be to formulate your response while they’re still talking. So instead of making any judgment or addition based on your assumptions, focus solely on listening and learning as much as possible from what they are saying. In other words, don’t give advice when someone hasn’t asked for it! Instead, show that you want to understand their perspective and feelings before proposing anything.

Seek Ways to Practice Every Day

Developing active listening skills is easier said than done, but as with most skills, constant practice will pay off greatly. One way to begin your daily routine is to jot down three things you heard that made sense and one thing you listened to that didn’t make sense—keep these notes in your phone or on a whiteboard at work. Then, as you go through your day, take note of what you hear that doesn’t seem to be making sense; then do some follow-up research. Wash – Rinse – Repeat!

Each day, take time out of your schedule to reflect on how you interacted with other people. In addition to building quality communication skills that will become practical tools for handling any situation, active listening can also help develop effective team dynamics at work and help create more meaningful professional relationships outside of work.

We all need to become more active listeners!

S5E6: Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Flat Organizations

“Everyone should be involved in developing solutions to customer problems.” Peter Margaritis

The traditional hierarchy organizational structure has been around since the 1950s, and so have many of the strategies developed to make it work well. As time goes on though, some of these strategies are becoming less effective, while others are simply out of date.

 A flat organization is a company that does not operate on strict hierarchies like most traditional businesses. In these companies, decisions are made at the operational level rather than from senior executives who have little contact with employees at work sites.

One thing about flat organizations is that not all companies can be flat because not every business model is suited to a flat structure. However, if your company isn’t in a tightly structured industry, using a flatter organization can help you become more agile and responsive to reducing hierarchy-related costs.

Most companies have tried experimenting with flat organizational structures, but few have mastered it. Yet some organizations are very successful in doing so. They have implemented policies and protocols that allow them to maintain a happy employee base while producing outstanding results

The last few years have seen an increase in companies pushing towards flatter organizational structures. The 10 elements of a flat organization include

1.      There are no strict hierarchy layers.

2.      Everyone is responsible for what everyone does.

3.      Each employee’s opinion matters, regardless of rank or seniority.

4.      Decisions are made as close to customers as possible.

5.      One size fits all. (Is it a good approach?)

6.      Teams across geographies come together regularly if not daily.

7.       Employees can take their leave whenever they want and are encouraged to do so.

8.      Employees are encouraged to use their initiative and not to feel micromanaged.

9.      Employees wear many hats.

10.  Collaboration and teamwork are emphasized within functional areas

Ego and office politics kill successful collaboration but in a flat organization, these hierarchy collaboration killers rarely exist, and if they do, they’re immediately addressed. Collaboration is one of the underlying principles in improv leadership.

To achieve a successful partnership, there must be a foundation of respect for the other party. Each party should be trustworthy and supportive of the team. If any of these three foundations are missing, collaboration ceases to exist.

Flat organizational structures are not for every organization, however, your organization can adopt a flattish approach and become nimbler by distributing the power and authority to others to make decisions without your approval. 

What If The Gettysburg Address Was Given In Buzz-Speak

lincoln-gettysburg-address-speech-analysisI think the Gettysburg Address is a brilliant speech – no arguments there. In fact, over 200 years later, it still invokes President Lincoln’s passion.

But what if it were given today? I started thinking about his eloquent words and how the speech would sound if corporate buzzwords replaced his words.  So here it is, my buzzword version.

Fourscore and seven years ago our “stakeholders” brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the “value proposition” that all men are created on a “net net basis.”

Now we are “operating in the space” of a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can “add value” while “moving forward.” “The game changer” came we are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. “It is what it is” that we should do this.

But, in a “10,000 foot view”, we cannot dedicate-we cannot consecrate-we cannot hallow-this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The “big picture” will little note, nor long “mis-remember” what we say here, but it can never “literally” forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be “robust while moving forward” here to the unfinished “new paradigm” work which “pushed the envelope” they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. “At the end of the day” it is rather for us to be here “content” to the great task remaining before us-that from these honored dead we take “win-win” to that cause for which they gave “110%” of the last full measure of devotion-that we here “pro-actively” resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain-that this nation, under God, shall see “the glass as half full” and have a new “out-of-the-box” freedom-and that “intellectual capital” of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.