S5E20: Perception is Reality and Turn Your Cameras On

“People’s perceptions of you are their reality, so pay attention to what you want their reality to be.” Peter Margaritis

The way we show up does make a big difference, whether in person or virtually. Perception is reality, and the perceptions we create with others, especially with decision-making executives, really matter. People want to interact with humans they can see, hear and experience in person, whether remotely or in person. When we can see and hear each other, we see and feel the energy, engagement, body language, and attitude.

 According to the Vytopia press release dated April 12, 2022, executives view the lack of employee engagement as a subpar performance. 92% of the executives say employees who turn their cameras off are generally less engaged in the work overall. Having your camera turned off during any virtual event is disengaging, disrespectful, and simply impolite.

The world has changed in so many ways since the pandemic began. One of those ways is the increase in hybrid work as a preferred work method. Virtual meetings and learning are becoming part of the lexicon in evolving and growing our businesses. Ask yourself how you will change your unseen presence to one that sends a message and perception to senior leadership that you are engaged and ready.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence in a CPA’s Career

This article was originally written for The Georgia Society of CPAs magazine Current Accounts

To succeed in the highly competitive world of financial consulting, accounting professionals must possess the right mix of technical expertise and soft skills – think ‘emotional intelligence (EI).’ As discussed in an article published by Harvard Business Review, EI plays an increasingly significant role in today’s business environment. Therefore, it’s vital that you optimize your EI to improve your bottom line and increase your organization’s job satisfaction, engagement, and retention rates. 

Let’s start by explaining what emotional intelligence is. According to the HelpGuide.org blog, “Improving Emotional Intelligence” EI “is the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions 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 to connect with your feelings, turn intention into action, and make informed decisions about what matters most to you.”

Four components define emotional intelligence: self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, and relationship management.  

  1. Self-awareness: You understand your emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior. When you first learned about EI, you had no self-awareness and thought it was silly. A couple of performance reviews brought this to your attention, so you decided to research EI and find ways to improve. One exercise was to write down whenever a situation sparked an emotion. For example, you were happy when someone remembered your birthday. On the other hand, you were angry because you were late for a meeting. Journal two weeks’ worth of data, analyze the data, and increase your awareness.
  2. Self-management: According to a SkillsYouNeed.com blog post titled, “Self-Regulation | Self-Management. This blog is all about how “you control and manage yourself and your emotions, inner resources, and abilities. It includes your ability to manage your impulses, taking responsibility for your actions, and ensuring that what you do matches your values.” This is not masking or hiding your emotions but recognizing and controlling them appropriately. We all have bad days, whether we overslept and were late to a client meeting; got in a fight with our significant other as we were about to login into a virtual meeting; the computer crashed, or dealing with the myriad of other unexpected events that can happen at any given moment. Those who can self-manage their emotions can change their thoughts and attitude into a positive one if they choose. Or they can bring their bad juju into the meeting, office, or lunch and complain about all the things that have gone wrong. Tigger or Eeyore (Winnie the Pooh) will rise up – and you have a choice of whom you want to be in that moment and beyond.
  1. Social awareness: Do you recognize the emotions in others? Do you respond and interact appropriately when you do? Social awareness is about ‘reading’ the emotional landscape and responding with empathy. Empathy is not putting yourself in their shoes; it’s about understanding how that person feels in their shoes. Big difference. According to the PositiveAction article, Social Awareness: An Introductory Guide, “social awareness skills will help us understand professionalism in the workplace, as well as making 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.
  2. Relationship management: In the HelpGuide.org article referenced above, when we understand the top three elements of EI – self-awareness, self-management, and social awareness – and apply them correctly, CPAs can begin “to develop and maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team, and manage conflict.” Good leadership skills drive a positive mental attitude, a.k.a being an optimist.

The following are some strategies on how to increase your EI. First and foremost, remember that improving your EI requires intentional effort.

Engagement

To retain employees, managers must first understand how people feel about their jobs. Engagement surveys help you assess how content your staff members are at work and whether or not they will stay for the long haul. To help improve morale, you need to listen to your employees’ concerns and address them appropriately. By learning what makes people tick, you can manage each person individually and create EI central to every manager. By regularly measuring engagement scores, you can keep tabs on employee happiness while also taking proactive steps to ensure that employees remain engaged over time. If scores begin to drop off, investigate why and brainstorm ways to bring your team back on board so they stay engaged, excited, and productive for the long term.

Retention

It is crucial to increase employee engagement to reduce turnover and avoid talent shortages. According to the Hay Group, employee retention can help a company achieve a return on investment (ROI) as high as $34 for every dollar spent. But what factors influence engagement? According to one study, three main elements—empowerment, meaningful work, and recognition—can drive engaged workers to stick around even when they’re unhappy with their pay or leadership. However, the company also found that disengaged employees are three times more likely than engaged ones to quit within six months, resulting in lost productivity and costs amounting up to $3 million per year for larger firms.

Improvisation – plays a critical role in EI.

In business, life, and sports, a critical EI skill separates high performers from mediocre/average performers – Improvisation.  Improvisation is vital when things don’t go as planned during a negotiation, meeting, disagreement, or game. In improv and business alike, being able to roll with whatever comes your way will make or break the outcome. It is the ability to adapt to change. It is ‘Yes! And’ philosophy of improv and EI leadership.  There is a widely used quote in improv that describes this philosophy by Keith Johnstone, “There are people who prefer to say “Yes,” and there are people who prefer to say “No.” Those who say “Yes” are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say “No” are rewarded by the safety they attain.”

This skill is also crucial for career development. When employees are taught and developed to recognize patterns and manage their emotions during performance reviews or when delivering presentations or dealing with client issues, they learn how to respond effectively to any scenario that might come up. This can be instrumental in employment and everyday life; many believe EI contributes more to success than cognitive intelligence (IQ). Improvisation allows people who may not have a natural knack for talking themselves out of trouble to get creative by thinking on their feet. And by doing so, they practice getting outside their comfort zone and gain confidence that applies in various situations.

Build an EI culture

Think about how you’d build EI into your organization from start to finish. The first thing you’ll need to do is hire people skilled at managing their emotions and reading those of others—and then develop a culture that promotes these skills so employees see the value in developing EI. One way to do that is by emphasizing engagement, retention, and connection. Another is by encouraging improvisation among employees to tackle new projects or work with unfamiliar clients. You could even team up with an expert consultant or coach specializing in improv leadership development to help integrate EI building into your workplace strategy. Whatever approach you take, make sure you are very clear about the kind of environment you are building and what everyone can expect when they enter the office every day—and that it reflects the type of relationships that matter most to you and the organization.

Reflect and report – no, really!

No matter how intelligent you are, you’re not immune to boredom with your job. In fact, according to a study done by Mercer Consulting, 40% of people are actively disengaged at work! While job-hopping may seem like an easy solution to your boredom problem, it has more severe long-term effects. Employees who change jobs multiple times over their lifetime earn less money than those who stick with one employer for their entire career. So what’s an unhappy employee to do? Instead of quitting, commit yourself to improving your emotional intelligence.

Conclusion

An optimist CPA and a pessimistic CPA walk into a bar, and the bartender says, “Is there such a thing as an optimistic CPA?”  The pessimistic CPA says, “no,” and the optimist CPA says “yes, and it is all about one’s attitude and emotional intelligence.” The optimist CPA asks the pessimist CPA, “what do you see/think when you look at a glass filled halfway” – the pessimist CPA says, “the glass is half empty.” The optimist CPA says, “add ice.”

“Originally written for The Georgia Society of CPAs magazine Current Accounts.”

References:
Improving Emotional Intelligence (EQ). https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/emotional-intelligence-eq.htm?pdf=13508

Self-Regulation | Self-Management | SkillsYouNeed. https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ps/self-management.html

Social Awareness: An Introductory Guide | Positive Action. https://www.positiveaction.net/blog/social-awareness

Building Loyalty Through Quality

Sometimes we try to save a buck or two that ultimately may just cost us more in the long run.  

It was the Sunday after the NFL Championship game, and I woke up that morning craving some barbecue. So, for lunch, I went to a familiar barbecue joint and ordered a pulled pork sandwich to go.  The aroma filled my car ride home – love that aroma – wish I had that scent on one of those hanging car odor eliminators.  I love BBQ.  

When I got home and opened the container, although it smelled terrific, something was amiss. I took the top bun off and looked at the pork. The pork was flat dry, and it didn’t look good. I added some barbecue sauce with the hopes of reviving the sandwich. However, when I took a bite, I realized that the bun was stale, and the BBQ sauce didn’t restore the sandwich.  I was sorely disappointed in this pulled pork sandwich and wondered what went wrong.  Then it dawned on me. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.  

Being Greek American, I have worked in several restaurants since the age of 12. Side note: when I graduated college, I thought I would be in the restaurant business for the rest of my life!   Back to the story – I completely understand the relevance of food costs. Restaurants are in a business where the product needs to be sold at a price that will cover the food costs and a portion of administrative costs. That’s the only way to turn a profit. It’s that simple. 

In this case, however, the pork and the bun were both from the previous day – old meat and a stale bun. The restaurant may have helped to control their food costs by doing this, but they created an unhappy customer in the process… a customer who is now most unlikely to make a return visit, and, will share the story with others! Saving a few pennies is not worth losing a customer. In this era of social media, bad reviews, pictures of the disappointing meal, and word of mouth can significantly impact your business.  

In the long run, the person preparing the sandwich should have asked themselves, “Would I eat this sandwich knowing that the quality was not up to standard?”  The answer should be no. However, the company policy might be to first use up yesterday’s food before using what is freshly prepared for that day. That type of policy is not a sustainable strategy. 

We all make mistakes. I get it, and I’m very empathetic to everyone in the restaurant business, especially during this pandemic. And, we must always watch our costs in order make a profit, but revenue drives that profit. If we don’t get return business, we lose revenue, and the business loses sustainability and growth. Period.

However, there seems to be a new way of controlling food costs: shrinkflation.  Using less food to help control food costs. There is a national sub shop chain that has been using this strategy. I ordered a turkey sub with provolone cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, and mustard. What showed up was a sub roll with very little of the ingredients requested.  I have stopped ordering from this chain.  

Now, take this scenario into every business and apply the same analogy. I’ll use the professional speaking business as an example. As I do, think about your business. Have you ever attended a conference or seminar that feels like a canned presentation?  Or better yet, you attend a conference and recognize one of the speakers you enjoyed five years ago. You look at the title of the presentation, and it doesn’t sound like the presentation before. You decide to sit in their presentation, only to realize it is the same presentation that the speaker did five years ago, word for word— it just has a different title. Yesterday’s leftover food – old meat and a stale bun.   As a professional speaker, I customize my presentation to each audience and never do the same presentation twice.  Yes, this takes a lot of work –  and it has been a key driver in the success of my business for 12 years.  I will never serve leftovers to my audience or client. It’s simply not a good business plan or practice.  

The many years I spent in the restaurant business taught me a lot about customer service that I use in my business today.  We all need to remember that we are in the people business. We have no business when we don’t treat our people and customers with the respect they deserve and provide them with a consistent, reliable, and top-quality product or service.  Period

BTW- If you are ever in Bloomington, MN, you must go to Ciao Bella. Ciao Bella understands this philosophy, provides the best customer service, and backs it with a quality product. If you happen to go, ask for Sue, and tell her that I sent you. 

Contact me at peter@petermargaritis.com if you would like to discuss how to increase your customer loyalty.

S5E15: The Four L’s In Changing One’s Mindset with Robert Bendetti, Jr.

“There is a real direct application to being human with what you learn in theatre and Improv.” Robert Bendetti

Today, our guest is Robert Bendetti, Jr., CPA, who is the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Life Cycle Engineering. As CFO, he is responsible for all financial operations of the company and accounting contracts, purchasing, Process automation, and IT. Before Life Cycle Engineering, Robert served as VP of Finance at Galey and Lord and CFO of the Coastal Logistics Group and a financial management position within Lockheed Martin, Hormel Foods, and Hilton Hotels.

Robert is also president and founder of the Global CFO Council. The purpose of the global CFO counselors is to provide an educational and networking forum for senior financial executives to share the best practices, discuss current financial issues, and learn about current topics related to their job performance. There are 1500 members in 32 countries. Robert has a great sense of humor and embraces Improv due to his background in the performing arts.

There are four L’s that goes into changing your mindset. These include Learning, Leading, Listening, and Leaving. The first L is learning, which comes from podcasts, books, mentors, and networking, and it could be professional certifications, which is a great way to learn in whatever field you’re in.

The second L is leading, which includes serving and empowering others and volunteering wherever you’re. In the current environment, community, civic, and industry associations desperately need folks like us to volunteer at any phase of your career. There’s no greater way to learn and change your mindset than by embedding yourself with others and serving and empowering them.

The third L is listening, and a great way to grow is by being a mentor and having mentees and listening to them. Another way to do this is to listen to your customer, and the only way you can listen to the customer is if you’re out with the customer. It is also essential to listen to your team members and learn from them.

I am primarily an internal consultant to the CEO and the business operations leaders. But also, my customers include the end-user of the service and products and solutions that we sell, and then I have all the team members at the company. My job is to keep everybody happy, engaged, excited, and equipped to do their job.

The last L is Leaving, and sometimes to change your mindset, you got to change some things about your environment. You need to take out some things and leave like negative influences, some bad friends or some habits.

To affirm those that are listening and doubt themselves, you can learn enough so that you can have an enjoyable conversation and interact with people, or have the confidence to say something in a meeting or to your boss in the moment, instead of on the way home and have all the regret not doing it. Those are the kind of skills that you can learn by doing maybe a little reading or listening to a podcast or taking an Improv class.

Click to Download the Full Transcript PDF

S5 Ep10: A New Approach to Accounting Education

“Higher education needs to change how accounting is taught and align it with the critical power skills required to succeed in today’s business climate.” Peter Margaritis

As an accountant, understanding how to sell yourself, both in an educational setting and in the workplace can help you succeed professionally.

Technical accounting skills are the foundation of accounting education. However, in today’s accounting profession, technical skills are not enough to grow your career by themselves. You need to develop your power skills.

Power skills, aka soft skills, are helpful in just about any career and essential to communicate accounting complexities to those non-accounting business leaders. They include aspects like curiosity, self-awareness, empathy, and more.

According to the Josh Burson company blog, titled, ‘Let’s Stop Talking About Soft Skills, They’re Power Skills’, states that the skills of the future are not technical, they’re behavioral. The article goes on to state that IBM’s latest research lists the top five power skills that are most critical in the workforce today are;

1.     willing to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change.

2.     Time management skills and the ability to prioritize

3.     Ability to work effectively in team environments.

4.     Ability to communicate effectively in business contexts.

5.     Analytical skills and business acumen.

Considering how important they are for success both in your professional and personal development, it makes sense to begin the process of learning these power skills in the university classroom.

Accountants speak the foreign language of business — accounting, which is no different from speaking Spanish, Greek or Chinese to someone who’s not fluent in the language. We need to be cognizant of this fact and become better translators of our technical accounting knowledge.

The college classroom allows us to experiment, fail, hone and gain confidence. Failure is a part of the process when we view learning any new skill. How do you eat an elephant‒one bite at a time. Higher education needs to change how accounting is taught and align it with the critical power skills required to succeed in today’s business climate.

Let us begin to embrace the term financial leadership.