S5E19: The Spirit of Emotional Intelligence with Ruben Minor

“The beauty of good leadership has a wonderful platform to impact someone you may never know-how.“ Ruben Minor

Our guest today is Ruben Minor, who is the president of RAM Consulting Group, an organization that focuses on speaking, training, and coaching individuals and groups regarding leadership, team dynamics, relationship building, diversity, equity and inclusion, fundamental business philosophies, and business and personal branding. Reuben is a leader with a rich and resourceful network of professionals across the business spectrum, ranging from influential political figures to educational leaders and entrepreneurs. 

Ruben leverages his network to make more meaningful connections for clients and business partners, evolving into lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. Ruben served this country for 15 years in the US Navy as a Supply Corps officer is a John Maxwell certified professional speaker, trainer, and coach, and is intimately engaged in the community, serving as president of the Council for the village of Galena. Reuben enjoys spending time with family, history movies, and hiking, and as a side note, he is a professional speaker. 

Emotional intelligence is the ability to process information that has been received. The information goes through a filter system in your mind, which helps you dissect what’s being said and the intention behind it so that your response to what you are processing will be emotionally appropriate. Emotional intelligence, like sales, is either you naturally have it, and you’re good at it, or you don’t have it, and therefore becomes a difficult process for you to gain that. 

It takes a particularly savvy person to be sensitive and to know how to respond and not hurt someone. Psychological safety entails asking how one can create an environment where a person feels safe enough to say and express what is on their mind. Naturally, everybody wants to be heard, and when you can exercise psychological safety, that’s the foundation of building great relationships.

Corporations have learned a lot post-COVID, as employees have realized that they do not have to put up with toxic work environments. Unfriendly cultures have been in place for decades and are not expected to change overnight. It’s going to be a constant, intentional effort by those in leadership and making sure that they’re keeping in step with the culture in the corporate community. 

The beauty of good leadership has a wonderful platform to impact someone that you may never know how to. 

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

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.

Accounting Education: Why Power Skills Matter

If you’re looking to find an accounting job, you may have noticed that employers often list strong communication skills and sales/client management experience as requirements for their open positions. You might be wondering why these two items are needed if accounting isn’t typically seen as a people-focused industry. The truth is that understanding how to sell yourself– both in an educational setting and in the workplace – can help you succeed professionally in the accounting profession. 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. Your career growth comes from developing your power skills.  

What are power skills?

What exactly are power skills? The first time I heard the term power skills, I presented an improv workshop to the incoming Master of Science in Accounting students at Oklahoma State University. However, before I began my session, the chair of the accounting department, Dr. Audrey Gramling, addressed the importance of developing their power skills, aka soft skills. You see, this is the mission of Oklahoma State University School of Accounting, which is “to prepare people to make a difference in the world by teaching essential interpersonal skills alongside a high-quality accounting education backed by impactful research and outreach.” And to steal a phrase from Guy Fieri, they are “spot on.”

Power skills are helpful in just about any career and essential to communicating accounting complexities to those non-accounting business leaders. They include aspects like curiosity, self-awareness, empathy, and more. According to The Josh Bersin Company blog titled “Let’s Stop Talking About Soft Skills: They’re PowerSkills, states that, “the skills of the future are not technical; they’re behavioral. Yes, engineers, designers, and technical people need to know how to build and fix things.” The article goes on to state that IBM’s latest research lists the top 5 Power Skills that are most critical to the workforce today are:

1. “Willing to be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change.”

2. “Time management skills and ability to prioritize.”

3. “Ability to work effectively in team environments.”

4. “Ability to communicate effectively in a business context.”

5. “Analytical skills and business acumen.”

Considering how important they are for success both in your professional life and personal development, it makes sense to begin the process of learning these power skills in the university classroom. Being a former university professor, I understand the politics that go into a well-rounded education, and making room for new courses is a challenge. However, if higher education would adopt the first power skill and “be flexible, agile, and adaptable to change,” a solution can be obtained.  

One potential solution is that if your state requires the 150-hour rule to be licensed in your state, then add these power skills courses into the Master of Accounting programs. However, the extra 30 hours, in many states like Ohio, do not have a mandate on the type of courses that qualify.   

Ability to communicate effectively in a business context

A few years ago, my doctor ordered some tests because I was not feeling well. A few days later, my doctor called me, not her assistant, and said she got the results back from the tests. Then she went into this tsunami of medical lingo and gibberish, and I had no clue what she was trying to tell me. So, I said to her, “Doctor, stop! I have no idea what you are trying to tell me. Can you tell me in plain English?” There was a pause, and then she said, “you may I cancer.” Wow. Thankfully, I did not have cancer. 

The experience with my doctor is the same experience accountants have when communicating with non-accountants. Accountants speak the foreign language of business – accounting, which is no different from speaking Spanish, Greek, or Chinese to someone who is not fluent in that language. We need to be cognizant of this fact and become better translators of technical accounting knowledge. We need to start taking the numb out of numbers

Translating technical accounting into plain English is not an easy task, and it takes time. Where should we start? I know, in a college classroom! The ability to develop this skill in the safety of the classroom is ideal. The classroom allows us to experiment, fail, hone, and gain confidence. Oh, you are stuck on the word fail. Then think of it as an acronym, First Attempt In Learning. Failure is part of the process when we view learning any new skill. For example, we don’t pick up a golf club for the first time and make solid contact or contact at all. Same with learning new skills. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. 

Change is necessary to be relevant. 

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. Technical knowledge is essential, and a lot of the technical – nuts, bolts, calculations – is done with artificial intelligence. We need to ensure that the calculations are accurate. However, our role as an accountant is evolving into a position of a business advisor and out of being thought of as a number cruncher. Let’s find a way to start this transformation of the accounting profession in the classroom instead of making it the employer’s responsibility. Let’s begin to embrace the term ‘Financial Leadership’ – and teach and prepare with excellence in technical accounting skills and power skills – a win/win for everyone!

If this article resonated with you and you would like to learn more, contact me at petr@petermargaritis.com