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Archive for August, 2014

I occasionally receive “I saw this and I thought of you” emails or mailings containing articles or education opportunities from friends and colleagues. I must say, I really enjoy receiving them.  They make me feel that the person sharing the information sincerely cares about our relationship. Imagine how a client will feel when they read or hear that same message from you?  It is human nature to want to feel appreciated, understood and valued, and “thought of you” messages can go a long way in helping maintain a personal relationship with your clients.  Here are a few things you can easily share:

  • An article you just read that pertains to their industry.
  • A heads-up to potential changes in tax laws, banking regulations, HR issues, medical and health issues, and how these and other changes could affect their business.  This can easily be done with our many electronic Tax Tips and Healthcare Reform alerts.  Feel free to forward them along to underscore the importance of the information.
  • A seminar or presentation that you feel would be of interest to them and their business.
  • Articles related to marketing, sales, social media, advertising or public relations that can help them with developing new business.
  • How other resources within our firm can help them, a.k.a. cross-selling, or as we like to call it, cross-solving. Take advantage of our talent pool and the deep expertise we have here. 
  • An introduction to someone or a company that you think will help improve their operations.
  • Public information, not gossip, about other similar companies within their industry. Even if they already know about it, it will be viewed as a positive that you are keeping up with their industry.
  • An idea or approach from a different industry to see if it can be applied to their business.
  • An article or seminar invitation about their personal hobby or interest.  Don’t know what your client does in his or her spare time?  Then go find out!  Ask about family and hobbies. People work with people they like.

The act of sharing as a regular ‘best practice’ in your daily communications will go a long way in building your professional relationships. Take the time to send something today!

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Today, I’d like to continue discussing Pat Williams’ book, Leadership Excellence: the Seven Sides of Leadership for the 21st Century, covering the second side of leadership:

  1. COMMUNICATION. “Suppose I said to you, things are bad and they are going to get worse, really terrible. Now follow me!” – Rudy Giuliani

Williams is convincing in his theory that one of the primary roles of an effective leader is to be a ‘vision caster’ and to do that, one must be an effective communicator who can share that vision clearly, motivating and inspiring others to embrace that same vision. Here are the six principals he shares

  1. Believe in the power of communication. To be an effective leader, you must believe it is important to be an effective communicator, and you must become a talker.
  2. Communicate so that people understand. Never communicate in an attempt to impress others with fancy words.  Don’t say, “I suffered a bilateral periorbital hematoma” when you mean “I got two black eyes.”  And say exactly what you mean, as clearly and concisely as you can.
  3. Communicate optimism.  Optimists always trump pessimists. Where others see obstacles, we must train ourselves to see opportunities. “Optimism is a choice – a powerful one,” observed Ronald Reagan. “Perpetual Optimism is a force multiplier,” says Colin Powell.
  4. Communicate hope. Hope for the future is the glue that binds people together as a team, a community, or an organization.  Without hope, the people perish and teams disintegrate.
  5. Communicate to motivate* and inspire. It is very rare for a team to be self-motived and self-inspired.
  6. Become a storyteller. We are hardwired to retain stories, not PowerPoint presentations. The greatest leaders are good storytellers.

*Williams also breaks down the issue of motivation into six drives, and being aware of these drives will help you find the right message for motivating and inspiring your team, influencing a board, or convincing a client or prospect of new services:

  1. The drive for financial security.
  2. The drive for acceptance and emotional security.
  3. The drive for recognition and affirmation.
  4. The drive for self-respect.
  5. The drive for self-expression.
  6. The drive to identify with a cause greater than ourselves.

Aside from having the technical knowledge needed to do our jobs, the essence of a successful career within a public accounting firm is effective communication, whether internally to our peers or supervisors, or externally to clients, prospects, or members of organizations to whom we may be presenting our thought leadership and expertise. There is another great section of the book beginning on page 99 which offers a “Quick-Start Guide to Effective Public Speaker” which I highly recommend you take the time to read. 

Unleashing the power of the spoken word you have within yourself will help you become a better teacher, presenter, motivator, and influencer… resulting in becoming a great leader.

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Today, I’d like to share a message regarding “ownership of your work,” crediting John Mortenson, Partner-in-Charge of our Firm’s New Brunswick office, who shared this sage advice…

Ownership of your work

For staff at every level (from staff 1 to partner), the common theme which distinguishes whether someone is excelling or just collecting a pay check revolves around taking “ownership” to the work we do.  We use this phrase over and over but what it comes down to is assuming responsibility to ensure we provide world class client service.  Every day, I hear of examples of staff who really do understand what it means, but every now and then I hear examples of not executing properly.  For us to be successful, we need everyone to assume ownership, which includes the following:

  • Assume responsibility for an engagement from the second it comes in, until the moment it goes out the door.  This would include not just the part of the project you are working on, but the entire engagement. 
  • Take it upon yourself to be sure that every member of the engagement team (that includes staff below and above your level) provides world class client service and not assume that someone else will do it.  
  • Do not wait until the last second to deliver the project, and yes, that may mean burning the midnight oil on occasion.  That also means you need to know the due date of the project.  It means each member of the engagement team needs to hold up their end.  When one person fails, the burden falls upon the others on the job which is not fair.  However, we also need to step up and help other staff when the situation arises.
  • Follow up with other team members on the status once you have complete your portion of the project.  Don’t wash your hands of the project just because you finished your assigned task.  Make sure the project gets completed and see if there is anything you can do help.
  • In summary, take it upon yourself to make sure we under-promise and over-deliver on every job and hold those that do not accountable. 

This is great advice for everyone.  Owning your work means to have the instinct and the drive to take on its responsibilities – completely.  Do it the best you can; do it the best it can be done.  And if you have to work a couple of extra nights to get the work done, then you need to do it.  Demonstrating this level of dedication to your job is how you convert from a person going to work every day to one that is spending every day building a career. That is how you win client loyalty.  It is certainly a factor we consider during the evaluation process.

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Today, I’d like to continue discussing Pat Williams’ book, Leadership Excellence: the Seven Sides of Leadership for the 21st Century, covering the first side of leadership:

VISION. “Leadership is about the future, so all true leadership begins with vision.”– Pat Williams 

In Leadership Excellence, Williams cites leaders like Cyrus the Great who builds his empire based on tolerance and diversity. He talks about Sam Walton’s vision for Wal-Mart, Steve Jobs for Apple, Richard Branson for Virgin, and many more. Leaders with vision look ahead to the future while sharing the dream and direction which other people want to embrace, share and follow. The vision of an organization’s leadership permeates the workplace and is manifested in the actions, beliefs, values and goals of its people. Williams goes on to share how vision produces three vital effects in the life of a leader:

  • First, vision keeps you focused.  It wards off distractions. Your vision of the future keeps you on the main highway to your goals.
  • Second, vision keeps you fueled.  It gives you energy, passion and enthusiasm for the challenges you face. Energy, passion and enthusiasm are the most contagious of all human qualities… vision evokes emotion.  There is no such thing as emotionless vision.
  • Third, vision helps you finish. Leadership isn’t easy. The road is hard, and there are deserts to cross, valleys to traverse, and mountains to climb or tunnel through. Your vision keeps you going through the tough times.

So, how do you become “visionary”? Without going into great detail (you can read the book), here is a list of skills Williams believes will help you do so:

  1. Uncork your imagination.  Don’t just think outside of the box.  There is no box!
  2. Silence your inner critic. Remember, nothing is impossible.
  3. Consider every possible solution. There is rarely one right way to solve a problem.
  4. Ask yourself, “What if—?” Don’t be content with status quo.  To find a better way, continually ask, “What if—?”
  5. Train yourself to notice what others miss. Look at everything with potential opportunity.
  6. Think “tomorrow.”  Become a futurist. Take time to imagine where today’s trends will lead us in the future.
  7. Make your vision clear and simple.  A complicated vision is not a vision.
  8. Learn to think backwards.  As you plan your leadership journey, begin with the destination in mind, not the starting point.
  9. Tap into the imagination of the entire team.  Call your team together and conduct regular brainstorming sessions.  There are no bad ideas.
  10. Get your entire team to buy in.  “My vision” must become “our vision.”
  11. Give people an elevated vision of themselves.  Great leaders want to develop more leaders.
  12. Prepare people for celebration. Reward your people for a job well done, and let them know about it ahead of time.

Regardless of what level professional you are, from Staff I to Partner; or in which department you are based, be it Accounting, Marketing, Firm Administration, IT or Human Resources, we encourage staff to make time here at Withum really count and be an active part of the growth and betterment of yourself, our Firm, our clients and our communities.  Adhere to the vision that is shared through a variety of avenues throughout the firm, either by your supervisors or office PICs or niche leaders or even myself.

See it.  Feel it.  Share it.  The vision we have for WithumSmith+Brown includes growth and success in revenue and geographic reach, for sure, but it is mostly about the growth and success our own people and our culture.  And from what I can see, the future is very bright.

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