Competency-based learning is no joke

November 7, 2017By Jennifer Briggs, CAEBlog, Learning and Career Development

Are you learning what you need to know in every CPE class you take? Maybe, but don’t you learn in ways outside of CPE courses as well?

In Indiana, through the efforts of our Board of Accountancy, the Indiana CPA Society and the CPA Center of Excellence®, we are addressing the idea of options. Specifically, related to competency-based (or outcomes-based) education.

What does that mean? What you learn vs. CPE hours. We are looking at ways to provide options for maintaining your skills. Hear more in this recent “Improv Is No Joke” podcast from author and frequent INCPAS speaker Peter Margaritis, CPA.

The world as your workplace

October 4, 2017By Jessica HillBlog, Future of Work and Change Management, Innovation, Talent Management and People

Mobility policies, or being able to work outside of the office, are becoming more common as we embrace and become more comfortable with internet-based technology. With a mobility policy, you can work anywhere as long as you have two things: a laptop and internet access. I’ve been with a firm for a little over a year that strongly embraces mobility, and I have certainly taken advantage of the policy—either working from home or at Starbucks when I’m not expected to be in the office or at a client site.

At a recent college career fair, people loved hearing about the luxury of working from home; however, their questions revealed their skepticism. Below I’ve included the most common questions I’ve received about work mobility:

  1. How are you held accountable?

This is almost always the first question out of the gate. Accountability is a valid concern when you have the ability to work somewhere with no direct supervision. However, people tend to miss the fact there is still supervision—even though it might not equate to someone physically looking over your shoulder. If you’re working from a laptop distributed by your employer, then most likely there are tools in place to monitor your online activity. No matter where I’m working, my coworkers can see when I’m online. When I step away, my computer automatically times out after fifteen minutes to show that I’m inactive.

Communication is important no matter where you work, but it’s extremely important when you’re away from the office. Always check in with your coworkers to let them know how you’re progressing and if you have any questions. This makes your work more transparent and ensures your team that you’re working—just be sure to be honest!

  1. How do you stay focused?

Staying focused is the most difficult aspect of working mobile, but the solution varies from person to person. I need to have a designated office space to work efficiently. An office with a desk, a comfortable chair, and very minimal distractions is the best work environment for me. I am not fond of working in bustling coffee shops or restaurants because I think they’re too distracting. If I do find myself getting distracted no matter where I’m working, headphones and some music always helps.

  1. How do you determine when you work from the office?

More often than not, this will be an easy decision. If you need to access office equipment, check your mail, or work extensively with a coworker, then you should definitely work from the office. Some people prefer working in the office because they can’t focus at home, or they enjoy seeing other people. If you have a terrible commute, car problems, or you’re feeling under the weather, then working from home is a better option.

  1. Does a mobility policy help with work-life balance?

Yes and no. There are many ways working mobile can help with work-life balance. If you have a long commute and can work from home for part of the week, you can work at the times you would have been driving. Parents can work from home whenever they need to be there for a sick child. A parent can work at a coffee shop close to his toddler’s daycare for easier pick-up. However, for some people being able to work anywhere brings the feeling that you are obligated to work wherever you are. It is still important from a work-life balance perspective to have a clear understanding of your work expectations and your personal limits. If working from home makes it impossible to turn off the laptop and relax after working hours, then working from the office would be best.

There are many gains from a mobile working environment. However, the most important advice I give when working away from the office is to maintain a solid line of communication with your coworkers. While you may not be working in the office, you are still expected to perform, and perform well.

Does your employer have a mobility policy? What advice would you give on the matter? Please share in the comments below!

 

What We’re Reading – 8/9/2017

August 9, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on teamwork, technology, decision-making, and workplace culture. 

 

A bank robber can teach us a lot about team-building, according to this video featuring Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871.

https://www.inc.com/video/howard-tullman/the-most-important-thing-to-remember-when-youre-building-a-team.html

 

The arrival of Blockchain is inevitable. How, as CPAs, can we be ready to embrace this new innovation?

https://www.strategy-business.com/article/A-Strategists-Guide-to-Blockchain?gko=0d586&utm_source=itw&utm_medium=20170808&utm_campaign=resp

 

Ever wonder how successful people get from one thing to another? Here are 4 strategies successful people use in making important decisions.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40444808/how-successful-people-make-decisions-differently?utm_content=buffer254e7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

CPAs, do your workplace cultures have any of these three common, but misleading, characteristics?

https://www.accountingtoday.com/opinion/three-things-that-arent-your-firms-culture

 

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

What We’re Reading – 8/2/2017

August 2, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on leadership, technology, and education. 

 

Honesty is proven to boost leadership credibility in even the most dire situations.

How Honest Apologies Can Help Leaders Bounce Back

 

Blockchain is further being touted as revolutionary force in finance. CPAs, how do you believe this technology will impact your businesses?

Building the Future of Finance with Blockchain

 

Villanova seeks to keep its students at the forefront of the accounting profession with its new Master of Accounting with Data Analytics program.

https://www.accountingtoday.com/news/villanova-announces-masters-of-accounting-with-data-analytics-program

 

 

At the CPA Center of Excellence®, we help CPAs and service professionals stay ahead of change and innovation. Look for our recommended reads on topics like critical thinking and non-technical skills, the future of work, innovation, talent management, leadership, and the changing role of the CPA each Wednesday.

What Does It Mean To Be Creative?

July 31, 2017By Corey Stark, CPAInnovation, Learning and Career Development

It’s a new year and there’s a new political and economic environment on the horizon. For much of 2016, those of us participating in the CPA Center of Excellence® Online Community talked about being innovative. My question is, do we currently have the ability to recognize when we are being creative and innovative?

My normal day is immersed working in spreadsheets, and talking about that work in spreadsheets with people who love spreadsheets. Our long-term outlook has really evolved too. We work to find ways to make these dope spreadsheets even better.

Sounds pretty creative.

Well the fact is, if some innovative thought is going into what creates new solutions for your people or your clients, then you are being creative.

The public accounting profession may be one of the least progressive out there. Personality types do not, by nature, thrive in environments of constant change. Change can bring back “first date anxiety” and uncertainty that the world no longer fits in a box that can easily be taken anywhere.

I’ve sat in too many conferences where CPAs say they need to change with the modern business environment. You know what this led to? Ten years’ worth of work to try and evolve accounting standards to have standardized financial reporting throughout the world. They’re more or less scrapping this idea now. Good job guys.

Reluctance to change has led to missed opportunities in the profession in big data, talent acquisition, and who knows what else. The point is, innovative solutions don’t need to create a new product or industry in one step, but your organization needs to move in this direction to meet your full potential. It is an essential element to creating an engaged organization.

Let’s put this into practice … hey CPAs, why has the structure of firms continued in the same manner for over 100 years? Literally. 100 years. Would you prefer a car with modern amenities or would you go with a Model T? So why have accounting firm structures not changed?

On the other end of the spectrum, let’s look at the tech sector that utilizes mobile workplaces, where flex time is required, and profit sharing is in entry level compensation packages. What if a CPA firm came along that flipped the script? Most of the innovation has been done at the Big 4 firms where they have the capital and clout to make this happen. But even they can lag behind.  They just know that they can’t do it themselves and pay people whose job title should read “Guy that thinks of stuff.”

What if we had an entrepreneurial structure? What if each client was its own business, and the partner group was really venture capitalists making investments in teams? Picture how an evaluation might go differently if it was staff defending their performance not to their boss, but their investor? What if you give a group a portfolio of clients, tell them to make the budget actually work, and part of the deal is they have to run a business. They won’t have the backstop of depending on the next team to help us out with staff. Well you can go to other teams for help, but now they are billable consultants.

This new structure provides the platform for people to really think about purpose, execution and making a business work. And, really, how different is it than the present? You can keep your safe LLC structures and staff tree. All you’re doing is adding accountability to accountants to make their own future.

Did you find it funny that I tried to sell change to CPAs when this isn’t really change? The first step is the hardest, but make it your new addiction. Be tact, think bold, and find the calculated risk.  Where can you or your organization be creative? Read, comment, share. Start the conversation.

What We’re Reading – 7/26/2017

July 26, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on emotional intelligence, cybersecurity, innovation, and leadership. 

 

Afraid that first impression didn’t go well? Increase your likability in your networking efforts with these 5 emotionally intelligent things to do when meeting someone new.

https://www.fastcompany.com/40441365/do-these-5-emotionally-intelligent-things-within-5-minutes-of-meeting-someone_

 

Is your company protected against these threats? It might be time to adapt to the cybersecurity realities of today:

An Insider’s View on Outside Cybersecurity Threats

 

Looking to become better at something in your life? Here is a stellar list of 44 books for self-improvement:

https://www.inc.com/christina-desmarais/44-favorite-books-of-high-achievers.html?cid=sf01001&sr_share=twitter

 

Stay ahead of the curve with these 8 change management models you can use to adapt and grow your business.

8 Critical Change Management Models to Evolve and Survive

 

Read the story of how two executives, new to their jobs, propelled their company forward through their leadership and teamwork:

https://www.strategy-business.com/article/Finance-and-HR-The-Executive-Partnership-That-Transformed-a-Company?gko=bcdab&utm_source=itw&utm_medium=20170725&utm_campaign=resp

 

 

What Does Your Leadership Transition Look Like?

July 24, 2017By Robert Reynolds, CPALeadership, Talent Management and People

During the past several years, our profession, like many others, has identified the need for an orderly and effective transition of leadership to the next generation of professionals as a critically important business issue. While much attention has been focused on this issue recently, the need to attract, retain and develop human capital in an organization is not a new issue. So why do so many organizations continue to struggle with the recruitment and development of the next generation of leaders?

I contrasted the differences between succession planning and transition activities with respect to leadership development in my February 2013 blog, Succession or Transition – You Choose. Succession planning is long-term focused. It is developing a culture and processes that enable you to attract the best and the brightest to join your organization, investing the time and personal energy to clearly define the personal characteristics, competencies and experiences necessary for these individuals to take full advantage of their career development opportunities, and then providing them the training and tools for success. Simply put, if the goal is filling the pipeline with future leaders, “begin with the end in mind.” By contrast, transition planning focuses on the orderly redistribution of leadership responsibilities to ensure the continuation of short-term activities.

For CPAs, the dilemma continues to be finding the proper balance between the development of the technical skills our professionals must possess to effectively serve our clients and employers, with those business or career success skills necessary to effectively lead the efforts of others in meeting the needs of clients and our organizations. Recent surveys and studies have shown that they two are considered equal in importance and critical to your future success.

With the increasing complexity of the business challenges facing our clients, and the need for greater responsiveness to these challenges, simply meeting the technical development needs of our people is a struggle for many of us at times. If this is the world we live in, how do we make the shift or find the time to address the leadership development of our team? I believe taking advantage of the many resources the CPA Center of Excellence® has to offer will greatly help in meeting the leadership development needs of our profession’s future leaders.

The CPA Center of Excellence® is advancing the CPA profession’s critical success skills through education, assessment and knowledge sharing. The Center offers a variety of tools, resources and creative educational opportunities to improve those skills in order to meet future client, employer and environmental needs and demands. The Center emphasizes a competency-based learning model and intelligent collaboration designed to assess your team’s current mastery of these critical competencies, and a road map to address the knowledge gaps identified to provide for long-term career success.

I believe the CPA Center of Excellence® is the greatest member benefit to be offered during the 20 years I have been a member of the Indiana CPA Society. If you agree succession is an important issue for your organization, and the development of your people is vital to addressing this issue, I encourage you to explore the resources available through the CPA Center of Excellence®. As with any important initiative or undertaking, remember “begin with the end in mind,” and that there is absolutely no reason “to reinvent the wheel.”

What Are Your Unconscious Biases?

July 17, 2017By Justin Hayes, CPALearning and Career Development

We can all agree our personal background (how we were raised, our education, etc.) helps to shape our moral and ethical behavior as we get older. For example, many people pride themselves on the work ethic they were taught as a child as they grow into adulthood. Or that they were raised to value their integrity and not to compromise it. These are both great examples of how our upbringing has shaped us in positive ways to be better members of society.

Although I have reflected on this personally in the past, I was not aware that what I was reflecting on was what is more commonly known as unconscious bias. Bias, of course, is having a prejudice either in favor of or against some thing, person or group compared to another. Have you ever taken a moment to consider how your upbringing could have created bias in you? More specifically, perhaps some bias you don’t even realize you have?

I have to be honest, I have not thought about this much in the past. However, I recently was able to attend the Society’s Leadership Cabinet/Emerging Leaders Alliance session where Allison Manswell, with Cook Ross, presented on the topic of “Unconscious Bias.” I hadn’t really been exposed to this topic prior to the meeting. What I learned was that in a very brief manner of speaking, “Unconscious Bias” refers to a bias we are unaware of, which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brains making fast decisions without us consciously slowing down the decision-making process.

As I started to look into this topic, I was amazed at the amount of research that has been done. One of the most interesting things I came across was a study done by the National Academy of Sciences, which found that hurricanes with female names have a much higher death rate than those with a male name. The research determined the reason behind this was that people unconsciously associated a female named hurricane to be gentler and less violent, so they did not take the warnings as serious as they did with a male name. I also found the following exercise in the Journal of Accountancy that is interesting and focuses more on unconscious biases in CPA firms: Take the test: What are your unconscious biases?

What potential unconscious biases might you have, and how are they impacting the decisions you are making? Is this a concept you’d like to explore further in order to get a better understanding of your thought process for making decisions, or the thought processes of coworkers, clients or employers?

What We’re Reading – 7/12/2017

July 12, 2017By Elise MayArticle, Blog

This week’s recommended reading on networking, management, and innovation. 

 

Learn from a seasoned veteran of the business world on his vision of management: 

https://www.accountingtoday.com/opinion/the-art-and-philosophy-of-leadership-and-management

 

Do you cringe when you hear the word “networking”? For many people, networking can be intimidating and stressful. Here are six ways you can network if you don’t like talking to strangers: 

https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/how-to-network-if-you-dont-like-talking-to-strangers/

 

Drew Houston, co-founder and CEO of Dropbox, shares the challenges and opportunities he’s been faced with, as well as career advice for entrepreneurs. 

https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2017/05/23/drew-houston-why-the-most-successful-entrepreneurs-solve-big-problems/#66bcdadb7acd

 

Those who came before us often can lead us the way forward. Here are some lessons from history’s greatest innovators: 

https://medium.freecodecamp.org/lessons-from-historys-great-innovators-that-you-should-never-forget-4d5e432adcde

 

Teamwork Is Key to a Successful Business Office

July 10, 2017By John Minnich, CPATalent Management and People

This past week, I attended a National Business Officer Institute conference at Harpeth Hall School in Nashville, Tennessee. I had the opportunity to connect with business officers from across the nation during our week-long immersion of study covering accounting, finance, tax, human resources, risk management, facilities and technology.

Apparently, the path to business officer generally occurs indirectly and fills by individuals of various backgrounds, some of whom are CPAs. At our INCPAS Leadership Cabinet and Emerging Leaders meetings, we discuss the importance of attracting younger generations to the CPA profession and routinely brainstorm ways to engage them. I encourage you to share this career path with them as yet another option for future CPAs.

As I move forward with my new role as CFO at Concordia Lutheran High School in Fort Wayne, I find it fascinating to engage first-hand in the operations of a private independent school. At our conference, we discussed several important concepts with regard to staffing a business office. To help paint a picture, the business office staff generally consists of accounts receivable, accounts payable, controller and human resources. Direct reports to the CFO/business officer usually include tuition management and enrollment, financial aid, facilities, information technology, dining services, security, transportation, auxiliary and summer programs, health staff, bookstore/campus stores, post office and support staff.

Several of the highlights covered last week straddle what I experienced in public accounting:

  • Build a strong team – Referring to Jim Collins’ Good to Great, we discussed getting the right people on the bus in the correct seats.
  • Ensure that your team has the necessary skills to perform its functions properly.
  • Stay connected with departmental direct reports to remain informed. Schedule recurring meetings when appropriate.
  • Follow best practices by networking and staying informed through external sources including associations, journals and vendors.
  • Outsource when it makes sense and increases efficiency. For example, private schools must consider the pros and cons of managing dining services in-house or hiring a third party. Similarly, several vendors provide payroll services that a school can outsource.

At independent schools, a strong partnership must exist between the head of the school (the executive director) and the chief financial officer. We reviewed the importance of maintaining open, frequent and timely communication. Through collaboration, mutual respect and trust, each should appreciate different job responsibilities and demands while seeking out each other’s viewpoints. This helps ensure including both the head of school and CFO in important decisions. Each should honor his or her commitments through a shared alignment of mission, vision and priorities.

Sound familiar? What would you add to the list for your organization? Is an education business officer a role you have ever considered, or do you know someone who has?