Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Communicating Without Words: A Soft Skill Worth Learning

By Tiffany Underwood, CPA

Whether you are interviewing for your next job or facilitating an important meeting, recent studies suggest soft skills like communicating could come in handy and are becoming more sought after in the workplace. In addition to communicating, soft skills consist of dependability, teamwork, critical thinking, and leadership, among others. According to research from the American Psychological Association, employers were more likely to hire a candidate that was likeable. Results from a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management showed soft skills such as dependability, teamwork, respect and integrity were all vitally important for hiring entry-level jobs. A CNBC article listed five top soft skills to get hired; communication was a soft skill among these.

Communication seems easy, and we would all like to think that we do it well, but that is contrary to what perspective employers are saying. We have been told to be prepared, so we choose our words wisely. We try to speak as clearly and concisely as possible, but there is more to communicating than simply writing or speaking well. There is much debate on the amount of nonverbal communication that occurs in a conversation, but we can all agree nonverbal signals are continuously being sent. We each have experienced a conversation where someone’s body language does not match his or her words.

Nonverbal communications are messages sent without speaking such as posture, pitch, eye contact, emotional expression, hand gestures, listening skills and attention, among other traits. Nonverbal communication can make a good or bad impression and could be a determining factor for a job offer. The type of nonverbal communication used should be representative of the message and audience receiving the communication. For example, at an interview or meeting, proper posture and a more serious tone may be necessary for delivering a message. Eye contact is also important, but not too much or it becomes uncomfortable.

The best way to develop nonverbal communication skills is to practice communicating and watch and listen for nonverbal signals being passed throughout the communication. Nonverbal communication can be practiced with a mirror or video tape. Having another person watch and critique nonverbal signals may also be helpful. Whatever method you choose to practice nonverbal communication, it is important to learn and understand the messages being sent without words.

About the Author

Tiffany Underwood, CPA, is an auditor at the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. She can be reached at tiffany.underwood001@gmail.com

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence & Empathizing with your Coworkers

By Kati Uttz, TSCPA Memphis Chapter Student Ambassador

When you think about accounting, what comes to your mind? Number-cruncher? Nerd? Stuck in a cubicle all day? Well listen up folks, because I’m about to break the accounting stereotype for you. If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout my various internships, it’s that people are the true focus of accounting. Yes, you heard me right. Gone are the days that calculators reign as the mascots of accountants. Technology is changing the world, our profession included. With the implementation of bookkeeping software and the rise of automation, the jobs of accountants are shifting. Currently, the fastest growing sector of accounting is advisory. By nature, advisory engagements are driven by accountant-client interaction. Customers are moving away from basic financial services and moving toward consultations that are tailored to their needs. As we all know, human beings aren’t cold and calculated like computers. Nine times out of ten, our decisions are driven by emotion, not reason. This is why building emotional intelligence is so critical for success.

The term emotional intelligence (EQ) describes an individual’s ability to understand one’s own emotions while also empathizing with and responding to the emotions of others. You may be surprised to learn that EQ is now a better indicator of future success than technical skills alone. Yet, our accounting curriculum still focuses primarily on acquiring the technical skills. This can cause those extremely valuable soft skills to slip through the cracks. We are all aware that the number-crunching services are the ones most vulnerable to automation. Which is the exact reason EQ plays a vital role in maintaining a highly successful accounting career.

In today’s world, businesses revolve around emotions. It is important to gain the trust of your clients, and for them to feel like their business is meaningful. We now live in a consumer-focused market, which means that consumers are more likely to repeatedly buy from companies that put the needs of the consumer first. By showing your clients that their business has value, you’ve taken a step towards growing your EQ. You need to be ready to empathize with your clients when they’ve had a bad day. You should be willing and ready to listen to their concerns. You should show understanding when they become frustrated over potential problems. Your reactions in moments like these can make or break your relationship with a client. Learn how to relate your experiences to your customers. Take note of your clients’ motivations and how that influences their goals. Align yourself with them. This can help immensely in your ability to influence and persuade others.

On the other hand, you should strive to be in complete control of your own emotions. Too many times have I seen peers of mine "blow up" in anger when they didn’t see results they wanted. Not only does this leave a bad taste in your employer’s mouth, but you can also say “hasta la vista” to future business with a client that witnessed your emotional outburst. This kind of reaction gives the notion that you do not respect your clients’ time, and you are exhibiting a lack of willpower. Appearance is key in maintaining a strong relationship with your customers. Be certain your personal branding is one the client is willing and wants to trust. Remember that when clients share their financial information with you, they’re putting great faith in your character. Don’t give them reason to doubt that your relationship is anything other than excellent. By building and growing your own EQ, you too can become a master at maintaining relationships.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Productivity Q&A with Jennifer Fox
(a.k.a. Productivity Ninja)

Occupation: Productivity Ninja
Company: Think Productive North America
Location: New York
Other job titles in life: Coach, Consultant, Facilitator, HR Visionary, L&D Leader, Entrepreneur, Writer, Photographer, Athlete, Life-Long-Learner, Wife-extraordinaire, Super-Mom-of-3 
Q: What’s important about your workspace?
A; My most productive workspace is at a large coffee retailer with a certain green logo. I love the background noise, which ironically allows me great focus, the chance for frequent people-watching breaks and the feel of warm coffee in my hand as I unleash my creativity on my latest projects.
Q: Which ninja characteristic have you got nailed?
A: Unorthodoxy - my life and career path has been anything but conventional. I love the freedom that comes from knowing that there is rarely a “right” solution to a problem. Some former colleagues and I coined the phrase, “blow it up”, as our way of creating excitement and energy around looking for new ways to approach a problem.
Q: Which ninja characteristic are you still working on the most?
A: Mindfulness & Human, not Superhero. I wear many hats, the most important of which are serving those whom I love. In my effort to please and have everything taken care of, I juggle too many balls, and the one that gets dropped most is self-care. Recently, I’ve established a meditation practice and am a die-hard fitbit tracker, so Zen-Like Calm Ninja would be proud.
Q: Which five apps could you not live without?
A: I admit to having to pick up my phone to answer this question. OmniFocus for all task and project management, WhatsApp to communicate with my tribe of friends, AmazonMusic to keep a song in my heart, Instagram for my social media fix and Starbucks for my coffee addiction. (see workspace answer above!)
Q: What’s your favorite piece of stationery?
A: Much to the chagrin of my 8-year old who thinks I am “SO boring”, I only use Black and Red Spiral bound notebooks. There is nothing like starting a new one, creating to-do lists with check boxes next to them and doodling with my mechanical pencil (never a pen). I also love journals and have more than I care to admit that have months or years in between entries.
Q: When in the day do you have the most proactive attention?
A: Mid-morning, after the kids have been taken care of and my house is (mostly) in order.
Q: What’s your trick for when you’re tired or struggling with attention in the day?
A: Taking a break to clean something, or do a menial task that I can complete. Checking a box brings great satisfaction and gives me momentum to focus again. Also, changing my work environment. I’ve even been known to drive to a different Starbucks down the street to change my office space!
Q: What’s your best advice for reducing stress?
A: Find humor and insights everywhere. Luckily, I have 3 amazing little people who provide non-stop entertainment. I also try to be on the lookout for things that make me think, smile, wonder. I can presence myself in the middle of Manhattan just by focusing on something that peaks my curiosity. The Breathe app provides me with frequent reminders to do just that, and I love Insight Timer for guided meditation to unwind at the end of the day, though I rarely make it past the 5-minute mark.
Q: What’s your email regime?
A: Confession: prior to becoming a Productivity Ninja my regime was to keep everything, and hope that Google continued to raise the inbox limit. Having been introduced to Inbox Zero, I’ll never look back. It’s not easy to break old habits, but seeing the whitespace on my screen is the equivalent to a clear desk.
Q: What’s your favorite way to take a break in the middle of the day?
A: I would be lying if I didn’t say coffee, but I’ll add connecting with someone in a casual way: friends, family, co-workers, even the cashier at Chipotle can give me the energy I need.
Q: What’s the secret to your productivity?
A: I started using the hashtag #GSD when I discovered hashtags were no longer pound signs (dating myself, but I know many of you can relate). It stands for Get S*§% Done, and it’s my M.O. at work, home and life. I am results-driven, sometimes to a fault, but have found that it has allowed me to raise my game in every area of life. Sometimes it’s just taking the first step towards a big project, other times it’s going all-in to complete a project all at once. Being productive makes me feel great and inspires others around me to achieve their own potential.
About the Author: Jennifer Fox is a Productivity Ninja in the Greater New York area. Meet her in person at the 2018 TSCPA Women’s Career Summit or follow her on Twitter at @ThinkProdUSA. Register for the TSCPA Women's Career Summit  at www.tscpa.com/women2018