What Can You Learn from Your Co-Workers?

Learn from co-workers
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One of the reasons why public accounting is a great career is the teaching aspect. You don’t need to be an expert to be a teacher. You only need to be one step ahead of someone else. Since there is so much teaching going on each day, that also means there is a lot of learning.

Because you won’t and can’t know everything, you can learn so much. You can learn from your co-workers, clients and bosses as well as from life’s experiences.

A lesson learned from my co-workers

I learned from my co-workers the other day. There were three of us working on a project. I serving as the manager on the job along with an experienced in-charge and a newer staff. One of my primary responsibilities as the manager is to teach and to answer questions.

At the end of the week, we had an exit meeting with management. The in-charge asked who was going to run the meeting, me or her. I said I would. The meeting went well and management was very pleased with our comments, suggestions and hard work.

After the meeting, both of my co-workers thanked me for running the meeting. Neither had had the opportunity to experience this kind of exit meeting. That shocked me. Exit meetings should routinely be held at the end of each project and our deliverables should be reviewed with management. Apparently, however, the deliverables are not normally presented.

We were able to meet my expectations as to the timely completion of the engagement. I learned from my co-workers that my expectations, even though supposedly an industry best practice, did not occur that frequently. The biggest reason we were able to meet those expectations was because I was working in the field with them for multiple days. I also learned this does not frequently occur.

My co-workers are very intelligent and hard workers. They listened to instructions and advice and accomplished their tasks. They arrived early and worked late. They drove a long way to the client each day. At the end of the week, they were worn out…mentally and physically.

When I told them to not work late on Friday but to leave for home early, they were appreciative. In fact, I think they were surprised. I learned from my co-workers that they are used to being driven hard but appreciate when their personal lives are taken into account.

It may be busy season and we have to get a lot of work done in a short three-month period. That does not mean they need to suffer personally. Since I had to leave mid-day to head out of town for my daughter’s volleyball tournament, why would I expect them to work late? An hour or two on a Friday afternoon/evening will not make the difference in getting the job done. The work will get done.

This article is not about me being a great and considerate manager. Instead, this is about me learning from my co-workers about what they need and helping other managers learn what their co-workers need. The following are what I’m going to help implement:

1. Managers should work with employees instead of working after employees. By that, I mean managers should be in the field working alongside their co-workers. They should be available for questions and provide guidance.

2. Expectations should be set prior to the beginning of engagements. The team should all have the same goal. If they are not working toward the same goal, that goal will not be accomplished.

3. Younger employees need to be given opportunities to witness and participate in meetings with client personnel. Managers need to include employees rather than doing things themselves.

Question:  What do you wish you would have learned when you were in the beginning of your career? If you had a good manager in your career, what were his or her characteristics? 

Make Me Work More, Please!


Working Late
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It has been said that a first year auditor is the highest paid professional in public accounting. Why? A first year auditor is told what to do and the hours to work. She doesn’t have many responsibilities that require hours be put in outside of the current engagement.
The in-charge auditor is the level at which the most learning occurs. A new in-charge learns what it means to be responsible for several engagements at the same time. There is responsibility for wrapping up the last job, working on the current job and planning a future job.
This is the first opportunity an auditor has to see the audit process from beginning to end. He doesn’t just get to identify and put together the side pieces of the puzzle. He gets to find each piece in the puzzle and put them in the right place.
Eventually, if the auditor stays in public accounting and works efficiently and effectively, a promotion to manager should occur. A manager will have more fun at this stage than in any stage previously experienced.
Managing multiple engagements and clients at the same time can be a little stressful. When you add those projects that just pop up and need to get done quickly, it can get even more stressful. Then there are added administrative and personnel issues to deal with.
Why would anyone want to be a manager in public accounting? It sounds like a terrible role.
Those few stressful items noted above are true. But they do not fully describe the role of being a manager in public accounting. Like any position in life, there are certain things that cause stress. Like all other positions in life, there are also additional aspects to enjoy.
Being a manger in public accounting requires more hours. To many, it comes as a big shock as to how many hours are required to accomplish all a manager’s responsibilities. Here’s the good thing though. A manager gets more flexibility.
I thoroughly enjoy my role as a manager. I enjoy working with different people all the time (both co-workers and clients). I enjoy the networking and sales processes. I enjoy teaching. But, most important of all is the flexibility with my schedule.
Sure, a manager has to work more hours than an in-charge. That will always be the case. When the manager has to work those hours, however, is up to the manager. There is no such thing as work/life balance but flexibility provides the opportunity to feel balance.
As a manager, if you want to attend your child’s event at school, you can go. If you need to leave for a family celebration, you leave. If you want to have lunch with a friend, you do it.
The work still has to get done. You just find times to do it. Maybe that means you get to work early. Maybe you stay late. Maybe you put the kids in bed and then boot the laptop when they are asleep. The flexibility is worth the extra hours.
Appreciate the flexibility you are given by the leaders in your organization. Get your work done and no one should question why you left at 4 p.m. or why you worked Saturday evening instead of Saturday morning. The key is to just get the work done.
So working extra hours is not necessarily a bad thing. I’ll take some extra hours, added responsibility, exciting challenges and more enjoyment any day in exchange for the flexibility I have. What about you? Do see that as a fair trade?

What Is Your Season of Life?


Seasons of Life
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It’s a frigid 20 degrees outside. Snow comes down a little every day. The sun sets before you get home from work. These are all signs of winter. Winter is that dreary time of year when you get depressed and dream of being a snow bird in Florida.

Mother Nature may say it’s winter but is that really your season? Seasons are cycles of nature. You also have seasons in your life. What season are you in?

Determining your life’s season is important for your happiness and productivity.

It’s “busy season” in the public accounting realm. We work six or seven days a week and work extremely long hours. Breakfasts are eaten in the office and so is dinner. It’s just that time of year for accountants.

This still isn’t the type of season about which this article is written. What is your season of life?

Life can be broken down into several seasons, or stages.

1. Childhood – This is the time of life when someone else is responsible for you. I consider this to be all the way through college graduation for most people. Your responsibility is to go to school and keep your nose clean. Your parents (hopefully) are taking care of your fiscal needs.

2. Young Adulthood – You’re responsible for yourself and no one else. You can be a college graduate in your first big job and living in an apartment. Your decisions impact yourself. You are not responsible for others.

3. Parenthood – Kids bring changes to your life. You’re responsible for another life. Not only are you responsible to take care of that child, you desire to spend time with him or her. You take them to Girl Scouts or little league practice. There is always something going on.

4. Post Children – Once you have children, you always have children. Regardless of how old your children get, you always worry about them. But, once they are out of the house and in their own “Young Adulthood” season of life, you graduate to the “Post Children” season.

Your primary responsibilities are to your spouse (if married) and your profession. You have more time to do the things you want to do. The days of rushing kids from one practice to another are over. In this stage, you may even get lucky enough to have grandchildren to spoil.

5. Retirement – This is the season of life everyone looks forward to. Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t prepare accordingly in our earlier seasons of life. People reach retirement age with ideas of grandeur and suddenly realize Social Security is all the income they have to live on. (This is a post for another day…)

If you save and plan correctly for retirement, you can live the life of your dreams. Your responsibilities can change from working for your future to actually living it.

So why did I describe these five seasons of life? Well, it’s simple. You need to know what season you’re in.

You fall into the trap of comparing yourself to others even though they are in a different season than you. Your boss is in a different season than you. Years spent in the corporate world can lead to greater flexibility and higher income.

Let’s look at my career as an example. I was able and willing to work longer hours when I first started my public accounting career. It was not unusual for me to work until 7 or 8 p.m. every day, including Saturday. Now, however, I have children at home and other priorities that make it so I will not work those types of hours on a persistent basis.

Just last Saturday, I was in the office by 6:30 a.m. and only worked until noon. Many of my co-workers continued working after I left. Now, I would have stayed longer except I had already missed half of my daughter’s volleyball tournament. My season of life, Parenthood, trumped working longer hours.

My younger co-workers may look at me and think, “Why does he get to leave early?” One day, they will do the same thing. Seasons of life are all about our priorities. My priorities will always be my faith and family. Work is a priority but I make it a lower priority than the other two.

That is not to say that I still don’t put in the hours and the effort. I do. Read this post about the Work/Life Balance Conundrum to get a better glimpse into how I manage those priorities.

Have you figured out the season of life in which you reside? It’s pretty simple. The key is to not compare yourself to others. Even if you compare yourself to others in the same season of life, their circumstances will be different.

I (Wish I) Had a Dream – 4 Resources for Hacking Sleep

I had a dream
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A few days ago was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States. His most famous quote “I had a dream!” rings in our memories.

Unlike Dr. King, I don’t dream. In fact, I have so much trouble sleeping I can’t remember the last time I had one. I’d like to fall in a deep sleep every night, dream a wonderful dream and wake up refreshed

For the last 10 years, though, sleep has been hard to come by. I struggle to fall asleep. Once asleep, I struggle to stay asleep. In most cases, it’s my mind that keeps me awake. I just can’t turn off my brain.

My wife tells me I can’t sleep because I exercise late at night and because I read on my iPad. Both are probably legitimate reasons why I can’t sleep. But there has to be others too. I have to find a way to sleep.

I just want to wake up refreshed in the morning. Poor sleep affects my productivity, my mood and my overall health.

In an effort to find ways to get good sleep, I’ve compiled below the five best resources for hacking sleep. Visit each and find something useful to implement or change in your life. See what works for you.

  1. The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss – The author of the ultra-successful The 4-Hour Workweek dedicated an entire section of The 4-Hour Body to hacking sleep. You’ll find something in there that will intrigue you. If you don’t have the book and want to read some of Tim’s other tips, visit this blog post.

  2. Bulletproof Executive by Dave Asprey – Dave, like Tim Ferriss, has dedicated his life to hacking his own biology so you can live a better life. This section of his blog is dedicated to hacking sleep. You’ll be amazed at what you find here.

If nothing else, buy some MCT Oil or Bulletproof Brain Octane and you’ll have energy all day long. There has been only one day in the last three weeks where I’ve needed a boost of energy in the middle of the day. In those three weeks, each day I started with a cup of Bulletproof coffee mixed with a tablespoon of MCT oil. I’ve had energy galore!

  1. Scribd – On the Scribd app you can find a free ebook of 40 different sleep hacks. For a free ebook, this is loaded with valuable information. Check it out here.

  2. SleepBetter.org – Dr. Lisa is all about hacking sleep. Maybe that’s a bit to much information¬†because you’ll even find articles written by Mayo Clinic personnel.

  3. National Sleep Foundation – There is a National Foundation for everything, even sleep. Not only will you find great resources for hacking sleep, you will also find a directory of sleep professionals.

These are just five resources for hacking sleep but I think they are five of the best. Just google “hacking sleep” or “sleep hacks” and see how many results there are. You can scan through them all but you’ll keep coming back to these five.

Now that you have the five best resources for hacking sleep, post in the comments below what sleep hacks have worked for you. Let’s build our own useful resource right here.

Disclaimer: Some of the links above may be affiliate links.

Why Do You Want to Be Stress Free?

Be Stress Free
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How many times in the last week have you said or thought about how stressed you were? You say or think it as if stress is one of the worst things in the world to have. You just want to be stress free.

Why do you want to be stress free? What is so bad about stress?

You think you will enjoy each day more. You will be more relaxed and cheerful. You’ll have fewer headaches and backaches. Everything would be better if you were just stress free.

If you get to the point of being stress free, take a picture of that moment in your life. Compare it to the times when you had stress. You will see you enjoyed having stress more. Here’s why:

No stress means no progress.

You cannot experience any form of growth or progress without at least a little stress. Stress comes in many forms but many of them are not bad. Meeting a deadline to get a project done causes stress. However, without the deadline, a project likely would never get completed.

You would never make it to a meeting with a prospect or client if you were stress free. Being on time to an appointment causes stress.

You would be extremely unhealthy if it weren’t for stress. Hunger pains cause stress. Feeling over-filled causes stress. Of course, being unhealthy causes other stress.

Earning money is stressful. Not earning money is even more stressful.

We all use stress as a motivator to get things done. Without stress, nothing would happen. And, of course, that would cause other stress.

Stop trying to be stress free and simply start reducing bad forms of stress. Become a better manager of your schedule. Learn to say no to requests for your time, energy or money. Focus on enhancing your relationships.

Stress is not bad in and of itself. Stop acting like it is and start living your life instead. Focus on the positives instead of the negatives of life. You can always find some of both in your life. Put your energy into the joys of life and you will inherently reduce the bad stress.