How to hold a brainstorming session to get valuable ideas

How to hold a brainstorming session
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“Hey Bert, let’s sit down and brainstorm about what we can do to improve our client service.”

“Sure, I’d love to brainstorm. I’m willing to do whatever we can to make sure we provide the most value possible to our clients.”

You’ve likely been asked to sit in a brainstorming session at some point in your career. After you’ve accepted to help in the brainstorming session, you’ve thought of several ideas to bring up in the session.

During the session, though, what happens to your ideas? Ideas can be received in the following four ways:

Continue reading How to hold a brainstorming session to get valuable ideas

Job or a career: Why you should treat work as a career

job or a career
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After four or five years of college, studying for a ridiculously hard certification exam and going through countless interviews, you’ve finally landed that dream job. You’ve worked so hard to get what you wanted.

Everything from here on out will be easy.

Or will it?

Very few things in life are easy. Your job is no exception.  Your job will not be easy if you want to get raises, climb the corporate ladder and receive the corporate perks you read about in the magazines.

Continue reading Job or a career: Why you should treat work as a career

How to motivate employees in six easy steps

How to motivate employees
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The employee attrition rate in public accounting is between 20% and 30%. That means each year, public accounting firms lose almost one-third of their employees.

Firms are elated when low performers leave on their own. However, firms are disgusted when high performers leave for other opportunities.

We, as public accounting firms, need to learn how to motivate employees so they enjoy their jobs more. This is true for any other business in the world too. My experience is in public accounting so that is what this article will center around.

How to motivate employees? That is such a simple question. Unfortunately, it does not have an easy answer.

Characteristics of a motivated employee

Before we look at ways regarding how to motivate employees, let’s look at some of the characteristics of motivated employees. Motivated employees will:

1. Enjoy their jobs more
2. Complain less
3. Smile more
4. Produce better results
5. Be more creative
6. Make more money (personally and for the company)
7. Take on more responsibility
8. Recruit other talented employees
9. Stay in their jobs longer
10. Be healthier
11. Desire to teach others
12. Buy-in to the firm’s vision and strategies
13. Give honest feedback
14. Have happy families
15. Be team players
16. Desire to be leaders
17. Desire to learn more
18. Make great friends in the firm
19. Be more profitable
20. Motivate others

Look at yourself, your employee base and your co-workers. Do you see each of these characteristics? If not, there is work to do. Before you can know how to motivate employees, you need to know what employees want.

Just think how great it would be to go to work every day if every employee was motivated and demonstrated these 20 characteristics every day. Wouldn’t it be great?

Why is employee motivation so low? Can we do anything to motivate employees or is the “self-motivated” employee required?

I agree that being self-motivated will help one in his career more than anything else. Unfortunately, even self-motivated employees need to feel valued and receive some external motivation now and then.

What can you do to motivate employees? Is it even possible to increase employee motivation? Yes it is!

Following are six ideas on how to motivate employees:

1. Say thank you frequently – As a leader and as an employee, nothing motivates me more than being told thank you. You probably feel the same. If we feel that way, our employees will as well.

We teach our kids to say please and thank you from the moments they start to talk. When don’t we, as professionals, follow our own instruction. We should always say please and always say thank you.

The significance of the act has no bearing on whether to say thank you. Thank you is always warranted.

Because you say thank you, your employees will know you appreciate what they do. It will motivate them to obtain that appreciation even more.

2. Ask about family or family events – Have you had an employee get married, have a child or have another significant life event? Did you notice how much they like to talk about that event?

We all like to talk about ourselves. Big life events get talked about even more. If you show interest in those events, you show interest in your employee.

Interest in their personal lives help employees recognize that work is not all that matters to you. You want work done but you also care about your employees’ lives outside of work. That will increase employee motivation.

3. Ask for ideas, feedback and advice – I want my employees to know they can have an impact on how things are done. They have the ability and the responsibility to affect change.

Do your employees openly give you advice or feedback? Mine do. They know it’s okay to bring up ideas for improvement, give me feedback on a process that needs to change and give me advice on what I can do better.

They know it’s okay because I ask. I ask frequently.

From the day an employee starts working with me, I tell them to look for ways to improve our processes. They come with experience different from ours. They can have a positive impact from day one if they choose.

Talk about how to motivate employees – let them criticize the boss! Ha!

4. Provide guidance on a career path – I was talking to an employee the other day and told him that my view on leadership is that a good leader makes himself replaceable.

As a leader, I want to work with people smarter than me. If I worked with people the same as me or not as good as me, we would not progress as a group. We’d stay the same or decline.

When I identify an employee who can replace me or who has special skills for something else, I tell them. Of course, I will not push them into a career path but I can tell them what I think will be a good career path for them to take.

5. Provide flexibility – As much as we’d like for work to be all anyone thinks about from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., that doesn’t happen. Life happens.

There are times when an employee may need to come in late, leave early or leave during the middle of the day. Maybe an employee could be more productive one day by working from home.

There are several easy ways to provide flexibility to your employees. The more flexibility one has, the harder it is for that employee to say that work is too much to have a life. It’s easier to have that “balance” everyone is striving for.

Achieving the work/life “balance” motivates spouses as well as the employees. In public accounting in particular, spouses cause many otherwise happy employees to find a job in industry.

The perception is that an industry position will provide better flexibility and work/life balance. If we can provide this to the employees within our companies, they will be less likely to leave for other jobs.

6. Offer company-wide opportunities – Characteristic number 11 from the list of above is teaching others. Happy employees will want to share what they know with others.

Offering an employee the ability to teach a company-wide class, work on a team of people from across the company or participate in the planning and execution of a company-wide initiative will increase that employee’s motivation.

I’ve had the opportunity to do this several times and it always motivates me. Teaching courses to people from across the firm has helped me meet peers I would have not otherwise gotten to meet.

More importantly, teaching those courses has helped me get out of my introverted shell. It forced me to get in front of a group and present. I’m so thankful for that opportunity.

Do you now know how to motivate employees?

How can you increase employee motivation? We’ve looked at only six actions you can take to motivate your employees. There are so many more things you can do.

If you take each of the 20 characteristics of a motivated employee and apply a specific action to garner that result, you’ll increase employee motivation in ways you never thought.

Even though we all want self-motivated employees, we also need to be motivated to help motivate others. It’s our job as leaders.

Are you a leader? Regardless of your position in your company, you’re a leader to someone. You can be the example to change someone’s life. Let the leader inside you come out because you now know how to motivate employees.

10 easy ways you can have fun at work today

have fun at work
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Because of all the griping and complaining you hear on a daily basis, whether at the store, the water cooler or at home, you would think no one wants to have fun at work. How terrible is it that the United States is one of the richest countries on Earth but our citizens cannot learn to be happy and have a little fun.

“Thank goodness it’s Friday!”

“I hate Mondays!”

“The week is half over!”

People say these things because they hate their jobs and just want to get to the weekend when they can have a little fun. How pathetic. Life isn’t about the weekends. Life is about living every day … with intention.

You can learn how to have fun at work. You can enjoy your job. You will enjoy your job if you learn how to have fun at work.  It’s a crazy thought, I know. But, it’s true.

Here are 10 ways you can have fun at work:

1. Make friends to have fun at work – I believe most people will say they have friends at work. If all you do is complain and whine with your co-workers, they are not your friends. They are fellow whiners and complainers. Real friends pull people up instead of drag them down.

If you want to have fun at work, get to know some co-workers who are happy all the time. Happiness can be contagious. You will have more fun at work if you surround yourself with happy and fun people. The same, of course, can be said for any facet of your life.

Do you consider your co-workers friends if you don’t do things with them outside of the job? I believe they can be. Your family/home life may be too hectic and busy to hang out with other people.

That is how my family life is. With three kids (a teenager and two little ones) and our commitment to our church, we rarely have nights free of activities. We usually don’t schedule other activities because we’re busy to begin with. That does not mean my co-workers are not my friends.

One of the reasons you will love your job is because you will make some great friends there. You will celebrate with them when children are born or they get married. You will console them when a family member passes away. You’ll go to lunch or just chat in the hallway. These friends will be the reason you stay at your job and don’t go elsewhere.

A few years ago, we had seven supervisors leave the firm within a few months of each other. None went to other public accounting firms. Instead, they each took jobs in industry. Of these seven supervisors, two were extremely close friends.

I was very sad to see them leave but they had to make the decisions best for them and their families. I understand that. To this day, I still talk with each of them. Our conversations may not be as frequent as I’d like but we can catch up quickly. They are true friends.

2. Integrate your family to have fun at work – It would be awesome if every day could be “Bring Your Child to Work Day” but that’s not feasible. However, your spouse could bring your kids in to have lunch with you. They can stop by for 20 minutes and say hi to your co-workers.

It is always a joy when my co-workers’ spouses and children come into the office. I love when my wife and girls stop by. Nothing makes the day better than the sounds of children in the halls.

A favorite activity of my family is when the office has a family day at the zoo. We’ve also been able to bring our children to some of the office’s charitable endeavors. I love my job but I love my family more. If I can integrate the two, work is even more enjoyable.

3. Take a break to have fun at work – Public accounting and many other professions are demanding of our time. The billable hour rules everything. That may be true but if you take breaks, you will be more productive. Being more productive means you can finish your days earlier. Finishing earlier will mean getting to go home and have fun with your family sooner. See how this goes?

I take frequent breaks through each day. Most of my breaks take fewer than five minutes. They keep me focused and energized. I’m able to accomplish more if I stop working every 30 – 40 minutes rather than slaving away for an hour straight.

4. Joke around to have fun at work – If you make the right kind of friends at work, you will be able to joke around with them. I’m currently working out of town with two of my favorite co-workers. We joke with each other all day. But, we’re also able to efficiently work for prolonged periods of time. There definitely has to be more work than joking. But a little laughter during the day never hurt anyone.

5. Play a trick on someone to have fun at work – Be careful with playing tricks on people but the occasional trick is okay. You definitely don’t want to be seen as the prankster at work who plays more tricks than he gets work done.

When my boss reached a certain age milestone, a co-worker and I decorated his office and parking spot in the office garage. We knew our boss well enough to know he would go along with it instead of get mad about it. It allowed lots of people to laugh that day. If we treated it like every other day, we would have missed our opportunity to engage the employees.

6. Eat, eat, eat to have fun at work – Everyone loves to eat. If there is free food in the office, it goes quickly. We use this tactic during our busiest time of year. We eat our way to the tax deadline. Not everyone participates but that’s okay. Bringing people together to do the same thing is a good idea.

7. Integrate customers to have fun at work – Businesses have customer appreciation days all the time. Sure, the primary goal of a customer appreciation day is to show appreciation to the customer. Have you noticed that many employees have fun on those days too?

You don’t have to have a formal customer appreciation day to integrate customers. The most enjoyable part of my job is interacting with clients. I love when clients come to the office. It doesn’t happen frequently but when it does, it’s very enjoyable.

You can meet in the office, give a brief tour and then go to lunch. Maybe you can get tickets and take your client to a ball game. Anything you can do with a client can be fun and build loyalty.

8. Go to lunch to have fun at work – Everyone can use a break during the day. Working through lunch sounds like a good idea so you can get more work done but you still need to disengage your mind for a while. Go with a few friends from work or meet some non-work friends who work close to you. Maybe you can even meet your spouse or significant other.

I’ve discovered that going to lunch with more than five people is a bad idea. It’s usually harder to get a table and can increase the wait time. There will also be certain people who will disagree on the lunch choice.

And, of course, only go with a group of people if you like everyone in the group. Going to lunch with someone you’re not comfortable with or have conflicting personalities will not do you any good. You want to have fun.

9. Create office games to have fun at work – Some offices have pool tables or ping pong tables. Others offices have lounges with video game consoles. Others just have cubicle after cubicle after cubicle. Fun is not allowed. If that is your office, see what you can do to change the landscape.

Implement a daily trivia contest, a Wii bowling challenge or pumpkin carving contest. Do something that can engage multiple employees. You will not get everyone to participate and that’s okay.

10. Create a team atmosphere to have fun at work – Our office has sponsored different sports teams over the years. We’ve had co-ed volleyball, softball and soccer teams. We’ve had marathon relay teams. We participate in charity events.

These events and games do not occur in the office but they build camaraderie among employees. They will talk about the games before and after they occur. They will create memories to look back on with fondness.

You can learn how to have fun at work. You can have fun in a number of ways. Having fun while working is socially unacceptable but should not be. Employers try to create engaged employees. Happy employees will be engaged employees. Nothing creates happiness like having a little fun.

Will you commit to having more fun in your job? You can be the change agent in your company. Another thing you can do to promote having fun is to share this article with others. Maybe it can push them a little closer to having more fun too. Use the social sharing buttons below to share this with co-workers and friends. Let’s have some fun!

57 ways you can be a positive influence today

Be a positive influence
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Your current situation is a result of many influences from your past. Some were positive influences; others were negative. Regardless, your present has been determined based on your past influences.

We all have circles of influence which shape our lives. We have two responsibilities when it comes to those circles of influence. First – we choose who we allow to influence us. Second – we choose how we react to those influences.

Everyone wants to be influential. We want to be included in others’ circles of influence. Whether we are a positive influence or negative influence is up to us.

Which have you chosen to be?

Hopefully you want to be a positive influence on those you know. You want to be the primary positive influence for your children, parents, spouse, siblings and best friends. Have you been successful?

You’ve actively participated in those circles of influence. You may even force your way in. It’s your responsibility as a parent right?

But what about people you know but with which you do not have a close relationship? Do you want to be a positive influence on them too? Of course you do.

Now the difficult part. 

Are you a positive influence on people you don’t know? We’ve all said at some point that we shouldn’t worry about what other people think. To an extent, that’s true.

You shouldn’t worry about what others think of you. But, you should be considerate of how what you do can positively influence those people.

Below are 57 ways you can be a positive influence in the world. Some appear to be very minor. Some are obvious. All of these, though, will influence others in a positive way.

1. Say “I love you” more
2. Tell someone how much he/she means to you
3. Send thank you notes
4. Send cards to others for no particular reason
5. Hold the door for others
6. Let someone in front of you in line
7. Say thank you at every opportunity
8. Pay for someone’s meal unexpectedly
9. Clean the house without being asked
10. Cook a special meal for your spouse, children or parents
11. Tip generously
12. Mow your neighbor’s lawn
13. Tell someone how good they look
14. Call an old friend out of the blue
15. Say “yes” more often
16. Read to your children
17. Pray as a family
18. Attend church services frequently
19. Share the power of the gospel
20. Send someone flowers
21. Introduce two people who you think will benefit from each other
22. Leave the front parking spot for someone in need
23. Drive the speed limit
24. Allow another car to merge onto the road in front of you
25. Leave your spouse or children short notes of appreciation
26. Make the bed without being asked
27. Plan family activities
28. Comment on someone’s blog
29. Promote a quality service or product
30. Refer a good doctor, dentist or chiropractor
31. Refer a good accountant, lawyer or financial planner
32. Never say something negative on social media
33. Offer to be a mentor
34. Become a Big Brother or Big Sister
35. Recommend a good book
36. Recommend a good movie
37. Visit someone in the hospital
38. Visit someone in a nursing home
39. Arrange meals for a sick friend
40. Make more coffee when you take the last cup
41. Be a parent instead of a friend to your child
42. Refer work to someone
43. Participate in a charitable organization
44. Teach someone about your hobby
45. Ask to be taught about someone else’s hobby
46. Have an open-door policy
47. Be open-minded
48. Hold hands with your significant other
49. Wipe up a mess you didn’t make
50. Smile often
51. Laugh a lot
52. Give a hug
53. Donate to a charity
54. Give away items you no longer use but are still in good condition
55. Never raise your voice at work
56. Only provide constructive criticism
57. Don’t gossip

Now that you’ve read that list, there is no reason not to have any ideas of how to be a positive influence. You can do any or all of these in one day. Why not start today?

If everyone that reads this will take only five of these ideas and do them for others, think of the impact that would have. Imagine if each person in your company did that tomorrow. How much happier would everyone be the following day?

I feel better when I do something to help someone else. I feel better being a positive influence. Will you join me and be a positive influence today?

What other ways can you be a positive influence? There are definitely more than 57. There are hundreds or thousands of ways you can be a positive influence. Add a comment below so you can influence others.