However, many experts tell us that CPAs are often lacking in emotional intelligence. While you can read business books about emotional intelligence, some research tells us that reading fictional novels can actually help improve our emotional intelligence.
Over the past decade, academic researchers such as Oatley and Raymond Mar from York University have gathered data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion – improving his or her overall social skillfulness.
In one of their studies, they found that the more fiction people had read, the better they were at perceiving emotion in the eyes, and correctly interpreting social cues.
So, to your summer reading list of business books, add some great fiction. I have enjoyed the series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, the Spanish writer. Begin with Shadow of the Wind. I also love the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbro – I’ve read them all.
If you read a lot of books you are considered well read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you're not considered well viewed.
The foundation is Absence of Trust. I believe that trust is the skeleton in the closet of many CPA firms. Has the following statement (or one very similar) been uttered inside your partner group?
“I know Joe is trying to do more financial planning with our clients, but you know Joe. I’m afraid my client won’t like him and I might lose the client because Joe just doesn’t focus enough on detail.”
I just want you to begin by working on the 2 foundational dysfunctions – Absence of Trust and Fear of Conflict. Absence of trust is when team members are not comfortable being vulnerable, open and honest with each other. The next dysfunction of a team, if there is no trust, is Fear of Conflict, because people on a team should be comfortable engaging in good, healthy conflict around ideas. This is one I see again and again during partner retreats and partner meetings. There might be one partner who will say, “I’ll play Devil’s advocate here….” and voice their opinion. Most of the other partners say NOTHING and even avoid eye contact by looking at their laps!
Take a few minutes to watch this video by the author, Patrick Lencioni:
Thanks for reading all my posts during “Book Week” and happy reading.
Today, I would like to recommend a book that maybe you are not as familiar with as some of the others I recommend. When I first read Leadership and Self-Deception, I was amazed and it opened my eyes to many behaviors that I had never explored before. It also opened my eyes to what others often did in the workplace (and in home life) that they don’t even think about.
I don’t often re-read a book. I have read this one 3 times over the years and given copies to people working on their leadership skills.
From the book:
Self-betrayal – An act contrary to what I feel I should do for another is called an act of “self-betrayal.”
Self-betrayal is the most common thing in the world, Tom,” Kate added, in an easy manner. “Let me give you a few examples.”
You are in bed and you hear the baby cry at 1:00 a.m. You should get up and tend to the baby but you pretend you are asleep and wait for your wife to hear the baby.
You jump on the elevator, in a hurry, an see a man hurrying to get aboard but you just let the door close. You have the immediate sense, I should have caught the door for him but I didn’t.
Maybe it’s a time when you felt you should apologize to someone but never got around to it.
There was a time when you had some information that would be very helpful to a co-worker but you didn’t share it.
They are all examples of self-betrayal, times when I had a sense of something I should do for others but didn’t do it.
Here’s a short video setting the stage for reading the book.
The book focuses on a problem. As Bud says to Tom, “You have a problem. The people at work know it; your spouse knows it; your mother-in-law knows it. I bet even your neighbors know it. The problem is that YOU don’t know it.”
I focused on and inflated her faults when I needed to feel justified for mine.
If you have heard me speak or if you are a loyal follower of this blog, you know that I often quote David Maister. My “book week” would not be meaningful if I didn’t recommend at least one of his books.
Maister focuses on professional service firms and although he is now retired, you can gain so much knowledge about managing a CPA firm from his writings.
Everyone in the firm should read True Professionalism. I believe you should give a copy to every entry-level accountant that enters your firm. Ask them to read the first two chapters within a week and the rest at their lesiure. The first two chapters will get them hooked.
From True Professionalism:
Ask professionals what they consider to be the difference between a good admin assistant and a great admin assistant. The answers flow freely:
Take pride in their work and show a personal commitment to quality
Reach out for responsibility
Anticipate and don’t wait to be told what to do, they show initiative
Do whatever it takes to get the job done
Get involved and don’t just stick to their assigned role
Are always looking for ways to make things easier for those they serve
Are eager to learn as much as they can about the business of those they serve
Really listen to the needs of those they serve
Learn to understand and think like those they serve so they can represent them when they are not there
Are team players
Can be trusted with confidences
Are honest, trustworthy and loyal
Are open to constructive critiques on how to improve
This list can be summarized in one phrase: Great admin assistants care. Two points about this list.
First and foremost, it is applicable to all of us, not just admin assistants. This list could serve to delineate the defining characteristics of what differentiates a great CPA from a good one. Indeed, this list is a reasonable definition of what it means to be a professional.
Second, this list has nothing to do with technical skills. Few admin assistants are deemed to be “great” because of their ability to type 95 words a minute.
The opposite of the word professionalism is not unprofessional, but rather technician.
I think just this brief excerpt will capture your curiosity and you will read this book.
Professional is not a label you give yourself - it's a description you hope others will apply to you.
If you want to see for yourself, simply Google Sheryl Sandberg and see all the chatter out there about her and the book. I think it is a great read for both men and women and I understand that lots of men are actually reading it.
I liked it. Many of the topics she covers have been covered in multiple books on the topic of women at work (and she gives credit to all her sources), however, I appreciated having lots of great data in one book. Many of her stories are classic.
My favorite is the Heidi/Howard study – watch this short video where Oprah and Sandberg discuss the Heidi/Howard study and ask the question: Can a businesswoman be nice and competent? The Heidi/Howard research supports what has already clearly been shown: success and likeability are positvely correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.
Here’s a promo video about the book – being a promo, of course it is all positive. Whether you are a man or a women in business, do some research yourself – read the book and decide if it applies to you (and your spouse).
If you are offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on.
Soon it will be summer reading season. This year, why don’t you take part? There are so many great books to help you better manage your professional service firm. But wait, there are so many good books about business issues in general that definitely apply to the CPA profession. You can even get a firm-changing idea by reading a fictional novel or a biography.
This week I’m going to write about a different book each day. A book that I think will help you and your CPA firm.
It is the 31st Century – Earth is different. Instead of males and females in the business world, it is dogs and cats. Here’s the dedication:
From the dedication page: ”This story is dedicated to all of the Cats and all of the Dogs who work together every day and wonder… Why it is that Cats must be so Feline. And why it is that Dogs must be so Canine.”
I love this book, told in fable format about dogs and cats in the business world. It’s one of the best books I’ve read on the male/female topic (and I have read many). It addresses many of the issues faced by males and females working in a CPA firm (or any business).
While it addresses the issues that are written about in many of the male/female relationships in the workplace books (and I will feature more this week), it is a fun and easy read with an important message for both men and women.
Thus a skilled warrior subdues enemy troops without raising arms; captures cities without laying siege; destroys countries without lengthly warfare."
We subscribe to Smithsonian magazine. There is always plenty of information to enlighten you and also to cause you to think. I liked the brief article in the recent issue titled, The Paper Chase.
Steve Jobs was obsessed with the ergonomics of everyday life. The iPhone had to be big enough to be readable and small enough to fit in the hand and pocket.
However, 75 years ago another American innovator had the same mindset and realized he could change the way people read by making books radically smaller. Back then it was very hard for Americans to get good novels and nonfiction. the country only had about 500 bookstores, all clustered in the biggest 12 cities and hardcovers cost about $2.50 ($40 in today’s currency).
Robert Fair de Graff revolutionized that market when he got backing from Simon & Schuster to launch Pocket Books in May 1939. So, portable publishing did not start with ereaders, it began with the paperback that made reading into an activity that traveled anywhere.
My friend, Rebecca Ryan is a member of The Advisory Board, along with Gary Boomer, Gary Shamis and Allan Koltin. Many of you managing CPA firms have heard Ryan speak on the topic of employing and retaining the next generation of worker. She definitely makes you think! Some call her a human spark plug.
Her new book, ReGeneration, is coming out in June. It’s about the future of America, and it’s based on key trends. It’s not targeted at CPA firms…but towards leaders who want to make a difference and be out ahead of trends. The most innovative CPA firm leaders will get a lot out of it.
My thing is I love people and I am truly interested in them and what they are doing, what they want to do and how they are going to do it.
In the current world of social media, I’ve heard so many negative comments along these lines… “We don’t talk to each other anymore.” “We use email as an excuse not to talk on the phone.” – - and so on.
I connected and schmoozed for years, in person and on the phone. However, I have NEVER been more connected with so many people than I am today using Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, webinars, go-to-meetings and the list goes on and on.
I hope all of you working in the CPA profession – no matter how many years of experience you have – are taking advantage of the numerous and wonderful connections you can make with social media.
Afraid to tweet? Just set-up an account. You don’t have to make a single tweet. Just follow others for a while and read what they have to say. If you are not going to ever read the tweets of people you select to follow then don’t bother to set-up an account. You have to commit and take action. I always say you have to Do Things if you want to reap the rewards.
Some things haven’t changed. People better themselves by reading. Yes, books but these days it definitely includes blogs and other online business resources.
I know you want your team members to continually learn, advance, and improve – you know, “sharpen the saw” as noted by Habit 7 from Stephen R. Covey.
Suggest a few bloggers for them follow. Don’t know who to suggest? I bet your team members already know several that help them with their career – ask them.
Here’s an idea – Check out a blog on HBR written by Bryan Garner, a leading authority on writing, usage, grammar and style. Most CPAs could improve their writing skills and might learn some things from a blog like this.