Choosing the Right Professional Association

‘People have not come to this world to be on their own’

Accountants may feel confident that they are connected with the professional world because of platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, but how often do they reach out and form meaningful business relationships online?  Social Media options both entice and repel at the same time.  There is so much potential out there, and yet accountants are typically wary of the time suck that online browsing can become.  If someone has a great online profile, will they necessarily manifest into a person who a busy professional could have a genuine connection with?  In the end, the tendency is to remain in the comfort of having lunch at one’s desk, rather than risk reaching out and meeting people in real life (IRL).

How are connections made that will further  professional success in a noisy digital world?  Even as the business climate becomes more rushed and frenetic, organizations which foster face to face introductions will never lose their value. Like a good mentor, a Professional Association can offer the opportunity and encouragement to reach outside of one’s realm of experience, to learn, grow, and try something new.  These career building steps occur because of the great people who offer their precious spare time and energy to contribute to the professions for which they have dedicated so much.

As an Association Executive and communications professional, I definitely recommend  seeking out and finding a collegial group that is right for the firm, or the Partner who is looking for something more.  When carefully considering the choices, here are some criteria to look for:

·     Do members talk about meaningful relationships they have gained through the Association?

·     Can members gain unique experiences not offered in their own firms?

·     Is the Association open to changes and innovation in the Industry?

·     Does the Association encourage the use of technology to leverage communication, education, and promotions? 

At Integra International, which is an Association of Tax, Audit and Accounting firms,  a lot of time is spent organizing the Global Conferences.  These events help bind the membership and pay real dividends for everyone attending. While members connect in the digital realm regularly, the kind of interactions experienced on location together offer benefits that last long after the meetings are over.

Associations and Networks are flourishing and growing in number every day. For the accountant and firm looking for meaningful experiences and a boost of energy for the practice, try one of the many local, national and international industry Associations.

Laurie Daschuk, BA

Integra International Global Administrator

February 9, 2019

(We have so many professional women in our Association as well! This is a photo that I took at the event, where everyone had such a good time. I will be sharing more pictures soon…)

Organic Connections Bloom in an International Association

Last week at our Global Board Annual Planning Meeting, Integra had Association Directors coming from around the world to meet in Miami.  As luck would have it, there was also an International Tax Conference going on, organized by the Florida Institute of CPAs, just before our planning meeting started. We had informed everyone that there was another opportunity to come to Miami.

International Professional Associations give members a competitive edge;  the ability to meet up with and connect with colleagues anywhere, not just at their own Association events.  Integra International hosts several conferences a year, where our members from over 60 countries gather to network, learn and grow their practice.  Our members also have a regular habit of meeting up with each other when they travel around the world, for business and pleasure.  These beneficial connections are easy to arrange and give our members a global advantage and unique international experiences. Often, members really go out of their way to host each other and act as tour guides.

Getting back to the Tax Conference, and you can see from the picture here, our members are really happy to see each other and get the most from attending an event together.  In this picture, we have representation from Canada, Germany and the United States.  International Professional Associations offer a sense of community for members , an incentive to get out of the office and the ability create a truly Global Practice.   I always enjoy hearing about member stories, what they did, and who they met.  It is activities like these, that help our Association to grow.

January 18, 2019

Laurie Daschuk, BA

Integra International Global Administrator

Planning for the Future of an International Professional Association

When it comes to setting the agenda for the year ahead, Associations have few opportunities better than the annual planning meeting. Whether looking to rally members and volunteers, introduce organizational change, reset culture or implement new technology, an annual meeting must serve as a safe place to discuss and plan.

During the last 2 years I have been at Integra International, where we have over 120 member CPA firms with 4,000 staff members from more than 60 countries, I am constantly learning about all the great talent and resources we have available to us.  Our members are doing wonderful things and we want to keep up and support them.  I really encourage input from everyone who wants to be actively involved in our Association.  We want to facilitate a broad and open approach to annual meetings, where everyone can be heard, and real change can happen.

This year we have made a big effort to expand our Global Board and include the next generation of leaders.  It is important not to alienate the very people who you need to get onboard.  When Directors are asked to give input about their Industry and how we can better serve Members, I am all for it, and the annual meeting gets better results.

Many Associations are finding this to be true – and they are giving the traditional approach to an annual meeting a refresh, from adopting more flexible content, using technology to connect, or by choosing more inspiring venues. In the process, they are creating annual meetings with results that can be felt throughout the rest of the year.

 

Laurie Daschuk

Integra International Global Administrator

January 2019

Running a Member-Owned Association? Here Are The Challenges….

An Association’s members are its customers and also its owners and employers…a strangely unique but interesting structure.

This, of course, sets the stage for many challenges in running a member-owned Association.  The key challenge for the Executive Administrator and the Board is to create a common vision that binds the members together into something that is bigger than the individual or a particular interest.  Associations ultimately exist to serve a community of members, but it takes work to keep the community functional. Hitting the sweet spot for each of the various services or benefits offered is difficult, particularly when emotions run high and often result in a change of course.  Association management is something that on the surface looks easy, but in fact, is very challenging.

Running a Member-Owned Association? Here Are The Challenges….

The fine art of governing and leadership is the foundation of society itself.

It’s the struggle for authority by an individual or group of individuals or an organization, to determine what should be done, and how, and why, decisions are ultimately made.  Interestingly, associations are a growing segment of both the professional development and event industries, and what works for one, might or might not work for the other.  Still, good governance is the responsibility of an association’s board of directors, which must take responsibility for recruiting, hiring and supporting the performance of their Executive Administrator.

Global Teams – Time Zone Tango

Global Teams

There is a growing category of managers out there:  ones who deal with employees not just in different time zones – but truly global teams.  These managers are a talented bunch who have unique work challenges.

In a world of shrinking management and flat org charts it is hard to over emphasize the importance of a manager who is responsible for a scattered and diverse work team.  

Eric Barton describes some Keys to managing from afar in his article about video conferencing with employees around the globe.

Is this situation familiar in your workplace?  Or are you considering such a job?  Well, I hope you like the sound of your alarm, because living by the clock will be a large part of your routine.  It is kind of like running Grand Central Station with the time zones displayed on the wall and juggling/managing your team around the world.

Managing global teams is tricky business.

I facilitate a technical group that meets once a month via conference.  Some people are good at keeping up conversation online and others just kind of stalk the meeting – listening in on mute with no video link.  Those are the ones I wonder about.

Not everyone is comfortable with the conference medium but I know those who participate get a lot more out of the meetings.

Sometimes I call these people after the meeting to gauge how things are going, rather than just assuming everything is OK.  A big part of being a successful manager is being fluent in many forms of communication and generous with your time.

And how common is that in this busy work world?

Global Teams
Global Teams

The 3 Approaches to Communication: Care-less, Care-ful, and Caring

The alternative to win-lose or lose-win thinking is win-win thinking.  Win-win thinking is to look for mutually positive outcomes in every one of life’s situations.  Instead of thinking “my way is best” or “your way is best”, there is a third “our way is best” solution.

Let’s take a closer look at 3 ways to communicate.  The first way is “care-less” communication, when we believe that we are right and others are wrong. In the adversarial world in which we live, most people communicate carelessly or without care for others, much of the time.

The second way is “care-ful” communication. To contrast it with the care-less approach, it happens when we are so concerned not to upset the other person that we allow their values to trump ours. Communicating in this mode is like walking on eggshells.  Both care-less and care-ful approaches lead to breakdowns in communication.

But there is a third way, which avoids communication breakdown and that is the caring approach. In caring, you esteem your value system and the other person’s value system simultaneously. It’s like saying, “My values are right for me and yours are right for you and that’s OK. To work together, we can always find a way to honor what each of us believes and wants, without becoming negative and disrespectful.

The Third Way of Communicating: A Simple Example

Say you’ve been out shopping with your teenage daughter.  You’re tired and hungry and your daughter says she’d like to buy a pizza for a snack. The critical nurturing parent in you knows that bought pizzas contain empty nutrients, and are expensive. So how do you move towards the third way of communicating?

The key moves are firstly to acknowledge your daughter’s request; secondly to value her wishes; and thirdly to find a win-win solution that honors both your values and hers in a caring way.

So you say, “You want a pizza? I am hungry too! What say we go home and make a smoothie?”

The most important step is assertiveness – you are offering a solution.  You are not saying “No” and closing the door to communication.  You are not saying “Yes” and caving in to other’s wishes.  If this part makes you uncomfortable, then you will need practice.

Caring and respect for others is appropriate for both home and work situations.  Win-win negotiations are highly regarded as an important life skill and work skill.  Keep the 3 Approaches in mind next time you hit a roadblock or disagree with someone.

Laurie Daschuk, BA is a Meeting Facilitator and Business Event Coordinator with Stop the Presses!

Challenges That Affect Teams – Part One

Do you know of a group that is not performing to it’s full potential?  Here are four common reasons why teams fail or fall apart and what you can do about it.  Stop the suffering! – find the right solution for a quick recovery here.

# 1.  Superficial Communication

Symptoms: Whenever your team gets together, the main topic of conversation is the game, the weather, or the weather at the game.

Prescription: The group needs to build bonds of trust.  How can a team tackle difficult discussions if they do not have experience as a group?  Plan icebreaker activities so people can talk about themselves and develop mature relationships.

For example, when I facilitate a meeting with a Board for the very first time, I like to ask people, “Why did you choose to become involved with this organization?”

This tactic really helps reserved people to open up, and for the group to start an honest conversation.  There is always ‘good stuff’ here, and everyone is interested in what is being shared.  Participants don’t have to be concerned with their opinion or saying what is “right” about an issue when they reflect and communicate their personal experience.

I can see the board members relax, likely because everyone feels that the group and facilitator (the outsider) knows them better and hears what they stand for.  This prepares the team to be ready for the challenge of working together.

A workplace scenario is a bit different.  People may not be so philosophical about why they work at a certain place if it is their main livelihood.  Most don’t really have a choice whether to work or not to work.

After-work or social events are common examples of how groups break the ice.  Often people with extra responsibilities cannot stay after work or find weekend events difficult.  Therefore, extra effort must be made to develop opportunities for team building.

Themed meetings, special events or creative conversation starters can be employed to allow team members to express themselves.  Workplace leaders need to be aware of those employees who are more withdrawn and help them have the space they need to be involved.

Try taking someone for lunch that you do not know very well.  Suggest a staff member accompany a group to a trade show for a different perspective on work.  Offer to send employees to an outside training session.  There are a variety of ways to facilitate a change from the normal, often-limiting work environments or meetings and promote meaningful conversation.

Stay tuned for Team Challenges #2, 3 and 4.

Written by Laurie Daschuk, BA

Meeting Facilitator with Stop the Presses

Your Meeting – Only Better

When you wonder at the end of the week, “Where did the time go?”, you may not be alone. According to a Microsoft survey, people spend 5.6 hours each week in meetings and 69% feel meetings aren’t productive.

Some key issues identified:

  • Poor meeting mechanics – lack of meeting agenda or objectives, poor chairmanship
  • Key players missing, late-comers, uninterested attendees
  • Data Overload or Drought – Too many ideas bouncing around, no materials provided prior, lack of preparation
  • Unclear Roles and Responsibilities – Who’s supposed to be doing what?
  •  Problem Avoidance – Not addressing goals, reports or behavior issues that limit a team’s effectiveness
  • Meeting Conclusion – “What did we decide to do?”, incomplete minutes, minutes not distributed, or no action items resulting from the meeting
  • Tele-commuting and virtual teams further reduce the likelihood of key participants attending. Then add distractions from laptops, iPhones, emails and SMS.

Meetings need to have a sense of urgency not a mood of obligation.  People charged with organizing these meetings can be frustrated, overwhelmed and resigned to poor results.

How can Stop the Presses Help?

Many of these issues need to be dealt with by management, leading by example, an open trusting culture, and policy and processes tuned to make it easier to do it the right way rather than taking meeting short-cuts.

A meeting facilitator can inspire confidence, listen to leaders/managers and help by taking a look from the outside and then setting the stage for lasting change.

Laurie Daschuk, BA is a meeting facilitator with www.stopthepresses.ca

Extra Time and Effort

Presentations – what if the people making them were required to listen to them first?

I imagine that we would we enjoy a vastly improved performance. We would hear content expressed with clarity, with passion and interest, stripped of extraneous detail, sloppy language, and confusing digressions.

We would be spared meaningless PowerPoint exhibitions.  We would witness a speaker visibly interested in expressing an idea rather than simply enduring a speaking requirement.

It can be done. For instance, most public speaking self-help books suggest the presenter rehearse with a recording device of some sort. This is good advice. Hear yourself as others would and you will realize where you can improve.

If you can use video to capture a rehearsal – the presenter can both see and hear himself before an audience does. The impact can be astonishing. People would get insight into their own habits and expressions:

“I had no idea I did that with my arms!”

“I don’t look like I believe what I’m saying, do I?”

“Wow, do I really talk that fast?”

“You know, I could have sworn I was speaking in complete sentences.”

“Wait a minute, what was my point with that last part?”

“Oh, dear.”

People with good public speaking skills likely rehearsed and realized there was a bit more engineering that needed to be done before they were truly ready to unveil their presentation to the world.

Their reward: A presentation that was complete, compelling, cohesive…able to stand on its own merits, with a delivery that was confident, practiced, well-paced.

As for the audience, they could focus on the value of the message rather than be distracted by the clumsiness of the messenger.  When you plan your next presentation, think not about yourself, or even the details of what you have to say. Think first about your audience and their expectations for a program that satisfies their need for information.

Give your audience reason to remember its message. It’s absolutely worth the extra time and effort.