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3 Magic Tricks To Have a Productive Meeting

Business meetings are notorious time-sucks. What promised to be a productive hour soon devolves into tangents, unrelated questions, and circular arguments. For all that you accomplished, you could have just sent an email.

There are several ways to take back your time and ensure that you will have a productive meeting. The easiest are listed below.

Make your meetings shorter

Leadership expert Peter Bregman advocates for 30-minute meetings because they make participants hyper-aware of how their limited time is being used. This means fewer tangents and unrelated questions, with everyone focused on the task at hand. People also listen better when they are already focusing, making it less likely that any participants “zone out” over the course of the meeting. The shorter meetings incentivize participants to be on time, to arrive prepared, and to practice brevity given the limited time they have to accomplish the items on the agenda.

Make your meetings smaller

The more people in the room, the more likely it is that your meeting careens off track. Bob Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, senior fellow at Brookings Institute, and author of Extreme Productivity states that attendees who are not essential to the decision-making process are the ones most likely to send your meeting off the track. They are less likely to be invested and listening to what’s going on, and the larger number of people limits each individual’s feeling of responsibility for the meeting’s outcome.

Pozen recommends including only those individuals who are directly involved in the decision making process. If you are worried about offending someone who is left out, send an email summarizing what occurred during the meeting to keep them in the loop.

Make it a standing meeting

No, not standing as in weekly or regular. Standing as in actually standing. On your feet. Not only is this model better for your overall health –your metabolism is faster while you’re on your feet – it can cut your average meeting time by a whopping 34%. That’s because people are more likely to remain focused and alert during a standing meeting. And the desire to sit back down as soon as possible ensures that everyone will stay brief and to the point.

How Accounting & Finance Professions Should Be Leveraging Social Media

If you’re reading this, chances are you already know 1) how to use social media and 2) how useful it is for growing your professional brand. What you may also know is that social media can be a difficult field for finance and accounting professionals due to the large amount of regulation and oversight within the industry. In fact, up to 91% of financial firms cite unclear guidelines from FINRA and/or the SEC on how to properly use social media as a major barrier to entry.

Those difficulties should never stop you from leveraging the power of social media to extend your professional network, connect with clients and industry influencers, and become a powerful voice within your field. While your company may be floundering about how and whether to enter the social media stage, you should be building your own social media presence in the following ways:

1. Don’t spend any money. 

Social media, when done right, should not cost you a cent. When creating your own platform, you are the expert. You have your own, personalized content swimming around in your head from your own unique experiences and expertise. Take the time to sit down and write your own posts, giving careful thought to your target audience and the value of what you’re posting. Your posts should be detailed enough to provide valuable information to your readers, but not so valuable that they don’t need your or your company’s expert services!

Finally, avoid too much self-promotion. Think of your own experiences on social media networks – if you can spot self-promotion a mile away, so can your readers. Keep your content rich in value, and watch your community take shape.

2. K.I.S.S.

The acronym above stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid. Consider the place social media occupies in your life, or the life of other busy professionals: generally, it’s something you skim on your phone in thirty-second intervals while you’re waiting for something else to occur. You don’t have time to read everything on your LinkedIn feed, so you scan recent posts until an attractive photo or flashy headline catches your eye. You grant this post a second glance, and decide within 7 seconds whether or not it is worth your time.

When posting, take pity on your readers. They’re just as busy as you are, and are likely just as cursory in their social media skimming. You need to catch their attention quickly, and often must condense your message to ~7 seconds in order to keep it. So, keep your posts clean, simple, and to the point (generally about 3-4 lines). Include pictures whenever possible. Balance these punchier posts with value-rich long-form posts (Facebook and LinkedIn both allow for these types of posts directly on their platform, though a blogging is an even better alternative).

3. Connect.

The entire point of social media is to connect like-minded individuals in spite of limitations imposed by space and time. So, find the author you admire on Twitter and follow them. Connect with a former colleague on LinkedIn. Like on of their posts, or retweet some of their content (making sure to tag or “@” them), and/or respond to something they’ve said. You’ll be surprised at how often this leads to a follow request and future conversations.

Furthermore, use these platforms to connect with your customers. If you see a past or present customer struggling with a concept you have experience with, engage them. Ask questions, comment, send direct messages, and respond to complaints or concerns. If they’re pleased with what you’ve done, they may just give you a shoutout.

4. Prioritize LinkedIn.

Instagram is pretty, Facebook is full of gossip, and Twitter is flashy, but they’re all about as substantive as a high school clique when it comes to your professional goals. To extend the metaphor further, LinkedIn is the nerdy kid who grew into a business mogul after graduation. You never thought much of them when you were young, but they are extremely interesting now.

LinkedIn is extremely focused. Those who use it know to keep their vacation photos off and their professional face on when posting, so your newsfeed is much more likely to be full of compelling, professional content. And this goes both ways, as those who use LinkedIn do so specifically for that professional content. Your own professional posts are much more likely to find the correct audience, and generate the desired engagement, than they are on any other site.

5. Track your activity.

There are many ways to track the success of your social media endeavors. This will allow you to measure the success of your endeavors, and to adapt if you’re not reaching your goals.

  • Track your engagment. To start, consider getting a bit.ly account. This free service allows you to create customized, shortened links (essential for Twitter), and even goes so far as to track clicks. This way, you can see whether something you posted generated engagement, as well as how and when that engagement was generated. Note that there are many products that provide similar services, so do a little research when deciding what approach is best for you.
  • Set a goal. Decide how many followers you would like to gain over a specific period of time, and then hold yourself to that goal. If you reach it, excellent! How do you think that was accomplished. If not, how can you change your activities to reach your next benchmark?
  • Provide links. Be sure to link your social media profiles to your website, include them in your personal email signature, and ask your company about incorporating them into your company profile.

At the end of the day, social media is what you make of it. And, in social profiles as in life, it is always best to be yourself. Constantly check in with your professional goals to determine how social media could best serve you in your career, and be honest with yourself about how much time and energy you have to devote to your profile(s). While we recommend about 1-6 hours per week, your own needs and goals may require a different time commitment.

How To Learn From Business Failure

We’ve all been there – one thing started to go wrong, and then another, and another, and another. Before you knew it, you were staring down the barrel of a truly epic business failure. You wondered how you would ever recover, for a moment you thought you never would. But you kept putting one foot in front of the other, and now you’re here.

But failure in the business world is nothing new. Every individual, and nearly every company, has experienced a major failure of one kind or another. The most common approach to learning from failure is straightforward: those involved reflect on what occurred and vow to do better in the future. Sometimes an audit or investigation will occur, a report will be circulated, an executive will be replaced.

But these approaches ignore the fact that failure is now always a bad thing, and that learning from failure is often much more complicated than such superficial approaches.

The Blame Game

In most circumstances, business or others, fault is a necessary aspect of failure. Many of us fear that admitting fault is taking the blame, but this doesn’t always have to be the case. The best way to learn from failure is to create an environment in which it is safe for employees to admit and report on failure, while keeping in mind high standards for performance. It also requires leaders to appreciate the difference between fatigue and inattention, or between fear of speaking up and deliberately withholding information. The latter is often to blame when fault goes unreported, and opportunities to learn from failure are missed.

Not All Failures Are Created Equal

Although an infinite number of things can go wrong in any organization, most mistakes fall into three broad categories: preventable, complexity-related, and intelligent.

Most preventable failures are quickly-identifiable deviations from standard operating procedures. With proper training and support, most employees can quickly correct these errors, and processes can be improved for future implementation.

Complexity-related failures are usually unavoidable; a particular combination of needs, people, and problems may have never occurred before, requiring employees to make important decisions in unfamiliar situations. While serious failures can be avoided by following best practices for safety and risk management, these small process failures are inevitable. To consider them bad is not just a misunderstanding of how complex systems work, it is counterproductive. Averting large, consequential failures means rapidly identifying and correcting small failures on an ongoing basis in a safe and productive manner.

Intelligent failures are the best kinds of failures, and often occur on the verge of a new frontier. When a question has no knowable answer, research and experimentation are necessary. And failure is an important part of that process. The best way to approach this kind of failure is to follow the proper experimentation processes that allow you to fail within a small, controlled setting, rather than conducting financially risky trials that may fail on a grand scale.

Creating A Learning Culture

In order to truly learn from failure, companies must create and reinforce a culture that counteracts the blame game and makes people feel both comfortable with and responsible for acknowledging and learning from failures. Creating a space where failure is understood to be a necessary part of success, rather than a deterrent from it, will accelerate this learning process and help the organization to continue moving forward.

5 Résumé Hacks to Get the Interview

No one enjoys writing a résumé, but they are a necessary component of every job hunt. Make the most of the time you spend revising and editing your résumé by making smart, strategic decisions that allow you to hack the job search process. We’ve compiled a few of the best résumé hacks to make your application stand out.

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5 Reasons to Use an Executive Search Firm When Hiring Your CFO

Searching for the right CFO can be a lot like trying to find a needle in a haystack. While you as a CEO or search committee member may think you know what you’re looking for, how do you find the one tiny needle among all the straw?

The right CFO will seize opportunities that will add value to your company while simultaneously maintaining its integrity. And while many of your own professional connections may seem to fit the bill, are they truly the right fit for your company? Keep in mind that the wrong hire could cost you much more than the fees of a proper CFO search conducted by a firm. A thorough assessment of your company’s needs followed by a well-executed search and conducted by a professional, knowledgeable executive search firm will ensure that your company doesn’t make an unnecessary and costly hiring mistake.

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The 5 Biggest Interview Mistakes, and How to Avoid Them

We will all have an awful interview at some point in our lives. And that’s ok – trust me, they make excellent stories. On the other hand, the best interviews are more akin to a conversation than a simple question and answer. But how do you work past the butterflies in your stomach and the cold sweat on your palms to fully engage the person sitting across the desk?

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