Continuing Education

Business Smarts
by Leah Rourke

As accountants, we must participate in 80 hours of continuing education every two years in order to maintain an active license in good standing. That’s a lot of learning on technical topics to keep current in our profession.

But what about other learning? What types of learning do you deliberately undertake throughout the year to grow as a person and as a business person?

I sign up for classes in my personal interests, like cooking classes or piano lessons. I might seek out a retreat weekend to center myself and refocus my priorities. I definitely read books – a lot of books – and have conversations with friends about what I’m mentally chewing on.

Here are some reflection questions to get you thinking about your own continuing ed:

Do you do what you say you’re going to do?

In the realm of business, I am often disappointed by non-returned phone calls when I reach out and try to make a connection with a new person. I’m disappointed because often the person I call has a phone message that goes something like “Hi, sorry I’m unavailable to take your call, but please leave a message and I’ll call you back.”

I’m also disappointed because I leave a message and I specifically ask for a call-back. Sometimes, it just plain ol’ bites to be ignored. So, I make it a habit to return phone calls even if it’s just to offer a polite thanks-but-no-thanks. What do you do when faced with limited resources and the demands on your time? Do you feel that your phone etiquette reflects your integrity?

Do you remember to express gratitude?

I have a quote on my wallpaper at work by Mary Anne Radmacher that says “build your world one grateful word at a time.”

I am a task-focused person, and it’s easy for me to forget that real people are performing those tasks. Real people who are on my team, who are growing and challenging themselves, and who are putting forth their best efforts. A thoughtful nod of thanks and appreciation always makes me feel good, and it’s something that I can express to others in a variety of ways.

What tools do you use to remember to express gratitude? Is it a calendar reminder? An inspiration on your desk?

Are you a team player?

Pause for a minute and really think about this question. My knee-jerk reaction is to vigorously affirm that of course I’m a team player. But what do we really mean by that?

Do I seek ways to be helpful to my teammates?

Do I say Yes to others’ help, even when I don’t really need or want it?

Do I think about our team’s core values and mission, and find ways to contribute to or enhance it?

Do I think about my team members, individually, and think of ways to build on their strengths?

Am I brave enough to take the first step, and lead by example?

As business people we are on a variety of teams and serve different functions on those teams – from our day jobs to our community involvement to our volunteerism. In what ways do you say Yes to your teams? What difference does that make?