CFO Career Planning Tools http://www.cfocareer.com You own your career: Dream big. Write goals. Decide now. Take action. Wed, 11 Jun 2014 02:56:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.5 The earlier you start on this, the better for your career http://www.cfocareer.com/the-earlier-you-start-on-this-the-better-for-your-career/ Wed, 11 Jun 2014 02:32:23 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1175 Invest in quadrant two activities like personal assessment, visioning, planning, and goal setting. This truly will pay off in the long run. Procrastinating means handing over your career to someone else's control.

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Procrastination exacts a heavy price. And there is one area of life in which delay is particularly costly.

Stephen Covey writes of “quadrant two” activities in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Quadrant two is the area devoted to those important things in life that we never really seem to get around to doing. They are important, but they are not urgent.

Planning and goal setting are good examples of quadrant two activities. What could be more important than defining a vision of success and knowing where you’re going in life? But most of us do not take the time to plan our career and write down goals.

An article in CFO Magazine from early this year highlights the importance of active career management. Particularly interesting was the insight that even some ostensibly “successful” CFOs have been unsatisfied with how their careers have progressed.

Many of us dream of being CFOs someday. But how will we get to the CFO seat without regrets, wondering how and why our careers progressed the way they did.

Those of us who are younger financial professionals would do well to heed the article’s advice rather than procrastinating: Get to know yourself, and explore your options.

Create a crisis for yourself if you don’t have a natural career crisis develop by itself. Times of crisis are the best opportunities to step back, assess, and take a hard look at where you are compared to where you want to be.

A professional coach, a mentor, or colleague who serves as confidante, can be helpful in this process, as the article notes.

The first piece of advice is helpful, even if ordinary: Consider what you’re passionate about. There are debates about whether to follow your passions. But while passion is certainly no guarantee of success, if one has a choice between pursuing a passion versus pursuing something better described as “boring,” everything else being equal, most people wouldn’t view this as a hard decision.

Consider areas for improvement. For example, if I don’t continue honing my technological acumen, I will get left behind. I don’t believe I have to become a tech-guru or specialist, but I need to develop skills in this area to help me become more proficient with the core toolkit of financial professionals.

Find areas of business expansion, and become involved. Be proactive. I have written before about strategy and understanding the “big picture” about how the business creates value in the marketplace.

Make an effort to connect with and learn from people you admire. Again, mentoring (formal or informal) is crucial for professional development.

Finally, the article suggests to attend professional workshops and seminars to invest in your continued learning and growth.

“We don’t have the time, but we need to make the time. It pays off in the long run.”

Invest in quadrant two activities like personal assessment, visioning, planning, and goal setting. This truly will pay off in the long run. Procrastinating means handing over your career to someone else’s control.

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The Number One Way to Influence Others http://www.cfocareer.com/number-one-way-influence-others/ Sun, 08 Jun 2014 02:39:41 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1170 Whether you are selling a product, a service, or ideas in the form of influence and persuasion, the key is to think inside of the other person's head.

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Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that a sales person really understood your needs?

I once made a large purchase with no regrets. In fact, the sales person made me feel great about handing over lots of my hard-earned money.

What was the key to this sales person’s success? Why do I want to work with him again?

I walked away feeling that I had been understood. He was able to get inside of my head, figure out my needs, and deliver a set of complex services that satisfied me.

Whether you are selling a product, a service, or ideas in the form of influence and persuasion, the key is to think inside of the other person’s head.

In order to influence, first you must be influenced. That is, you must understand how the other person thinks.

If I want to sell you a car, I don’t start by highlighting what I appreciate about the car. I start by finding out what makes you fall in love with a car. Then I match your desires with the features and benefits offered by the car.

I start by being influenced by your preferences. Then I provide a solution that fits. You barely notice that I’m trying to influence you. I’m selling soft because I’m focusing on you. I’m getting you to buy rather than making you feel like you’re being sold.

Good sales people seem to understand this principle of customer-centered selling. Regrettably, many professionals seem to lose sight of this.

Maybe we are too caught up with our own sense of self-importance. Maybe we think what we have to deliver is very important, regardless of what our customers and employers think. We don’t speak their language because we don’t understand their needs and are so caught up in our narrow concerns.

We forget that influence is the key to leadership. And influence is a form of selling. If we want to go beyond low level financial technicians, bean counters, and number crunchers, we must lead. We must influence.

We must sell.

Not through arm-twisting and manipulation. We must sell through effective persuasion. We must sell through thinking inside the heads of those we serve.

To be an integral member of a management team, a leader must see beyond the narrow, short-term, functional concerns of her department. She must embrace the big picture to think beyond her department and lead beyond her role.

The number one way to influence others is to see the world through their eyes, to speak their language, to think inside of their head.

Or as Stephen Covey advocates in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, seek first to understand, then to be understood.

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How to Keep Idealism from Ruining You http://www.cfocareer.com/how-to-keep-idealism-from-ruining-you/ Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1148 Avoid cynicism. Be real. Keep your ideals, and commit to practicing them in your life. Gain private victory and personal mastery. Then your circle of influence will widen so that your ideals can become reality more and more in larger contexts and relationships.

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“Scratch the surface of most cynics and you find a frustrated idealist–someone who made the mistake of converting his ideals into expectations.” -Peter M. Senge, “The Fifth Discipline” (p. 146)

A number of years ago I noticed a distressing pattern in my life. Despite my best efforts to “make things happen” in business settings, relationships, and other areas, I was continually disappointed. Nothing seemed to work out as I had hoped.

I had a miscommunication on a business deal that caused me great embarrassment and almost cost me money. In another situation I allowed myself to be led astray by my own blinding emotions. Then there was the time that I neglected to cancel my classes and almost paid dearly for it. Yet another time, I believed a promise that appealed to my high ideals and aspirations, only to find the “opportunity of a lifetime” go up in smoke.

And on it went. What was I doing wrong?

Little did I know that I was gaining valuable experience and learning many lessons about reality, people, and relationships. I wouldn’t trade these failures and hardships.

Looking back, I was incredibly idealistic. Beyond that, I believed that my worldview — how I thought everything should be — would somehow be translated into my reality.

I had transformed my ideals into expectations. And I was on the road to becoming a cynic.

I deluded myself into thinking that I was something of a philosopher and economist, but I ignored the important distinction between the positive/descriptive (what “is”) and normative/prescriptive (what “ought” to be) categories of thinking.

Because I believed that the ought and the is should correspond, in my thinking, they were one and the same in reality.

Occasionally, I would stumble across a realist — i.e., someone who understood the clear distinction between how things should be and how things really are — and I would become frustrated. I would wonder why the person could not see how things should be.

I thought idealists were the ones who had everything figured out. Realists were simply those who had gotten tired and given up.

Since then I have learned that we need not abandon standards of integrity in order to be realists. Instead, we must simply make the choice to get to the truth.

Here are some tips that have helped me:

  • Take a step back and detach. I used to take everything so personally, even as I considered myself the paragon of rationality. I believed that many others were primarily driven by emotion, whereas I was driven by logic. Now I can see how misguided I was. I now know what I need to work on with regard to controlling my own emotional reactions to triggers, whereas before I thought everything was fine. My weaknesses were someone else’s fault and problem. This delusion and denial placed me in great danger.
  • Choose to see people for who they are. Observe people. Learn the rules. Use the metaphor of a game, much like any sport. Don’t view anyone as 100% on the side of devils or 100% on the side of angels. No one is that perfectly consistent. You will be less disappointed by your bad assumptions if you choose to see people for who they are rather than imposing your own biases and projecting your own weaknesses on them. Once you have a general idea of the rules about “human nature” and its specific manifestation in various individuals, understand that people will suddenly change when you least expect it. That is simply part of the game and part of the fun.
  • Get to the truth rather than indulging in wishful thinking. Big plans, fast talk, grand visions. All these things and more are available at the low, low price of a dime per dozen. Don’t let yourself be bamboozled. Commit to seeing reality for what it is, even when this involves the painful admission that you were wrong previously.
  • Enjoy the process. Learn to laugh and not take things too seriously. Don’t think that your serious demeanor will translate into serious success. We all have to step back and realize, in the midst of stress, that we are acting as players within the larger “human comedy,” as one author explained it.

Avoid cynicism. Be real. Keep your ideals, and commit to practicing them in your life. Gain private victory and personal mastery. Then your circle of influence will widen so that your ideals can become reality more and more in larger contexts and relationships.

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Simple Tips, Tricks, and Techniques to Achieve Success http://www.cfocareer.com/simple-tips-tricks-and-techniques-to-achieve-success/ Mon, 24 Mar 2014 11:00:54 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1138 We like the illusion that success is random, achievement is based on a lucky break, and fulfillment doesn't require a systematic and consistent process.

But we fool ourselves when we introduce such a disconnect into our thinking. We distort reality rather than learning its rules.

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I have diligently searched for the secret of success and fulfillment. Ideally, as  I’m sure many would agree, this should be a quick, fast-tracked way to skip all the hard work and drudgery.

Finally, I have solved the mystery. Are you ready? Here it is:

There is no secret shortcut. There are processes and steps of development and growth. But there are no shortcuts.

Sorry to disappoint.

This is very clear in the physical world. I observed this process recently with my little daughter: Babies first learn to turn over, then push up, crawl, then sit up, pull ourselves up, then stumble for a few steps, walk steadily, then run, and so forth.

Less than two decades after being formerly helpless newborns, some people can perform amazing feats: twirl gracefully on ice skates, surmount the highest peaks on the planet, run a mile in under four minutes, or dunk a basketball.

Any gardener can tell you that seeds must be planted in suitable soil, watered, fertilized, and cultivated before plants grow to the point of bearing fruit.

As a gardener, my wife doesn’t decide one day that she’d like fruit and vegetables in our backyard and, voilà, they suddenly appear on plants in rows within well cultivated gardens.

Yet we somehow are willingly deceived by the ostensible “magicians” who can make mastery of their fields look easy. Such artists might even play on our emotions to increase the mystery of mastery and further draw us into the allure.

Some of us like the illusion that success is random, achievement is based on a lucky break, and fulfillment doesn’t require a systematic and consistent process. Maybe we believe this rationalizes our laziness and procrastination.

But we fool ourselves when we introduce such a disconnect into our thinking. We distort reality rather than learning its rules.

This is an important consideration for career development planning. There is simply no trick, tip, or technique — no alchemic elixir or magic shortcut — toward success.

Granted, there are ways to be smart to speed up the process of development. The 80/20 principle applies in career development as in many other areas.

For instance, determining one’s unique calling is key. As Viktor Frankl observed: “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”

Additionally, seeking mentors and apprenticeship opportunities early in life is vital. Getting to the truth about life situations and people — embracing reality rather than delusions and wishful thinking — is important.

In the end, I have decided that I must study and prepare for the process, determining the best way to focus my energy and time. Rather than being continually distracted by the never-ending process of getting general knowledge, I am honing in my focus on the specific knowledge that I need to advance my career. More on this in future installments.

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Here’s How I Changed My Driving Habits in 21 Days http://www.cfocareer.com/heres-changed-driving-habits-21-days/ Mon, 17 Mar 2014 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1134 If someone cut me off or did something rude, this didn't affect me one bit. If the traffic signal change and forced me to stop more quickly than I would have preferred, I was undaunted. I was in control of my mind and attitude. I would not empower another person's weakness or an external circumstance to control me.

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I previously detailed the painful experience but happy end results of my recent vehicle incident.

But that was not the best part of the story. The best part was the life-changing experience of changing my mindset and actions behind the wheel.

Our brains are wired to develop habits over time. This helps us increase the number of decisions and actions we can make without thinking and analyzing our every move. One of my unfortunate habits was high-stress driving. Although I was usually highly attentive on the road, able to anticipate other drivers’ moves and react in time, the driving experience wasn’t always safe.

I wasn’t always courteous like I should have been.

Most of all, I didn’t really enjoy the ride. I wanted to just get to my destination and be done with it. If I could shave off thirty seconds from my commute, so much the better. (In hindsight, I reflect on how trivial my focus was.)

I had my mishap due to inattentiveness and poor judgment while talking on my phone. Then and there, as I sat in my very cold car waiting for the tow truck, I made a decision. There was no turning back. It was done. Over. Finished.

I was, from that point forward, a safe and courteous driver who enjoyed every moment of the ride.

You would not have known it, at that point in time, from looking at my ruined wheel. But it was true. I had a made a definite determination and resolution. Outward reality would later reflect my new found inner change.

But how would I make this stick?

I decided to tell myself, verbally, every time I got behind the wheel for 21 days, that I am a safe and courteous driver, and I enjoy every moment of the ride.

If someone cut me off or did something rude, this didn’t affect me one bit. If the traffic signal changed and forced me to stop more quickly than I would have preferred, I was undaunted. I was in control of my mind and attitude. I would not empower another person’s weakness or an external circumstance to control me.

This experiment has worked well for over a month. When I have occasionally found myself slipping into old habits, I have known just the solution. I have refreshed my memory that I am a safe and courteous driver who enjoys every moment of the ride.

I define myself. I talk to myself. I focus on what I want to be and what I am. I act the part. The process works wonderfully.

I enjoy the ride more. I am still attentive, but also relaxed. I’m sure my heart appreciates the lower blood pressure due to my new found habits.

No need to wait for a crisis. If the process worked to change my habits after a minor driving crisis, I can use self-talk and visualization to set myself up as a healthy and active person who eats well and exercises consistently. I don’t have to wait until a health or medical problem arises to proactively define myself as healthy and active.

We can change our habits. We have the freedom and power. It is the greatest gift that we have been given by our Creator.

What area of life would you like to change? You can do it. Make a resolution. Write it down. Talk to yourself about it every day. Be positive and focus on what you want, rather than on the negatives. Tell someone else about your commitment — someone who will build you up and rejoice in your progress rather than laugh and discourage you.

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Simplify and Focus http://www.cfocareer.com/simplify-focus/ Wed, 12 Mar 2014 02:40:19 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1131 Without focus we are like ships tossed upon waves with no motor, rudder, or sails. With focus we can be like a ship channeling the natural energy of the wind in its sails to move swiftly toward a specific objective.

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My theme words for this season of life are simplify and focus. I even jotted these words on a note and hung it on my wall next to my computer at work. Every day in every way, I think: simplify and focus.

As Richard Koch demonstrates in his book about the 80/20 principle, complex is ugly, but simple is beautiful. Additionally, the Heath brothers show the value of simplicity in Made to Stick, which I’m re-listening to on drives to work.

Simplicity is about getting to the core. It’s about cutting away fluff. This fluff can include great ideas and brilliant insights. The fluff might involve worthy goals and activities. However, if it sidetracks from the core message, it detracts.

One of my problems has been the pursuit of general knowledge at the expense of specialized knowledge. I have always enjoyed taking in and assimilating a large amount of facts and knowledge. However, this can easily detract from focus. It can sidetrack from a major, definite life purpose.

Without focus we are like ships tossed upon waves with no motor, rudder, or sails. With focus we can be like a ship channeling the natural energy of the wind in its sails to move swiftly toward a specific objective.

Focus is about knowing and planning for what I want, even emphasizing this definite desire at the expense of many other good and worthy things.

Recently I was browsing courses on a training website, and I took samples from various courses, some of which directly pertained to my major objectives during this season of life. Other portions of the content represented “general knowledge,” things that were nice to know but not specifically useful for current application.

As I reflected on my mixture of general and specific knowledge, I determined that my focused work time would be best devoted nearly exclusively to specific knowledge. For example, I am steadily focusing on building my website. I need to learn WordPress inside and out, as well as related web skills.

I can spend some “mental downtime” relaxing and pursuing general knowledge for my own enjoyment, amusement, and future creative use. For example, I could watch an introductory lecture about something I won’t likely use in the near future, such as 3-D printing. Knowing a little about 3-D printing could help me stay abreast of recent technological developments, and it’s relatively interesting. However, I should not let this detract from pursuing the core of my specialized knowledge regarding web development and career development.

Focus and simplify. Simplify and focus. How much more productive we would be if we consistently decided what we wanted, wrote down goals, made a definite decision to focus, and then took action. That is the way to achieve mastery in any area of life.

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Here’s How I Saved Myself Almost Six Hundred After-Tax Dollars http://www.cfocareer.com/heres-how-i-saved-myself-almost-six-hundred-after-tax-dollars/ http://www.cfocareer.com/heres-how-i-saved-myself-almost-six-hundred-after-tax-dollars/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 12:00:21 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1092 It was a Friday evening, and I was looking forward to an enjoyable evening with friends. I simply had to navigate the roads safely to my intended destination. Simple enough, right? Just when I thought I was in control of my destiny, I managed to get myself into quite a predicament. The good news is […]

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It was a Friday evening, and I was looking forward to an enjoyable evening with friends. I simply had to navigate the roads safely to my intended destination. Simple enough, right?

Just when I thought I was in control of my destiny, I managed to get myself into quite a predicament. The good news is that I took away several valuable lessons from my experiences.

I left work at the normal time and wanted to get home quickly to pick up my wife and child. We intended to meet up with friends for a time of fun, fellowship, and celebration of a friend’s accomplishments. To my great shame, instead of being a safe and courteous driver who enjoyed every moment of the ride, I behaved more like a race car driver.

I took a turn too fast, and I jumped the median. Gratefully, I didn’t damage anyone else’s vehicle, property, or persons. Additionally, I was spared injury. However, my car did not fare so well.

I ruined my wheel, flattened my tire, and (as I later learned) did severe damage to my car’s front end. Fortunately, I had received a AAA membership for Christmas due to the generosity of my extended family, so I was able to have the vehicle towed without charge when the spare tire turned out to be flat and not inflatable. (Lesson learned: Check your spare periodically to make sure it holds air.)

My normal mechanic/tire shop advised me to have the vehicle towed to my house rather than to his place since he wouldn’t be able to look at it until Monday. He should have let me tow it to his place and park it since my options were rather limited at that point. He could have capitalized on my problem and desperate situation, positioning himself as the solution provider. 

I decided to have the vehicle towed to my house and start first thing the next morning on pursuing the needed repairs. And I still managed to make it (quite late) to my friend’s celebration.

Gratefully, the next day I took the initiative to source my own salvaged (and steeply discounted) replacement wheel and have my normal tire shop’s competitor mount my still functional tire to that wheel.

(Note: When you give customers the opportunity to explore your competitors’ services, they might lose their sense of loyalty to you. Such was the case when I had a “wow experience” due to great customer service at the other tire shop, but that’s another story for another time.)

Regrettably, my wheel fix did not do the trick, as I discovered severe front-end damage when I tried to drive the vehicle after putting on the new wheel. I limped the car to a different trusted mechanic nearby, and he estimated the cost to be at least $600, possibly more. The drawback was that I would have to wait several weeks until he would be available to fix the vehicle. I knew he would do a good job and charge me better than a fair price, but I didn’t want to wait that long.

I decided to take the vehicle to another nearby mechanic that the tow truck driver had recommended. This mechanic gave me an initial estimate of nearly $1,600 plus tax. Although I could have let desperation get the better of me, instead I responded with the simple negotiation tactic known as “flinching.” I said, “Oh wow, I wasn’t expecting that!” Then I paused to let him respond. He seemed apologetic and almost embarrassed by the estimate. I told him that I might need to use a different mechanic and that I’d let him know.

He called early the next morning and told me he had “gotten to looking online” and managed to find the parts a bit cheaper. He had run the numbers, and he got the estimate down to $1,200. However, I told him that the other mechanic had estimated $600. The only reason I didn’t use the other mechanic was the time-frame. I was willing to pay a little more to get it done sooner, but twice the amount seemed excessive.

The mechanic told me he really didn’t think he could go lower than $1,000, and I said I’d think about it. In the course of the conversation I told him I didn’t want to inconvenience him by keeping the vehicle on his parking lot, so I could come get it the next day if I decided not to use his service. I made clear that I wanted the vehicle fixed as soon as possible but that I was not super desperate.

I called him the next day and asked if he could provide a written estimate, and he said he would be glad to do this. Having secured the estimate, I proceeded to have him fix the vehicle and he had it done by the next evening.

My primary take-away was simple: The more flexibility you have — time and options — and the more you can convince the other person of your flexibility, the more power you have in a negotiation.

Flexibility gives you walkaway power.

The $600 mechanic told me that the more expensive mechanic might drop his price, depending on how much he needed the work. Given that we had a few snowstorms accompanied by slick roads during the process, I thought he might have been less than desperate for work. Apparently, this was not the case.

In the end, I saved $600, getting the price down from about $1,600 to $1,000, by buying time and expanding my options. Time pressure, as well as desperation caused by lack of options, can sink a person’s best efforts in a negotiation situation. However creativity, assertiveness, and “negotiation consciousness” (i.e., the internalized idea that “everything is negotiable”) can help you get more and save yourself trouble and resources in a negotiation.

I was grateful to learn some valuable lessons out of the experience. Plus, I could reflect with gratitude that the damage from my stupidity was not worse. I was very blessed. All of this made the “tuition” I paid in time and money worthwhile. I will learn from my mistakes and apply the lessons in future negotiations, whether personally or in business.

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Take Ownership of Your Career, Revisited http://www.cfocareer.com/take-ownership-of-your-career-revisited/ Mon, 20 Jan 2014 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1037 I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Now is the time for you to take ownership of your career. Elaine Pofeldt wrote an excellent piece on Forbes on this theme. She says: “Skip the long list of resolutions this year. If you really want to take charge of your career in 2014, you […]

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Now is the time for you to take ownership of your career.

Elaine Pofeldt wrote an excellent piece on Forbes on this theme. She says: “Skip the long list of resolutions this year. If you really want to take charge of your career in 2014, you only need to make one: Stop delegating control of your career to others.”

Many of us don’t know where to begin, so we choose to delegate our career path, development, and opportunity generation to someone else. Rather than having a vision, setting goals, and undertaking disciplined, daily action to set ourselves up for success; too often we take the first seemingly decent opportunity that comes along.

We blindly stumble from one place to another rather than deciding what we want, overcoming obstacles, and attaining our goals.

If this is how you have managed your career, it’s time to put a stop to that destructive habit pattern right now, once and for all. Success accrues to those who take ownership, and the essence of ownership is responsibility. And yes, responsibility is a burden. It is work. It requires thought. It requires action.

But in the end, it is well worth the trouble.

Pofeldt writes: “The point is to make incremental, ongoing efforts to increase opportunities for yourself, so you never have to scale an overwhelming mountain of tasks like this if something changes in your career or business. Should a relationship with your employer or a client come to an end, you’ll just have to amplify what you’re already doing. And chances are, opportunities will come to you.”

The simple question is: Do you want opportunities to come to you, or do you want to go through the anguishing process of trying to create opportunities for yourself should your current job or career opportunity fall through?

If you want the opportunities to come to you, your task is to simply take disciplined, incremental steps to set yourself apart. Pofeldt lists several potential initiatives, and there are many others that we will continue to explore in future installments.

Pofeldt alludes to the freedom and flexibility that accrues to those with low debt burdens and those who discipline themselves to control their spending. I wrote previously about how personal financial discipline can help professionals walk away from bad situations. In addition, taking steps to ease financial pressure can help us become creative and take risks that can pay off in the future.

Embrace a mindset of lifelong learning and development. Never stop looking for ways to become more valuable to your employer, customers, and others with whom you share important relationships. Give, give, and give. You can always expect to “reap what you sow.” Investing in your own career and development is one of the best focused initiatives you can undertake.

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The Power of Simplifying http://www.cfocareer.com/power-simplifying/ http://www.cfocareer.com/power-simplifying/#comments Fri, 17 Jan 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1030 I was recently talking with a professional who was trying to sell me a service. She showed me how it could potentially save us a modest sum of money. The main thought I came away with was, “Will this make life easier for me? Will it increase or decrease the workload and burdens that I […]

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I was recently talking with a professional who was trying to sell me a service. She showed me how it could potentially save us a modest sum of money.

The main thought I came away with was, “Will this make life easier for me? Will it increase or decrease the workload and burdens that I have to bear?”

I am certainly interested in hearing proposals related to saving money. Even more so, however, I am interested in time saving devices that will eliminate waste and make my complex life more simple.

In their book Made to Stick, the Heath brothers list “Simple” as the first attribute of a “sticky” idea. If you want to gain influence and encourage people to act — whether that means embracing your ideas, buying your products or services, or anything else — you have to make things simple for people to understand.

I am not talking about dumbing down your content. I am talking about prioritizing and getting to the core of your message.

Effective advertisers keep the unique selling proposition (USP) of their products and services front and center. Having too many messages and proposals in an ad will confuse the audience and bury the core benefit that should be heralded.

As Richard Koch points out in The 80/20 Principle, simple is beautiful. Complex is ugly.

Two companies that come to mind that have put the principle of simplicity to highly profitable use are Apple and In-N-Out Burger. Their product offerings are known for simplicity. They have cult-like followings among their devout customer bases. They have mastered the beauty of simplicity in their respective industries.

Had our professional salesperson shown me how her service would simplify my life, I would have been all over it. Instead, she took the approach that her service was basically comparable to everyone else’s, yet she could save us a little money. Depending on the amount of savings and the trouble in switching, this might not be compelling enough to get me to make the leap.

I have noticed a tendency for ostensibly smart people to over-complicate things. Perhaps this makes them feel smart or important. However, typically one of two things happens to the audience in this situation: 1) they don’t understand, and they aren’t willing to admit it so the message and opportunity for influence is lost; or 2) they are humble enough to admit they don’t understand, so the “smart” person has to figure out how to simplify the message on the spot.

How much better would it be to simplify the message from the get-go. Why not utilize time to the fullest (rather than wasting time on over-complicated communication). Strive to build rapport because the audience can sense that you, an intelligent person, are approachable and in tune with the needs and level of understanding of the audience.

Simplify, simplify, simplify. Cut the waste. Cut the filler. Get to the point. Show how your ideas and proposals, step-by-step from start to finish, can make someone’s life easier. Show how they can practically be implemented in action rather than only understood in theory by the highly adept. With all the options people have for allocating their attention, most are not willing to go to the time or trouble to understand an over-complicated concept, idea, or strategy that could be communicated more simply by someone else.

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Read Broadly to Open Your Mind to New Ideas and Become a Leader http://www.cfocareer.com/read-broadly-to-open-your-mind-to-new-ideas-and-become-a-leader/ Tue, 14 Jan 2014 02:04:10 +0000 http://www.cfocareer.com/?p=1014 I am putting together a “reading list” for the year. Having a blog about career development, coupled with a desire to advance in my profession, gives me motivation to read voraciously. I can learn from a broad array of authors and genres. I can write reviews. I can apply the insights I gain. I can […]

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I am putting together a “reading list” for the year. Having a blog about career development, coupled with a desire to advance in my profession, gives me motivation to read voraciously. I can learn from a broad array of authors and genres. I can write reviews. I can apply the insights I gain. I can follow up with additional blog posts about my successes and lessons learned.

My reading list includes books about the 80/20 principle, which states that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. A corollary principle is that 80% of our efforts are rather wasteful since they only produce 20% of our results.

I am also planning to read about leadership, sales and marketing, history, and some fiction. Of course, I will also have technical readings related to my niche, including books about finance, accounting, taxes, and so forth. But as a “key member of my company’s management team,” I cannot afford to narrow my focus too much. I do believe in the power of specialization, niches, and focus. However, having a rather large base of knowledge can help “cross pollinate” so that I can combine insights in a fresh way from various disciplines. This can increase a professional’s distinctive capabilities, contributions, and value. This can help set a person apart from the pack.

Someone said that a leader has to be a reader. I believe this is true. Reading opens the mind to new thoughts. These thoughts, when shared winsomely, can lead to influence. And influence is the essence of leadership (stay tuned for a review about a book on that very topic).

Choose your reading material carefully so that you can gain the maximum value from the books and articles you peruse. I am excited about the development potential from reading great material that shapes my perspective of the world and my place in it. When coupled by practical, day-to-day experience, reading great books provides a winning combination of theory coupled with insights into practical application.

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