The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Accountant Moms

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Accountant Moms

When was the last time you really took a look at how effective you are both personally and professionally?  If you’re like most hard-working accountant moms, you probably think you’re pretty effective since you’re doing your best to balance an accounting career with also being a mom, but if you don’t have the balanced, successful, happy life you want, you might want to take a look at your effectiveness.

But what does it really mean to be more effective?  How do you know how effective you are in your life?  What does being more effective even look like?  Why does it matter?

If you think about it, you’re most likely employed or self-employed, which means you’ve been effective in the area of employment; your children most likely have a roof over their heads, beds to sleep in, and are getting an education, which means you’ve been effective in the area of parenting.  As far as you’re concerned, you’re being effective by virtue of the fact that you’ve got a lot on your plate and you haven’t run away from all your responsibilities, to a remote island, even though the thought may have crossed your mind a few times.

With that being said, the simplest way to explain what being effective is, is that you do things and achieve things in the simplest, easiest, or cleanest way; it’s being successful in producing a desired and intended result.  Basically, you make the best use of your time, your resources, and yourself, and you have the results you want without experiencing overwhelm and burnout; yes, that’s right – without experiencing overwhelm and burnout.

The issue for a lot of women is that once we’ve got a rhythm going that makes it possible for us to do everything we do, we might just be on a rinse and repeat the cycle, not stopping to take a look to see how we could be more effective.  For example, you might think you’ve got a pretty good time management system, but how often are you feeling behind or overwhelmed?

Really think about how long you’ve been doing the same things at work and at home without considering whether you’re being as effective as you could be; where you won’t even allow yourself to think about going after some goal because it just seems impossible.  If you feel like things tend to pile up, that the time of year and the deadlines at work are too much, or that you never have free time for yourself, you’re probably not being as effective as you could be.

This is not a judgment of you, it’s just a good awareness to have if you want to have a more balanced, and happy career and home life.  Just because it’s how you’ve always done it, or you can’t imagine how it’s possible to do things any differently, does NOT mean you should keep doing what you’re doing, the way that you’ve been doing it.

Just know that the less intentional you are, the less effective you also are.  When you learn how to be more effective, you get clear about what you want and you’re willing to figure out how to get there; you don’t spin in indecision, confusion, and overwhelm.

It’s really important to know that if you don’t have what you want right now, you’re probably not being as effective as you can be.  If you want things like getting more done in less time, making more money, or improving any relationship, then learning how to be more effective is going to save you so much time and effort.

This week I’m going to discuss 3 reasons why it’s important to be more effective and the 7 habits of highly effective accountant moms.

3 reasons why you want to be more effective

When I was first introduced to this concept, I was a little confused because I had the balanced, successful life that I had been trying to achieve.  For the most part, I had the results that I wanted in my life so therefore I must be effective.

But then I took an honest look at the results in my life and questioned whether I was just settling; settling for what I had already achieved without pushing myself to want more by settling for “good enough”, telling myself that the things I didn’t have were either impossible or not worth the effort.

When I looked at the idea of being more effective, it made me realize that I was limiting myself; that I was trying to not be greedy by wanting more than I already had.  It helped me to open up the door to possibilities that I had previously dismissed.

The key to being more effective is that it really does get you the results you want, it helps you achieve your goals, it gives you a lot more free time, and it makes it possible to go after even bigger goals and dreams.  If you’re just going through the motions, day in and day out, just trying to survive another week or another year, you’re missing out on so much more that life has to offer.

So the first reason why you want to be more effective is to be able to open the door to possibilities; more money, more freedom, better health, better relationships, more balance, greater success, or any other desired result you want for your life personally or professionally.  When you learn how to be more effective, life gets exciting and filled with hope.

By becoming more effective, you cut out what’s no longer necessary, what wastes your time, what drains you, and you see a way to achieve the desired result that had previously been an impossibility.  You now see a way, where you couldn’t see one before.

For me, the idea of being a CPA while also being able to coach CPAs was a nice idea but seemed like an impossibility with everything I had going on.  I was doing fine financially and I was happy at my job, so why add another thing to live?

The issue was that I wasn’t seeing the possibility of being able to do both, be a CPA and coaching CPAs, because I wasn’t being as effective as I could be.  My glass was already full so I couldn’t see how I could dump out some of the water to make room for more, or that I could just choose a bigger glass.

The second reason why you want to be more effective is so you can achieve your goals faster.  The more effective you can be, the easier it will be to make decisions, to manage your emotions by eliminating the tendency to spin in confusion and overwhelm, and the simpler it will be to take effective action.

When you can narrow your focus, you give your brain the opportunity to work optimally.  It’s like having the most amazing piece of machinery on the planet, but never reading the user manual to understand everything it can do and how to use every feature.

Have you ever had that happen, where you learned a better way to use something that you’d been using for so long and had no idea it was capable of doing more?  Like taking a CPE class on Excel and realizing that you’ve been totally underutilizing all the features that Excel has to offer.

It’s the same thing with learning how to be more effective; you’re learning how to read the manual for your brain and understanding how it can help you achieve your goals faster.  Not only how to achieve your current goals faster, but how to set goals for the future as well.

The third reason why you want to be more effective is because it will show you all the reasons why you don’t currently have the results you want in your life.  When you work on being more effective, all the mind-drama that’s gone unnoticed is going to come out of the shadows.

This may sound unpleasant but I promise you, it’s exactly what you WANT to happen.  You want to get to know the limiting beliefs you have and how they’re holding you back from having what you want professionally and personally.

You want to be more effective so you can bring up all the self-doubt, the concern about what others think, the resistance to creating a vision for your life; you want it all brought up.  The reason this is important is because then you can do something about it.

It’s like discovering that you had your parking brake on the entire time and that’s why your car wasn’t driving faster.  You want to be more effective so you can uncover what’s been slowing you down.

The 7 habits of highly effective accountant moms

As accountants, we’re always looking for ways to be more efficient.  We’re keenly aware of how much time we’re taking and continually looking for ways to get more done in less time.

When we focus on efficiency, we’re looking for ways to do things faster, getting rid of unnecessary steps, and making things as streamlined as possible.  We’re focused on the actions we’re taking and how to minimize effort and maximize the use of our time.

But the issue is that we’re often not spending enough time taking a look at the results we’re getting and being more intentional with them.  For example, your new tax software might help you to be more efficient and help you get more work done, but if your goal is to have dinner with your family more often, you might not be utilizing your efforts in the best way possible.

You might be efficient at what you do, but not effective in the results your actions give you.  You might see the new tax software as the answer to your productivity challenges, but yet you’re still working too many hours, and not using your time as effectively as you could.

From my personal experience and the experience of my coaching clients, here are the 7 habits of highly effective accountant moms that I hope you can put into practice yourself:

  1. Live and work more intentionally – while the term Attention Deficit may be familiar to you as a mother, the less familiar term Intention Deficit is something I believe we all suffer with to certain degrees without knowing it.  Intention Deficit is when you are living your life unconsciously as opposed to living on purpose; when you aren’t clear on the direction you want to go and are stuck focusing on what you don’t want rather than on what you do want.  Living with intention can show up in “big picture” decisions like what you want your career to look like in 5 years and taking steps to make that happen, as well as “small picture” decisions like getting clear about your intention before calling that friend to complain to them about something they did.  The reason that living with intention matters is because it helps you create the life you want rather than being stressed about the life you have.  When you learn to set intentions you know exactly where you want to go, you enter it into the GPS, you don’t abort the trip just because the GPS is rerouting you and you get to your destination.
  2. Learn better time management – learning the skill of how to take back control of your time is a gift you give to yourself professionally, but it’s also a gift you give to yourself and your family personally because it allows you to be less stressed and enjoy your time.  The issue is that as accountants, with all the education and knowledge we have, we were never taught how to use our brains optimally, or worse, we believe we already are.  The truth is that most of us use our brain ineffectually as a storage facility for all the knowledge necessary to do our jobs, and also use it as a manager for all the work that needs to get done.  Unfortunately, since time seems in short supply, we tend to become much more reactive than proactive.  So instead of creating time, we wind up reacting to time, as if we’re not in control and there’s nothing we can really do about how much we have to get done, or how much time we have to get it done.  The truth is that you don’t actually need MORE time, you just need to be more intentional and in control of your time.  You need to understand how you’re not using your time as wisely as you could and how you are underutilizing your brain to handle all the information you are bombarded with.
  3. Delegate more – whether you are an accounting employee or an entrepreneur, you are also most likely faced with needing to delegate tasks to others or being delegated tasks to do.  It doesn’t matter whether you work for a company or run your own, delegating at work can also come with its own set of challenges for working moms.  For a lot of the accountant moms I speak to, the idea of delegating makes them uncomfortable because they feel as if asking for and getting help is in some way a sign of weakness.  As if they’re not able to hack it unless they can do it all and try not to complain about it.  Many of these working moms try to deny signs of burnout;  they’re unable to say no to requests and then feel the pressure of having to do things perfectly.  Frankly, most working moms are doing too much, feeling that their sense of worth is intertwined with how many balls they are able to juggle on their own and not drop.  Let’s be honest, whether it’s at work or at home, you know that there are things you can start delegating and automating in order to make life easier, more productive and free up some precious time for the people and the things you love.
  4. Take charge of your personal and professional development – it doesn’t matter whether you are in public or private accounting, or how long you’ve been an accountant, having a professional development plan is key if you want to have a successful accounting career with a deeper level of satisfaction.  Let’s face it, even though being an accounting professional has taken a lot of hard work on your part up until this point, now is not the time to drop the ball.  While it may be cliche, it’s also very true – your future is really what you make of it.  Taking charge of and developing a personal and professional development plan enables you to start, or continue, on a chosen path, set reasonable goals, and take the steps necessary to achieve those goals.  Whether your future goals include going for a Master’s Degree, attending or speaking at an industry conference, leaving your job and going out on your own, or specializing in a particular area, your accounting career development depends on planning and execution.  When you look around at other accountants, have they achieved something you also wish to accomplish?  Is there something that sounds intriguing?  Those individuals who are doing what you would like to do, whether it’s the female CFO of that company you admire, or it’s that new franchisee at CPA MOMS who is building her own accounting practice while being able to be at home with her children, they did not leave it up to chance.  Their career path was a series of plans, decisions, and actions on their part.
  5. Utilize the 80/20 rule – If you feel like you just can’t get ahead of all you have to do, the issue isn’t that you have little time to do all the things you need to do; the issue is that you feel the need to do too many things in the time you have.  Inevitably you wind up doubling your efforts to get it all done believing that multi-tasking is the answer.  However, multitasking doesn’t save time because your brain is giving each task divided attention.  When you divide your attention, you actually pay a price in time and effectiveness because your brain has to continually reorient between tasks.  The 80/20 principle is as provable and predictable as other laws of nature and it states that the minority of your effort (20%) leads to the majority of your results (80%).  So if you were to make a to-do list with 10 items on it, choosing the best 2 out of the 10 would turn out to be worth more than the other 8 items put together.  However, most people have a tendency to believe that everything on the to-do list is vital.  But just because you could do something on your to-do list doesn’t mean you should do it.  By focusing on what you should do, you let what matters most drive your day.
  6. Leave work at work – Separating your work from your personal life is more important than ever, especially for accountant moms.  We have the ability, and for a lot of us the necessity, to work virtually, especially since the pandemic, making the lines between work and home so blurred that you might be asking yourself whether you’re working from home or living at work.  Because of the pressure accountant moms can often feel to be high performers in our careers, it can be challenging to not check our work email while we’re making dinner or to glance at our phone and be tempted to answer a Slack message while we’re watching TV with our family.  Even though the old adage says, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”, we often get caught up in the fear of not being on top of things so we overcompensate by needing to know too much.  As both an accountant and a mom, you may feel the pressure to NOT detach from work, especially if you want to get ahead in your career.  But what often happens is you don’t factor in the cost of not detaching; the cost to you physically and emotionally, the cost to your family when you’re still plugged into work even though you’re home, and the cost to your productivity and efficiency when you get back into work.
  7. Improve your emotional intelligence – since the introduction of the concept of emotional intelligence, or EQ, there has been a large number of studies done in order to figure out its importance in academic, professional, and personal success.  From the top of an organization, and a family for that matter, down to the bottom, the ability to identify, understand, and manage your emotions has been proven to be incredibly useful as both an accountant and a mom.  Unfortunately, with our education and work experience, as accountants we tend to hide behind the numbers, often delineating and placing greater importance on technical and analytical skills, referred to as “hard skills”, and minimizing the importance of human and people skills by labeling them “soft skills”.  While that might have been fine in a less technology, automated world, that’s no longer going to work.  Your ability to manage your own emotions, as well as your interpersonal skills, can no longer be ignored as “soft”.  As we’ve seen this past year, change is inevitable, especially in the field of accounting, therefore your ability to manage those changes, support your clients, add value. and continue to evolve both professionally and personally is going to take a new and improved approach that embraces and incorporates emotional intelligence.

So hopefully you can begin to adopt the 7 habits of highly effective accountant moms in order to have the professional and personal life you want.  Just know that by becoming more effective, you can create more possibilities and have the balanced life you deserve.

 

Summary

  • The issue for a lot of women is that once you’ve gotten a rhythm going that makes it possible for you to do everything you do, you might just be on a rinse and repeat cycle, not stopping to take a look to see how you could be more effective.
  • When you learn how to be more effective, you get clear about what you want and you’re willing to figure out how to get there; you don’t spin in indecision, confusion, and overwhelm.
  • It’s like discovering that you had your parking brake on the entire time and that’s why your car wasn’t driving faster.  You want to be more effective so you can uncover what’s been slowing you down.
Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone

As accountants, doing what’s familiar, what seems logical, and what appears safe, is often what leads us to an accounting career in the first place.  Most of us did well in subjects like Math, enjoying the structure, the ability to solve problems, and the good feeling when a problem was eventually solved.

If you think about it, you didn’t choose a more riskier career path for a reason.  Like a lot of the accountants I work with and coach, you might have been leaning towards some other area of study –  maybe you considered being a lawyer, a doctor, or a teacher.

But something made you gravitate towards accounting; something made you either choose it early on, or switch gears and choose it after trying something else.  No matter what your reasons were, you made various decisions that led you to where you are today.

But what happens for a lot of accountants is that we gravitate towards, and can often get stuck in,  comfort zones that can make it challenging to grow and evolve.  We become so comfortable in what’s familiar that we forget to question whether we’re really fulfilled, and then we convince ourselves that “here” is better than some unknown “there”.

I’m sure you’ve experienced this in many different ways, where it’s the “devil you know” that keeps you in a relationship, a job, or a situation that’s not ideal, but you convince yourself to stay because at least it’s familiar.  Maybe you stayed in a marriage longer than you really wanted because you convinced yourself it wasn’t that bad; maybe you’re currently in a job that doesn't value your worth or your time, but you stay because it’s where you’ve been for so long that the thought of leaving scares you.

We all have comfort zones that seem to make sense on the surface, but unfortunately they are often what’s holding us back.  At first glance it makes sense that we don’t want to end that relationship, leave that job to become an entrepreneur, or get that bold new haircut, because stepping out of our comfort zone can be uncomfortable.

You also may have found that the older you get, the more you want to exist and operate in your comfort zone.  You were probably more willing to do unfamiliar things when you were younger, but now that you’re older and you’ve had various life experiences, you may not even realize how much time you spend in your comfort zone.

There’s nothing wrong with having a comfort zone, however, when you consistently live within it, the size of that comfort zone begins to shrink.  In essence you start out doing a lot of things, then you begin doing less, and eventually what feels comfortable becomes less and less.

If this past year or so of the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that life can be incredibly unpredictable, which is why we might be gravitating even more to our comfort zones. It’s relatively predictable and safe, so we don’t have to worry about threats and unpleasant surprises all the time.

The issue is that, if you don’t take an honest look at your comfort zones every now and then, consider how they might be holding you back, and how to step out of them, you are going to wake up 5, 10 or 20 years from now and wish you had done something differently.  Hopefully this episode will teach you that stepping out of your comfort zone does not need to be such a scary thing and that it’s possible to do things that are unfamiliar.

Interestingly, if you look back, many of your best experiences were times you were outside of your comfort zone.  Even things like something new you did on vacation, a new recipe you were willing to try, or just new ideas you were open to learning from; there have probably been many times that you benefited from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and didn’t realize it.

This week I’m going to discuss where your comfort zone comes from and why it exists, as well as why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and how.

 

Where your comfort zone comes from and why it exists

No matter where your comfort zone lies, whether it’s in the work you do, the relationships you’re in, the clothes you wear, or even in the way you get ready in the morning, comfort zones exist because of one important reason – you have a primitive part of your brain that thrives on sameness.  This part of your brain has a very important job, and that job is to keep you alive.

It keeps you alive by sending up warning flares, in the form of stress hormones, whenever you think about something that’s unfamiliar.  For example, when you get frustrated at your job and consider leaving, your primitive brain is what offers you thoughts like:

  • It’s really not that bad
  • You have no idea how much worse it can be somewhere else
  • You’re not qualified to do something else

To the primitive brain, anything that’s familiar is safe, even if it’s not helpful to you in the long term.  Your primitive brain is completely risk averse and is all about immediate reward, which means if it’s not immediately pleasurable, that part of your brain is not on board, especially if the reward or the pleasure might take awhile.

The interesting thing though is that the drive for growth is innate in us as humans.  Think about it – everything we’ve done, created and advanced over tens of thousands of years is because we have an intrinsic desire to expand and to push ourselves to be, do and have more.

So what happens for most of us, is that we wind up having a battle between our innate need to grow and evolve as a human and our primitive brain’s desire for sameness.  The issue when it comes to staying in our comfort zone for too long is that when we’re not growing, we wind up being grumpy, dissatisfied, and discontent because we’re actually not tapping into our full potential.

On the one hand your primitive brain thinks it’s protecting you from danger, and that the safest place for you to be is in your comfort zone.  But on the other hand your inherent desire to not stay the same, to do, be, or have other things, can create a big, confusing, sometimes exhausting tug-of-war.

It’s important to understand that as an accountant, a lack of personal growth can often be a huge reason why you are dissatisfied professionally.  You may have all the professional credentials and take all the CPE courses, but still be unhappy with the direction your accounting career is going.

This is also one of the reasons why a lot of accountants consider leaving the profession – you’re not focusing on personal growth as much as you could, opting for the more comfortable path of focusing on professional growth, and having a tug-of-war between your innate desire to evolve and your primitive brain’s desire to not step out of your comfort zone.  Thankfully, there is a way to manage it all.

So my challenge to you is to apply the tools I’m going to teach you, WHILE you are in your current comfort zone, and then from THAT place, make a decision about what you want to do next.

 

Why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone and how

First let me share my personal journey with pushing myself out of my comfort zone so that you might be able to relate to my struggle:

My early childhood entailed a lot of upheaval and drama, so once I was encouraged to study accounting in high school, and was told that accounting was a great career for a woman, I loved the idea of having a straight and steady path to take.  I liked believing “If this, then this” that math and accounting seemed to offer; I found comfort in the idea that I could find the answer to math problems.

Fast forward to 12 years working with the Big 4 and then 12 more years working for smaller firms, my innate human desire for growth was pulling at me.  Just like the carnival game “Whack a Mole”, I kept slapping the desire down, over and over, because my primitive brain was only on board with keeping things the way they were; working as an accountant, raising my children, and taking 2 weeks vacation each year.

But something kept pulling at me to step out of my comfort zone.  There was something nagging at me to be, do, and have more than I was giving myself permission to have, even though it would be uncomfortable to do things that were unfamiliar and possibly risk failure as well.

That’s when the idea of studying to become a life coach and having a coaching practice became apparent to me.  Taking what I already learned being an accountant for decades, building a business from scratch, creating this podcast, being able to speak to hundreds of accountants every week; it all came down to learning how to step out of my comfort zone and step into my possibilities.

But here’s a benefit that I hadn’t really considered about why it’s important to step out of your comfort zone – because you then become much better at handling changes and challenges like we all just experienced this past year with the pandemic.  Experiencing various moments of stress and anxiety as I pushed myself out of my comfort zone, studied to become a coach, and built a coaching business, all made it easier to be more comfortable with things being uncomfortable.

Since most of the listeners of this podcast are moms, consider this analogy – a baby learns to eventually walk by pushing itself past it’s comfort zone.  The fact is that by continually falling and getting up again, a baby strengthens its leg muscles in order for its body to actually hold itself upright and steady in order to perfect the act of walking.

So just like your children, every time you challenge yourself to go out of your comfort zone, whether it’s with big or small things, you’re actually creating evidence for yourself that you can feel scared or uncomfortable, and do something anyway.  You begin to train your primitive brain to see change or growth as doable, by virtue of the fact that you’ve got proof that you survived the discomfort.

Because of the work I had done in order to become a coach and create a coaching business, it was also much easier to say yes when my daughter said she wanted to jump out of a plane with me for her 26th birthday.  Of course there was a mixture of excitement and fear, but I was able to step out of the comfort of staying on land so that I could have the amazing experience of jumping out of a plane at 13,000 feet.

So in order to step out of your comfort zone, I first suggest that you start small.  Choose something that is challenging but not totally overwhelming, like changing a daily routine, delegating something you normally do to someone else, or setting a small goal like drinking a specific amount of water each day.

Here’s the next most important step – when you feel uncomfortable with whatever you’re doing that’s out of your comfort zone, ask yourself this question – “Why am I feeling uncomfortable?”  This might sound like a silly question to ask, but it will get you to the heart of the matter.

The only reason you feel uncomfortable is because of a thought, so it’s important to know what that thought is.  Once you know what the thought is, you’re more than halfway to learning how to step out of your comfort zone because you now know what’s causing the fear or discomfort, and more importantly, you can do something about it.

As I’ve shared many times on this podcast, your thoughts are 100% optional, but most of us don’t realize that.  We just go about our lives, having various thoughts and feelings, doing or not doing certain things, and getting results that we believe we have very little power over; basically, we have a thought and automatically believe it’s true.

The good news is that all you have to do is manage your mind better.  You have to sit down and decide on purpose what you want to think, instead of what you’re currently thinking.

For example, what I was originally thinking when my daughter requested that we jump out of a plane was simply “That’s insane.  We’re going to die” which of course created fear and anxiety.  But wanting to step out of my comfort zone and do this with her, I chose the thought “This could be fun.  Plenty of people do this all the time”.

I didn’t judge myself for feeling fear and anxiety, I just let that primitive part of my brain tell me what it’s programmed to tell me in order to keep me safe; it was just doing its job.  Once I understood that, then I chose different thoughts on purpose in order to move past the initial discomfort.

It also helps to look at times when you’ve overcome something in the past so that you can choose feelings like pride, strength, or resilience.  Choosing those feelings on purpose and then choosing thoughts that will create those feelings, is one of the best ways to step out of your comfort zone.

The experience of doing hard things is not as hard when you’re not indulging in mind drama.  When you can understand that your primitive brain is just doing its job, but that you can also use your higher brain to decide to do something unfamiliar, that’s when you grow professionally and personally.

For the next week, think about how you could become a better accountant, a better mom, a better friend, etc.  Are you challenging yourself or are you waiting for someone else to?  Do you think it’s someone else’s job to make your job, your relationships, or your life more satisfying?

Think about something you’d like to do but aren’t sure you can do; something you’re just too afraid to do; something that you feel really uncomfortable when you think about it.  Now decide to do it, fear and all.

The worst thing that can happen is an uncomfortable feeling, and you can totally handle that.  Besides, an uncomfortable feeling like fear is just small chemical reactions in your body; that’s all it is.

It might be uncomfortable at first, but once you practice being comfortable with being uncomfortable, then stepping out of your comfort zone will get easier.  So don’t let your brain’s natural desire for a comfort zone stop you from stepping out of it.  There’s so much to be discovered and experienced outside of it!

 

 

Summary  

  • What happens for a lot of accountants is that we gravitate towards, and can often get stuck in,  comfort zones that can make it challenging to grow and evolve.
  • The issue is that, if you don’t take an honest look at your comfort zones every now and then, consider how they might be holding you back, and how to step out of them, you are going to wake up 5, 10 or 20 years from now and wish you had done something differently.
  • When we’re not growing, we wind up being grumpy, dissatisfied, and discontent because we’re actually not tapping into our full potential.
 
Interview With Bridget Kaigler, CPA, About Her Humble Beginnings and Non-Traditional Path To Becoming A CPA

Interview With Bridget Kaigler, CPA, About Her Humble Beginnings and Non-Traditional Path To Becoming A CPA

 

Bridget Kaigler, CPA, CGMA, CMA, MBA is a seasoned professional with more than twenty years of experience in tax and financial analyses.  Bridget’s humble beginnings and non-traditional path to becoming a CPA was the foundation and encouragement to begin her own company, Bringing Leadership Back, LLC.  The company was founded to help aspiring leaders grow.

Bridget is the recipient of the 2021 Society of Louisiana CPAs Distinguished Public Service Award and is a frequent speaker and freelance writer on the topic of leadership and career strategy.  She was featured by Career Mastered Magazine, Accounting Today, Journal of Accountancy, and was the cover story “Bringing Leadership Back: Perspectives in helping aspiring leaders grow” in Lagniappe Magazine.

Here are the highlights from this interview:

  • Bridget was raised by her grandparents and was encouraged to go to college, but they unfortunately both passed away when she was 18
  • She felt like she lost her “cheerleaders” when they passed away so she didn’t start college after finishing high school and wound up marrying at a very young age and divorcing.
  • During that time she had a son and he became her motivation to figure out her next steps
  • At the time she was working minimum wage, part-time jobs, she had disconnect and eviction notices
  • It was a struggle being a single parent and not having the support system she had with her grandparents
  • To make ends meet she took temp jobs as a receptionist, a telemarketer, and as admin
  • For 3 years she didn’t have a car and needed to take the bus with her young son, drop him off at daycare, get back on the bus, and take it to her temp job
  • One day a complete stranger came up to her, as she was complaining about her situation, and said “I don’t know you.  I don’t know what you’re going through, but I feel like I need to tell you, but what’s going to get you out of it is an education.”
  • That stranger changed her life by echoing what her grandparents wanted for her as well.
  • She decided right then and there, a change starts now.
  • She needed to find a university that she could still work full-time and take school at night, having to support her son.
  • Although she was studying accounting, having one professor ask her if she considered becoming a CPA, that also changed the trajectory of her life and career.
  • She says she wouldn’t change anything about her journey because she learned her journey wasn’t about her; it was about all the people she would cross paths with that would hear her story and that it would give them hope.
  • Even though she started her education and career later than most, she believes that we can all encourage each other and share our stories in order to bring hope to others.
  • Because of her struggles she has so much openness and compassion for others as well.
  • When she started leading her own teams, she started approaching leadership in a different way.
  • Her state’s CPA society recognized how powerful her non-traditional path and story are and encouraged her to speak about her struggles and her experiences.
  • She discovered how to improve her confidence and she encourages leaders to have a vision.
  • She asks you to not be afraid to ask for help, to be vulnerable, and to find those mentors and allies that can support you.
  • She shares that we need to define what success looks like for you, not what it looks like for others, and to check in with yourself at various stages in your life to redefine what success means to you at that point in your life.
  • She encourages you to dream big and just start taking action on micro goals.
  • Ask yourself what your “personal brand” is and don’t let others define what you’re capable of.
  • Her 5-year vision is to support the accounting profession, to encourage non-traditional individuals, to expand her reach in diversity and inclusion, and to move forward with her company Bringing Leadership Back.
 
 
Strategies To Help You Handle Disagreements

Strategies To Help You Handle Disagreements

As an accountant, you’ve probably learned some form of conflict management in your continuing education or in some type of corporate training.  You’ve most likely come across an article, a seminar or possibly some continuing education class that addresses conflict management.

Most of the time we’re taught conflict management in terms of work conflicts.  For example, there’s an issue between lower and upper management, and you’re taught how to approach, manage, and resolve conflicts in as productive and efficient a way as possible, often with certain protocols put in place to ensure that conflicts are dealt with in a fair and professional manner.

While there are also many books and seminars that teach conflict management, especially in business settings, what about just normal, everyday disagreements?  What about when you don’t agree with your spouse, your mother-in-law, or your children?  Most of us, me included, aren’t very good at disagreeing with someone without getting upset.

Unfortunately, if the 2020 election year and the pandemic protocols in the United States are any indication, disagreements can become so divisive that they can tear relationships apart, divide us to the point of explosive anger, and leave us with a Grand Canyon-size gap between those that agree with us and those that don’t.  Sometimes we can agree to disagree, but more often than not, we can’t even sustain that agreement.

So before I discuss a better way to handle disagreements, let’s first discuss what a disagreement really is.  The definition that I found is a “lack of consensus or approval”, which means that, on the spectrum of disagreements, you could have a slight difference of opinion on one end, or an all out feud on the other end.

For example, on the lower end of the spectrum, you can disagree on what restaurant to eat at and not have it be a big problem.  However, on the other end of the spectrum, you can disagree on who said what last night and have a full blown fight.

The issue for most of us is that we’ve never been taught the real reason we even have disagreements in the first place, or how we can have different opinions about things and have calm conversations about them, without needing to change other people’s minds.  What often happens is we either assume we know why someone disagrees with us, or they actually voice their differing opinion, and we feel the need to defend ours.

If you’ve been listening to the podcast for awhile, you’ll probably know the answer to the reason we have disagreements in the first place – it’s because we have a human brain and that brain has thoughts, beliefs, opinions, and perceptions that can often be different than other people’s human brains.  There are many factors that go into how we perceive things, but when it comes to human brains, it’s absolutely true that no two minds ever consistently think alike.

You most likely have people in your life with very similar beliefs, yet there are things you don’t agree with, and maybe you’ve expressed your disagreement or maybe you haven’t.  For a lot of women, we often don’t want to disagree with others out loud because we’re afraid of what they will think of us,  making us go along with other people’s differing opinions in order to “keep the peace”.

But the issue then becomes not being able to express what’s true for you, eventually becoming more comfortable with avoidance than authenticity.  When you don’t know a better way to handle disagreements, most women, myself included, would rather stay away from them as much as possible.

This week I’m going to discuss why we tend to struggle so much with disagreements, as well as strategies to help you handle disagreements.

Why we tend to struggle so much with disagreements

As I said, when you don’t know a better way to handle disagreements, you either tend to avoid them, or you do have a disagreement but don’t know how to handle it in the best way possible.  This can make it very uncomfortable to be in certain situations or with certain people.

What often happens is that, when you have a disagreement with someone, you feel the need to defend your position.  As if you’re an attorney presenting a case to a judge and jury, you start to build up a case in your mind, defending why you think the way you do about the subject being disagreed upon, often just waiting for your turn to interject your point of view.

So in essence, what typically happens for a lot of women is that we’re either in a defensive stance or a passive stance, which means we’re either defending our opinion or not sharing our opinion.  Unfortunately, this can become habitual and then affect us both professionally and personally.

For example, you might find yourself often at odds with your spouse about things like finances, division of household chores, and child rearing, just to name a few.  Or you might have a habit of not speaking up at meetings at work or with clients, going along with what others think even if it’s not what you think.

Since you’re a creature of habit, when you encounter a disagreement, you probably tend to handle it in one or both of the following ways – defensively or passively:

  1. You try to get the other person to agree with you – this is most often the defensive stance.  When this happens, you become aware that someone else’s opinion differs from yours, you have a discussion, but during the discussion you’re really trying to figure out where you’re right and they’re wrong.  The issue with this is that you’re listening to what the other person is saying through the lens of “Where can I point out where they’re wrong?”.  When you’re trying to get the other person to agree with you, you’re looking for ways to poke holes in their argument in order to prove that you’re right; in order to defend your opinion and for them to change their minds and agree with you.  You’re listening, but with an agenda.  That agenda winds up being a tally of all the ways you think they’re wrong.
  2. You try to control how the other person is feeling – this is most often the passive stance.  When this happens, you’re trying to make the person feel good, feel heard, or feel valued.  In essence,  you are making your feelings dependent on theirs, so you try to please them by passively not sharing a differing opinion.  The issue is that you cannot control how other people feel, no matter what you do or do not say.  How someone feels is not caused by you sharing a differing opinion from them; it only comes from the thoughts they have in their brain.  Honestly, you don’t have the power to create someone else’s feelings.  The only thing you do have power to create is your own feelings and how you show up in situations where you disagree.  Sometimes people want to feel bad, and that’s okay.  Trying to control other people’s feelings is a futile way for you to feel better as well.

Whether you tend to take a defensive stance or a passive stance, thankfully there are better ways to handle disagreements so that you no longer need to either be bracing for a fight or shying away from expressing yourself.

Strategies to help you handle disagreements

Whether it’s a simple disagreement with your family about what movie to watch, or a more complicated disagreement with your business partner about a different direction to go in with your business, I’m going to share two things you can do to better handle disagreements.  Instead of letting disagreements escalate into bigger issues, here are two strategies that can help:

Check in with how YOU are feeling 

Sometimes you can get so caught up in what someone else is feeling that you forget to check in with yourself to understand what’s really going on for you.  It’s interesting to point out that as humans, we naturally mirror each other’s emotions, which means that we often abdicate how we want to feel because we’re not aware of the fact that we’re mirroring the other person’s emotions.

This is why it’s important to understand that how you feel depends on the thoughts you’re having, and that you can actually choose, on purpose, how you want to feel.  The reason you want to get clear about how you are feeling is because that’s how you’re going to show up during that disagreement.

For example, if you’re feeling angry, frustrated, or defensive, then what you say, the tone you use, the points you make, and how you listen or not, will be completely different than if you were feeling open and curious about what was going on for the other person.  By getting clear about what you’re thinking, you won’t be so prone to automatically mirror what others are feeling.

Another interesting thing is that most of us enter a disagreement feeling bad about something and then try to defend our right to feel bad.  We feel angry, frustrated, or defensive and then try to convince the other person why we feel entitled to feel that way, without really questioning whether that’s how we actually want to feel and whether that’s useful or not.

Think about it – instead of wasting your energy and your time mirroring someone else’s negative emotions, or trying to convince them to mirror yours, why not choose how you WANT to feel instead, and let them mirror that.  It might sound strange at first, but imagine choosing to feel love on purpose and then discussing movie options with your family, or choosing to feel compassion on purpose and then discussing future business plans with your business partner.

When you deliberately choose to feel emotions like openness, love, or compassion, you create an opportunity for the other person, or people, to mirror YOU instead of giving them the power to influence you in a negative way.

Practice curiosity more often 

I’m sure you can relate to this, but more often than not, we assume we know what someone else is thinking, what they’re feeling, and why they do or don’t do certain things.  We believe we know their motivations before we’ve really gotten all the facts straight.

The reason this happens is because we have a human brain and our brain likes to make assumptions because it’s one way that our brain saves energy.  It’s important to understand that we naturally draw on our past experiences to find patterns in how the world works, so when we encounter new situations, we apply these patterns, or assumptions, to the new environment.

This process saves us the energy of analyzing each situation completely anew, and it can often be quite useful.  For example, if your daughter liked wearing the purple backpack to school everyday last week, it’s easy to assume that it will be okay this week, which then gives you the opportunity to not use much brain power trying to decide what backpack to give her.

The problem is that when we believe our assumptions, or our ways of interpreting situations, are the only way to interpret them, we open the door for disagreements and we make anyone that doesn’t see things our way wrong.  In the daughter’s backpack example, suddenly the knee-jerk reaction is frustration towards your daughter when she doesn’t agree with you, that the purple backpack is the best option today.

But when you can try to be genuinely curious about another person’s side of a disagreement, instead of allowing your brain to automatically make assumptions, you might be surprised at what you discover.  When you can approach a situation with questions like “I wonder what’s going on for them?”, “Is it possible something else is happening here?”, or “Is there something I’m missing?” you open the door to curiosity.

Who knows, maybe your daughter was made fun of for wearing the purple backpack and didn’t tell you.  Or maybe she saw someone she admires wearing a different color and thought that might make her liked more.  You’ll never know until you practice curiosity more often.

One of the most powerful strategies I learned in order to help better handle disagreements is to be curious about what someone else is thinking and then put yourself in their brain by saying to yourself, “If I was thinking (fill in the blank with their thought), I would probably feel the same way they do”.  It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them; you’re just understanding that if you had the same thoughts they’re having, you might feel the same way they do.

For example, let’s say that you and your friend disagree about who was paying for dinner.  When you come from a place of curiosity, you would ask them how they see the situation and why they feel the way they do; then you would put yourself in their brain and see if you can be open to feeling the same way they do based on thinking the way they might be thinking.

So in this example, you would ask your friend from a place of curiosity, rather than defensiveness, what they were thinking about who is paying for dinner and let’s say your friend says, “I thought we were splitting the bill because we had discussed that I needed to be more aware of my spending habits”.  Now you can put yourself in their brain with the thought, “We’re splitting the bill because we had discussed that I need to be more aware of my spending habits” and then you would most likely understand why she disagreed with you wanting her to pay for dinner because you paid the last time you went out.

It’s important to note that when you practice curiosity more often, it doesn’t mean you have to agree with anyone, it just means you can see how, if you were thinking what they’re thinking, you would feel the way they’re feeling.  You aren’t making you or them wrong for your differing perceptions, you’re just being more curious and less defensive.

One of my favorite authors, Byron Katie, famously said, “Defense is the first act of war”, which means a better way to handle disagreements is to be open and curious instead of letting your brain make assumptions and become defensive.  Checking in with how you feel so you can choose a more helpful feeling on purpose, as well as practicing curiosity more often, will definitely help.

Hopefully you now understand why we struggle so much with disagreements and you’ve learned some strategies to better handle disagreements when they happen.  As I said before, no two minds think consistently alike, so it’s completely natural that disagreements will happen, but now you have some tools to think about and put into practice going forward.

Summary  

  • For a lot of women, we often don’t want to disagree with others out loud because we’re afraid of what they will think of us, often making us go along with other people’s differing opinions in order to “keep the peace”.
  • Another interesting thing is that most of us enter a disagreement feeling bad about something and then try to defend our right to feel bad.
  • The problem is that when we believe our assumptions, or our ways of interpreting situations, are the only way to interpret them, we open the door for disagreements and we make anyone that doesn’t see things our way wrong.

The Secret To Really Disconnecting From Work At The End Of The Day

The Secret To Really Disconnecting From Work At The End Of The Day

The Secret To Really Disconnecting From Work At The End Of The Day

Separating your work from your personal life is more important than ever, especially for accountant moms.  We have the ability, and for a lot of us the necessity, to work virtually, especially since the pandemic, making the lines between work and home so blurred that you might be asking yourself whether you’re working from home or living at work.

These blurred lines can also make it difficult for accountant moms to switch from work mode to mom mode.  Before so many of us were required to work from home due to the pandemic restrictions, we might do something like putting a load of laundry in before we left for work or clean up the kitchen when we got home, however now we just take 10 steps away from our computers and the laundry, dirty dishes, and kids toys are all there waiting for us.

For those of us still working virtually, it can be even more challenging when there isn’t a dedicated room just for your office, where you can close the door and simulate a traditional office space.  For many years my home office also doubled as my step son’s bedroom, with his mattress propped up against the wall to give me a little more room to move around.

Even for those of us that have gone back to working in a physical office as opposed to working from home, the lines can still be very blurred between our work and our life.  You’re probably still questioning whether you’re working from home or living at work because of one key thing – the advancement of technology.

As our accessibility to each other and to work has grown exponentially, so has our inability to disconnect from work at the end of the day.  Our mobile devices have become our traveling home offices, making it possible to answer email, send Slack messages, and have conference calls anywhere, at any time.

As I’ve shared in previous podcast episodes, while it’s exciting to be living during this time of ever-growing technological advancements and the development of various programs and applications that help us to do our work as quickly and productively as we can, we’re also becoming incredibly dependent on those technological advancements.  They’re with us when we’re at work, and they’re with us when we’re “off the clock” from work.

Because of the pressure accountant moms can often feel to be high performers in our careers, it can be challenging to not check our work email while we’re making dinner or to glance at our phone and be tempted to answer a Slack message while we’re watching TV with our family.  Even though the old adage says, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”, we often get caught up in the fear of not being on top of things so we overcompensate by needing to know too much.

I’m definitely guilty of checking my phone when I’m away from work, convincing myself that even though most of the time a work issue can wait until tomorrow, it’s still good to know if there’s an issue.  But here’s the problem – whether I read a work email that contains an issue or not, I’m still plugged into work when I’m not supposed to be working.

The other issue is that we live in a time of such instant gratification, that we’ve all become so impatient with the speed of a response to and from people.  Unfortunately, we’ve also become a little addicted to the rush of adrenaline we get when we hear the ding of a phone notification, forgetting the importance of unplugging and unwinding, especially when it comes to being too emotionally focused on work.

This week I’m going to discuss what causes us to constantly feel emotionally focused on work and easier ways to disconnect at the end of the day.

What causes us to constantly feel emotionally focused on work

The interesting thing is that you’ll know when something has become a bigger societal problem, when psychologists come up with a term to describe our collective issue.  So it probably won’t surprise you that being able to emotionally take a break from work has a name – Psychological Detachment From Work.

Basically it refers to an individual’s experience of being mentally away from work and taking a pause in thinking about work-related issues, thereby giving them an “off switch”.  It’s a state in which people mentally disconnect from work and do not think about job related issues when they’re away from their job.

There have been many studies done on Psychological Detachment From Work and the research has shown that employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience few symptoms of stress, without being less engaged while at work.  So here’s the important point – just because they mentally detached from work, that doesn't mean they were less engaged when they were back at work.

Although many of the studies focused on the effects on employees, this is just as important for all levels of management and ownership.  Whether you’re a senior manager, a partner or a solopreneur, the importance of mentally detaching from work cannot be overlooked or underestimated, especially for accountant moms.

The funny thing is that we often have a negative connotation when it comes to the term “detachment”, assuming that it’s done out of frustration or as a last resort in a negative situation.  The truth is that certain levels of detachment are not only helpful, but necessary, in order to do and be at your best.

For many accountants, we often don’t detach from work because we don’t want to appear as a slacker, or appear as if we’re not dedicated or capable.  In all the large and small public firms I’ve worked for, at the end of the workday everyone would look at everyone else to see when they were going to leave work because nobody wanted to be the first to leave.

As both an accountant and a mom, you may feel the pressure to NOT detach from work, especially if you want to get ahead in your career.  But what often happens is you don’t factor in the cost of not detaching; the cost to you physically and emotionally, the cost to your family when you’re still plugged into work even though you’re home, and the cost to your productivity and efficiency when you get back into work.

The truth is that the overarching biggest cause of you constantly feeling emotionally focused on work all comes down to one thing – your beliefs about what a good/great accountant does when they’re not at work.  Just like I always encourage my clients to re-examine their beliefs about what it means to be a “good mom”, I also want to encourage you to re-examine your beliefs about what’s necessary in order to do your job, and do it well, while also being honest with yourself about what your current beliefs are costing you as I said before, physically, emotionally, relationally, and in your ability to be as productive and efficient as you can be.

Along with addressing your beliefs about what a good/great accountant does when they’re not at work, I also suggest that you take a look at your relationship with people-pleasing, setting boundaries, and the common accountant affliction of perfectionism.  This is really important because until you understand what’s happening in those areas, you’re going to continue to perpetuate certain beliefs about what’s necessary in order for you to do your job well.

The key is understanding that just like a muscle will get damaged and tear if it’s not given the proper amount of rest and recuperation after a strenuous workout, your brain is a muscle that needs the same consideration as a bicep.  When your brain is always “on” and focused on work mode, like a 24 hour news station, you are pushing and pushing it to the point that it will eventually break down.

Maybe you’ve even experienced this breakdown during tax season or at other deadline-driven times where you probably went to bed so mentally and physically drained, and then dragged yourself back into the office the next day, never feeling like you had a chance to recover.  When you don’t learn to practice psychological detachment from work, the negative effects can be damaging – you can easily get overwhelmed, stressed, and eventually experience burnout in one form or another.

Thankfully there are easier ways to disconnect at the end of the day and still be the best accountant and mom you can be.

Easier ways to disconnect at the end of the day

The first thing I want to encourage you NOT to do to disconnect at the end of the day, is to buffer.  I’ve discussed this in previous podcasts episodes, but buffering is the actions you take in order to avoid a negative emotion, which then have a net negative effect on you, like drinking a few glasses of wine each night and then feeling groggy the next day, or eating those “special” cookies once the kids go to bed and then wondering why your clothes don’t fit once tax season is over.

It’s totally natural to not want to feel the effects of things like stress and overwhelm, especially as an accountant and a mom with a lot of responsibilities, but I really want you to start paying more attention to what you do to cope.  I’m going to encourage you to start becoming aware of those net negative effects you experience when you use things in order to feel better.

So in order to understand better ways to disconnect at the end of the day, here’s an analogy that might help – the way I’d like you to think about your brain is as if it’s a sponge and it can only soak up so much before it's incapable of picking up any more liquid.  Just like a sponge, you have to give your brain time to rest and dry out before it can be used to soak up more liquid.

If you think about how much we rely on our brains for the complicated, analytical work we do as accountants, we especially need our brains to “dry out” before asking it to soak up and process more and more information.  We need to give it the rest it deserves since it’s what makes it possible for us to do our work so well.

The first thing I suggest you do in order to disconnect at the end of the day is to make a decision that disconnecting is what you want to do, as opposed to what you should do, and like your reasons for doing it.  Anytime you make a decision, especially when you’re trying to implement a new behavior, you want to make sure you like your reason for doing it.

For example, feeling resentful towards work because there doesn’t seem to be boundaries around your time, may not be the best reason to start implementing the new behavior of disconnecting from work at the end of the day.  But if the reason is because you want to be more present with your family when you’re home and that you deserve to unplug everyday, that would be a good reason because it’s moving towards something instead of resisting or pushing against something.

You might also decide that giving yourself a break from work will allow you to be so much more present and focused when you are back in the office.  With the complicated work that we do as accountants, you can decide that when you let the sponge dry out, it’s able to absorb so much more when it’s needed; that being a good/great accountant means not being available 24/7, not answering emails after you leave the office, or not putting work before your family.

The second way I suggest in order to disconnect at the end of the day is truly practicing downtime, where you just allow your brain to wander.  The reason this is so important, especially for accountants, is because when we let our minds wander, instead of processing information, we allow it to replenish itself.

This is not about just focusing on something else instead of work or switching tasks; it’s about truly letting your brain stop running it’s processing motor.  For this suggestion, you’ll want to schedule breaks to purposefully allow your brain to get bored; to allow your brain to just look around without an agenda; without needing to be busy or constantly asking, “What’s next?”.

The most important thing with this suggestion is to turn off your phone or put it somewhere else.  The biggest obstacle we all have with allowing our brain to wander is our cell phones, therefore, you have to make a conscious choice to set aside time each day to put your phone down and let your mind wander; let it stop processing and just relax and restore.

When my children were younger, the way that I would “dry out” the sponge of my brain was, once I left the office to pick them up from school, I would get there about 20 minutes early, put the seat back in my car, and take a power nap.  This allowed the sponge to rest on the windowsill, get some fresh air, and not try to soak up more liquid than it had already soaked up while I was at work.

The last way I suggest in order to disconnect at the end of the day is write it all down instead of expecting your brain to store everything that’s swirling around, whether it’s for work or for your personal life.  Contrary to what you might believe, your brain is not a storage facility, although we often expect it to be one.

That ticker tape that keeps running in your brain, where you don’t want to forget that meeting, to send that birthday gift in time, or to sign that note for your children’s teacher, is incredibly draining and exhausting to your brain.  If you think about it, the amount of energy you expend trying to balance your career and your personal life could probably power your home for a year!

Unfortunately, when you don’t want to forget something, your brain goes to work spinning and spinning to make sure you don’t forget something, creating fear and that nagging feeling that there’s something you may have forgotten.  So do yourself a favor and write it all down so your brain can relax and replenish when you’re not at work.

The other important aspect of writing things down is that it gives you a much clearer picture about the thoughts that are creating the feeling of stress and overwhelm.  When you understand the underlying cause of those feelings, you can be much more efficient and productive when you’re actually at work.

Just know that disconnecting from work is going to help you so much more in the long run.  You deserve a break, your kids deserve you being fully present with them, and your clients will appreciate the fresh mind you’re able to bring each day.

Summary  

  • Because of the pressure accountant moms can often feel to be high performers in our careers, it can be challenging to not check our work email while we’re making dinner or to glance at our phone and be tempted to answer a Slack message while we’re watching TV with our family.
  • There have been many studies done on Psychological Detachment From Work and the research has shown that employees who experience more detachment from work during off-hours are more satisfied with their lives and experience few symptoms of stress, without being less engaged while at work.
  • If you think about how much we rely on our brains for the complicated, analytical work we do as accountants, we especially need our brains to “dry out” before asking it to soak up and process more and more information.