I’m very fortunate that my keynote speaking and consulting career allows me to travel to many cities. I did an event in Portland, Oregon, where the city has a saying it borrowed from Austin, Texas: “Keep Portland Weird.” Obviously, Austin’s saying is “Keep Austin Weird.” Although now that I think about it, that would be even weirder if Portland had kept “Austin” in there; it’s surprising they didn’t because Portland is… pretty weird. And they know it. Without a doubt, there are a lot of individuals there who are unique.
I want to borrow the idea from those cities, except we can’t “keep” accounting weird because, well, it’s not. The accounting world is stale and gray, full of people trying to conform to antiquated models of professionalism. Except deep down inside, we all now know that these stereotypes aren’t true.
Just because you’re an accountant doesn’t mean you have to act like one. It’s time we make accounting weird!
What do I mean by “weird”? I mean individual. Each of you is an accounting or operations professional, so make the accounting profession you. Make public accounting you. Make audit you. Make tax you. Make corporate accounting you. Because what you can bring to the accounting profession and what you bring to your job is different than others at your organization. Totally different.
My research has shown that there are so many unique individuals in the accounting space; we just haven’t been encouraged to share what makes us different.
You might be an analyst “And” ride motorcycles.
You might be an auditor “And” play the saxophone.
Or you might be a tax preparer “And” volunteer regularly.
Notice how it’s not “or” – it’s “And.” You don’t ever need to choose because you are all of these things.
Share your “And” at work in the same way you share your technical expertise: when needed and without hesitation. Our workplaces should not only allow us to – but should strongly encourage us to – outwardly express all aspects of our lives: university, continuing education, life experiences, and outside-of-work passions or interests.
By now you’re probably thinking, “This sounds great in theory, but how do I put this into action? How do I go about implementing this at my organization?” Every organization is unique. While some might be open to one idea, others will think it’s the silliest thing they’ve ever heard. That’s why when I consult with organizations on this, I always start by talking to the executive team so I can understand the parameters we can play with. The analogy I like is: Let’s build the sandbox first and then let everyone play in it. That’s why I hesitate to tell you exactly how to do this at your firm or company. What I can do is provide you with some real-world examples that might be helpful to use as a starting point. Make them your own, build on them, and think of other ways to implement them in your unique way.
Some organizations have offered Toastmasters lunches once a month in the conference room. The key is that the topic should always be “Your hobbies and passions outside of work.” Bonus points if a speaker also adds how it makes them better at their job. This allows everyone to get public speaking experience in a safe environment, along with some coaching and feedback. More importantly, because people are sharing their passions, they’re growing closer together as they gain a better understanding of each other.
Website Bio Pages:
I’m sure you’ve seen how organizations have separate biography pages for each member of their leadership group. Instead of the standard headshot with a forced smile and lengthy bio of work accomplishments that no one fully reads, encourage these individuals to share some of their personality and outside-of-work interests. Maybe they’re holding something from their “And” in the picture or, better yet, maybe it’s a picture of them doing their “And.” No forced smiles there for sure! By doing this, it allows people outside the organization to get to know them and what differentiates your organization from other service providers.
Most organizations have an internal newsletter sent to everyone on a regular basis. Add a What’s Your “And”? section to the newsletter that showcases a different individual each week. In the piece, discuss the person’s hobby or outside-of-work passion, include some pictures if possible, and then state how the person feels their hobby makes them better at their job. Then sit back and watch how this increases engagement.
I didn’t do well in engineering physics class at the University of Notre Dame (which is why I ended up an accounting major), but one of the things I learned is when two items collide, the one with the greater force makes a bigger impact on the other. For too long, professionalism has had the greater force and impacted you, making you feel like you needed to hide aspects of yourself. You’ve left a part of who you truly are outside the office every morning because you wanted to be “professional.” Except each one of you is professional, so it’s time you have the greater force and make an impact on the accounting profession. I want you to make accounting weird.
I can’t do this alone, so I’m going to continue to need you and all your friends and colleagues to help make this happen. Together, let’s make accounting weird!
John Garrett is helping organizations keep the right people longer by teaching them how to value the worker as much as they value the work. He's a keynote speaker "And" enjoys concerts, ice cream, and college football. To learn more about John and his award-winning book, What’s Your “And”?: Unlock the Person Within the Professional, visit www.WhatsYourAnd.com.