Friday, December 12, 2008

Cult of Personality

If there is one good thing about the public accounting profession (ok, there are lots of good things), it’s that they take a pro-active approach to Training and Continuing Education. As a CPA, you are required to take 40 hours of CPE (Continuing Professional Education) a year. There is a wide variety of topics to choose from, and in addition to riveting titles like “Auditing Derivative Instruments, Hedging Activities, and Investments in Securities” or “FIN 48 – Uncertainty in Income Taxes: A Must Know for Tax CPAs & Accountants/Auditors,” you can take 8 hours of “Behavioral” classes a year, too.

Last year (my first since leaving the Big 4), we had a day-long training session on the time management method/book, Getting Things Done (GTD). Apparently, this book has developed a cult following, and people can get pretty rabid about the “43 folders.” One of the more interesting take-aways from that day was the idea of a “Brain Dump” where you basically spend 6 minutes, scribbling down every thought/activity/to-do list you have running through you mind. You don’t focus on details or how you will actually accomplish all of these things, you just write them all out, so you can sort through them afterwards. Pretty neat idea, in my opinion.

Well, yesterday my firm brought in some folks to teach us about our DiSC profiles. In case you aren’t familiar with the DiSC, it’s a personality/behavioral assessment, similar to Myers-Briggs, or any of the other personality profiles/quizzes out there. You basically answer a bunch of multiple choice questions and it determines which of the 4 dimensions (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, Conscientiousness) you are higher or lower in. According to the results, “you learn about your tendencies, needs, preferred environment, and strategies for effectiveness.” I guess the thinking is, as we learn more about our co-workers’ (and really ourselves) profiles (traits, strengths, weaknesses, etc.) we can learn how to better relate and work as a team. In addition to the 4 dimensions, there are 15 “classical patterns” you fall into, depending on how you score.

We have about 100 people in our organization, and throughout the day, the facilitators would have us stand up, so everyone could see who was what (it did get a little old, since you had High, Medium & Low for each dimension (12 different groups standing and sitting), and then you had 15 groups for each of the patterns). As different groups stood up, the leaders would ask us “What do you think about their assessment?” or “Do you see that person as a ___” etc.

Well, according to the DiSC, my highest dimension is “C” (Conscentiousness – over half of our firm were “High C’s”) and my classical profile is an “Appraiser.” Here’s what the DiSC says about Appraisers (PS – I just Google Imaged “Appraiser”):

Appraisers help others visualize the steps that are necessary to accomplish results. Appraisers usually speak from a detailed plan of actions that they have developed to ensure an orderly progression towards results. In the eagerness to win, Appraisers can become impatient when their standards are not maintained or when extensive follow-through is required.

Appraisers are good critical thinkers. They are verbal in their criticisms, and their words occasionally may be caustic. Appraisers have better control of the situation if they relax and pace themselves. A helpful axiom to achieve this is, “You win some and you lose some.”

When, it came time for the Appraisers to stand up, it was myself, our HR/Recruiting Coordinator, our Marketing Coordinator, and our recently hired Training Coordinator. That’s right; I was the only CPA, who has the same traits as our various Coordinators have. So, pretty much the rest of the day, myself and other folks were joking around “Well gee, Alex, guess you picked the wrong profession” or “Oh, wow, looks like I better hang up this accounting business”, etc.

All in all, it was a pretty interesting day, and I’m glad my firm takes the time (and money) to invest in our people’s culture and work habits. Plus any day not tying down a Deferred Tax Liability is a good day in my book.

No comments: