It was the stress of times, it was the worst of times.
CPAs may make this slight alteration to the Charles Dickens classic, Tale of Two Cities. The parallels stop there, however, between the war accounting professionals call “busy season” and the French Revolution. Our worst of times are voluntary.
There is really no way of explaining January through March to others outside the profession. The best I have come up with is, “for three months I voluntarily sacrifice 30 hours per week at home with my family to accept doing more work than there is a reasonable amount of time to complete.”
Well who wouldn’t want to sign up for that??
The time right after busy season is where I am at my best of self-reflection and discovery. Why do I put myself and family through this tough a period for three months every year? Is it all worth it? The answer will be different for everyone and is only found from a deep place within ourselves that will be incredibly hard to rationally and logically explain.
The toughest times are where finding self-engagement is the most vital, and not the engagement derived from motivation of others (do it or you’re fired…). When push comes to shove, finding the will from within is the only lasting drive to push through year after year. A personal mission statement is the best way to keep front of mind focus on your personal values and goals. Even if it is called something different, every sailor needs a North Star.
Family, friends, future.
This is the phrase that I contemplated and tested over a period of weeks two years ago when I began writing about the ideas of personal engagement and promoting an environment that empowered staff to find their own engagement. This phrase reminds me of my priorities, values and goals. Keeping an eye forward on the prize can make all the difference in the daily grind that my friend Nancy Morton recently wrote about to embrace.
Challenge yourself and your teams to reflect on the first quarter of the year. Consider everything from why a job may not have hit a deadline to how well personal relationships have been maintained; more importantly, what make-goods need to be paid from the past three months. This is the time where the biggest and most important changes can be made for the next year. The wounds are still fresh from the toughest time of every year in the profession of public accounting; think of what is driving you to the finish line.
From the perspective of leadership, the grind is normally so understood and embedded within from years of experience that empathy can be the hardest emotion to maintain through the busiest time. Find time to take a senior or staff out to lunch. Remind them that the team is in the fight together. Remind them of the “why” in the sacrifices being made. Ask yourself, “why would someone want to start their career with our organization?” If you cannot make this point without a second thought, reassess where the organization is and what you want it to look like. If there is not a clear answer, then you do not have an answer. That answer should resonate in the organization throughout and is not up for debate. It must be universally agreed to, promoted and accepted without being enforced.
What conversations could be had in your organization to help promote engagement in stressful times?