How You Can Become an Influencer

As IMA’s President and CEO, I take pride in the organization’s global recognition as a leader in the accounting and finance profession. I believe that to be successful in business, you must be an inspiring leader and set a positive example for others in your business and industry – to be an influencer. Influencing others takes many shapes, and it is an attribute not just reserved for the “top person.” Here are a few tips to stand out as an influencer:

Know the Subject Matterpendulum
One way to become an influencer is to be credible, to be technically competent, and to be a master at whatever you do. That means keeping up with the latest trends and sharing knowledge with the people around you. To signal this competence, consider earning a certification, like the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant). Certified professionals have earned a mark of distinction and are trusted business advisors within their businesses. They also set the standard for others around them and are always working on continuous improvement – in their careers, businesses, and personal lives.

Commit to On-Going Learning and Growth
Being an influencer also means you are committed to continuous learning and growth, including on-going continuing education requirements as part of the commitment to your certification. This enhances your credibility as an influencer because it shows you are committed to not only staying current but also staying ahead, enabling you to provide relevant and, hopefully inspiring, advice.

Become a Mentor
Mentoring is another way you can influence others – whether you’re advising your peers, young professionals just starting their careers, or students via a college campus group (such as IMA’s network of student chapters or mentoring program). Sharing your knowledge with and guiding others is a great way to build your influence to nurture and develop great leaders of the future.

Listen Carefully
As a leader in your business, you must ensure you listen carefully and empathetically to your employees and peers. A good influencer doesn’t just hear what people say but listens to their advice and guidance in order to lead better. Influencing, much like mentoring, is a two-way street with mutual learning and growth for both parties. Be open to being an inspiring influencer and even an inspired “influencee” (yes, a new word!).

Engage imask2n Fierce Conversations
You will enhance your credibility and value as an influencer if you commit to a culture of challenge and engage in fierce conversations – avoiding artificial harmony at one extreme or personal attacks at the other, but rather embracing honest, genuine, and head-on conversations to solve issues. (Read Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott – this is one of my favorite books and has taught me a lot!)

Be an Influencer
IMA has set the tone in our industry by releasing timely research via the IMA Research Foundation, thought-provoking magazine articles via Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly, and educational webinars and courses to supplement CPE requirements for certified professionals. I will continuously work toward making IMA a strong influencer around the world to enrich careers, organizations, and the public interest.

Share your stories of how you’ve influenced others in the comments below.

Written by Jeff Thomson, CMA, CAE
Follow me on Twitter @ima_JeffThomson

Related Articles

“Jeff Thomson Named Among Accounting Today’s ‘Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting’” – IMA Online News

“How India Influenced Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg” – The Wall Street Journal, India

Attending College? Don’t Neglect the Soft Skills!

College is a time for students to learn and grow. In addition to the technical skills you’ll need for your future career, you’ll also need to develop “soft skills” that will enable you to succeed in the workplace. While some schools integrate these skills throughout their curriculum, you need to be sure that they’re part of your college education.

Time Managementwork-life balance shoes
Students who have a job and can maintain a healthy GPA have great experience with time management skills. Balancing your time between work and school isn’t easy, but if you make a list of priorities in order of importance and timing, you’ll be more productive and organized. This is a valuable skill to have and build upon throughout your career. It can help you to never miss a deadline. In addition, make sure to schedule “you time” so that you have time to relax and decompress.

Team Management
Group projects are common in college and in the workplace. Take this opportunity to step up and become a leader. Make sure you have open and fair communication, a clear goal for the group, and a plan for delegating work. Your professor will notice, and you’ll gain confidence in leading a team.

Making Presentations
Group projects are sometimes accompanied by a presentation in front of the class. Use this opportunity as a way to practice making presentations. If your goal is to become a leader within a company one day, it’s important that you get comfortable in front of an audience now.

failure ropeDeal With Failure
You won’t always win the fight, but it’s important to learn how to get up when you’re knocked down. Say you put 110% of effort into a research report, but it received a low grade. Instead of getting frustrated, talk to your professor about what went wrong (hindsight), what he/she didn’t like (insight), and what you can do better next time (foresight). This can also help you in an office setting where professionals have to be prepared to have their work critiqued by top management and know how to respond to creative criticism.

The Big Picture
It’s just as important to learn soft skills as it is to learn technical skills. Leadership, organization, and communication are only a few examples of these essential soft skills. Be proactive in trying to develop these skills. If you’re not developing them in the classroom, seek out other opportunities. Participating in an IMA student chapter or the IMA Student Case Competition are great ways to do this.

These skills can help prep you for a smoother transition into the workforce and for success in your career. Companies today are looking for qualified candidates who already know how to work on a team, manage a schedule, and give a presentation. The training you get in college will make you stand out from the crowd. By staying focused on your goals for the future and continuously developing your soft skills, you’ll get the most out of your college education.

Written by Dr. Raef Lawson, CMA, CPA, CFP, CFA
Follow me on Twitter @RaefLawson

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“8 Things Really Focused People Do” – Inc.
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The Elevator (Pitch) of Success

An “elevator pitch” is a short 30- to 60-second sales pitch for your business, your product, or yourself. The term derives from the image of meeting someone in an elevator and having to sell them on your product or yourself in the time it takes for the elevator to get to the next stop. It’s especially important for students and recent graduates to craft their own personal elevator pitch before they enter the workforce and know how to use it throughout their career.

Create ItBusinessman hand touching going up sign on lift control panel
Start off by writing down the goal of your elevator pitch, basic background information about yourself, and what characteristics give you a competitive advantage in the marketplace. This shouldn’t be more than 100 words long. Here’s a sample elevator pitch that I might have used many years ago:

“Hi, my name is Dennis Whitney. I’m currently studying finance at Fordham University. I really enjoy the analytical nature of finance, but I also like to write. My professors have encouraged me to look into an internship at a financial publication or finance-related not-for-profit organization. I would love an opportunity to use my knowledge of accounting and finance, as well as my strong analytical and writing skills. If you know of any such opportunities, please let me know. Here’s my business card.”

Practice It
After you’ve organized your thoughts, practice your speech verbally in front of someone. Your family and friends can help you identify what’s good and what needs improvement. As you progress through your career, you’ll become better at writing your pitch and speaking more comfortably in front of people. Outlining it on paper allows you to think about the details before verbally practicing it. You don’t necessarily have to memorize the speech, but you should memorize the outline: introduction, skills and interests, what you want, and why. Also, be flexible. You might want to customize what you say depending on who you meet in the “elevator.”

Professionals use elevator pitches in their day-to-day work. Whether your boss asks you to pitch a new product to the team or go to a trade show to acquire new clients, you will always need an elevator pitch to help you along the way.

iStock_000011097997_MediumUse It
Once you’ve created and practiced your elevator pitch, you can use it nearly anywhere. In-person events are the best place to use your pitch, since your passion and the first impression you make play a large role in how your pitch is perceived. Using it online or on your résumé might not be as impactful. Recent college graduates looking for their first job can use it to promote themselves at a job fair, networking event, or even the supermarket to build contacts. And no matter what industry you decide to work in, you’ll use elevator pitches throughout your career – whether you realize it or not!

It has been said that it only takes seven seconds to make a good first impression. Make them count by dressing professionally, making eye contact, and being respectful, and don’t forget to smile.

Written by Dennis Whitney, CMA, CFM, CAE
Follow me on twitter: @IMA_DWhitney

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