Take the Guesswork Out of Creating a Development Plan

In my role at IMA©, I oversee the creation of management accounting educational products that help our members expand their professional knowledge and skills. These products include webinars, online self-development courses, and live events such as IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo and Leadership Academy workshops.

Before selecting educational products, it’s important to first take stock of your professional development needs for your current situation as well as your career aspirations, and then put together a plan. If you’re unsure of where to start, here are some ideas.

Take Stock in Your Professional Knowledge and Skills

Young businesswoman thinking and cloud of mind with quiestionsThe first step in creating a professional development plan is to assess your management accounting skills and knowledge. There are various ways to do this. You can ask your colleagues or manager for their perspective, consider feedback received during your performance reviews, talk with a mentor or coach, or do a self-assessment. After obtaining feedback and results, you can then determine which areas for growth you want to focus on when building your development plan.

Plan Your Development

Once you’ve benchmarked your skills and prioritized areas for improvement, you can start building a development plan that is customized to your particular needs. This involves considering the extent of what you need to learn, how much time you have to devote to expanding your skills, and what types of education you find most attractive. Remember to consider various options for development, including self-study online courses and webinars, relevant books and publications by thought leaders, blended learning solutions involving classes and online courseware, live events such as conferences or specific training sessions, networking with others, and on-the-job activities.

After researching the various learning opportunities, select those which you feel best meet your needs and record them on your development plan. Also, determine the date you want to start each of your selections as well as a completion date.

Commit to Your Plan

A critical next step is to “work” your development plan by starting and completing the activities you’ve identified to close your skill gaps. As you progress with your activities, it will also be important to update your development plan with actual results. This will keep you motivated to continue on your professional development path. Then, at certain intervals (such as quarterly, semi-annually, or yearly), you should take stock regarding the broader progress made against areas for improvement to ensure you are successfully closing your skills gap. If diligent about your efforts, you will be proud to see your progress.

Continue Your Professional Development Progress

careerdriverIMA’s CareerDriver ™ career planning tool is designed to help members assess their management accounting competencies and create personalized development plans. Whether you are looking to transition into a new role, strengthen your skills, or discover new professional possibilities, Career Driver has the right personalized approach for you.

Gaining new knowledge and skills is a lifelong adventure as well as critical to professional success in your current and future positions. The personal assessment and development plan process is a continuous discipline in which you will reap many benefits. Enjoy this important professional journey!

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

 

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5 Tips For Being a Thought Leader

What does being a thought leader mean to you? For me, it means being seen as the go-to source of information and being a beacon for future generations, whether that be teaching in the classroom or being a mentor in industry. Thought leadership can take many forms, including conducting in-depth research of tomorrow’s trends, publishing thought-provoking articles, and sharing knowledge with others on an individual basis. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up during my career as a professor and as IMA’s vice president of research and policy and professor-in-residence.

1. Stand out from the crowd
It’s important to keep an eye on competitors, but you’ll get more value out of creatingGroup Of Business People Listening To Speaker Giving Presentationdiverse, original material. Whether you’re speaking at an event or to your coworkers, offering relevant, timely, and accurate thought leadership shows that you are invested in your audience and their future. For example, IMA’s research is funded in-house and is authentic, original material.

2. Prove your credibility
Your products need to be credible. Conduct your own research, surveys, or studies andShot of a young female assistant using a tablet with her boss working in the backgroundprove that you’re capable of getting real results—that’s credibility. Also, getting your name out there by publishing articles, presenting at conferences, and speaking at events helps you become more credible. Being a thought leader means you’re the go-to person for information in your industry.

3. Show your passion
If you aren’t passionate about the thought leadership you’re producing, why produce it?  Make sure that what you’re writing, speaking about, or researching is worth your time—because if it isn’t, your audience won’t be passionate about it either. Thought leadership is only valuable if people acknowledge it. Showing your audience that you’re passionate about your work will also increase engagement, both online and offline.

4. Engage your audience
Understanding your audience’s needs will help you produce better and more relevant thought leadership. What do they care about most? You can find out by sending themGreat presentation! Group of happy business people in smart casual wear sitting together at the table and applauding to someonean online survey, or engage with them on social media, at in-person events, or via e-mail or phone calls. This will help you create loyal, long-term stakeholders that follow your thought leadership. In addition, studying the trends will help you plan for future research, publications, or speaking engagements.

5. Pass it on
Students and young professionals are the future of our profession. Passing on knowledge from educator to student, from supervisor to employee, and from peer to peer is an important responsibility of being a thought leader. Knowledge sharing is also one of the best ways to become a thought leader, especially since the growth of the digital landscape has made it a lot easier and quicker to share information.

Be a Thought Leader
Becoming a thought leader doesn’t happen over night. It takes time to build your brand and become recognized in your field. IMA has become a thought leader in management accounting over the past 97 years. Our thought-provoking, relevant, and timely publications contribute to our overall success, and it all started with the goal to one day become a thought leader. Anyone can become a thought leader if they’re passionate about and persistent to achieving their goals.

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

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Unleash Your Learning Potential

One of the key skills that will help you succeed in your career already lies within you: understanding the way you learn. Focusing on what topics are relevant to your needs, and knowing when and how you digest information, can help you unleash your learning potential as you advance along your career path.

For me, it’s a rewarding process to help others learn and grow, and I’ve been lucky enough throughout my career to have been involved in training and development in one way or another. Now, as IMAs vice president of education and career services, my team and I are tasked with providing a variety of continuing education learning opportunities for financial professionals in business. These programs and services need to be delivered in a variety of formats in order to help professionals maximize learning. But, it’s also important for individuals to understand their learning preferences.

Here are a few things to ask yourself when deciding if an educational opportunity is right for you:

Topic Relevance

Will the topic help you grow your knowledge, skills, and abilities to be more effective on the job and progress in your career? Is it mandatory to continue holding a certification?

As a busy professional, it’s important to continue your professional education, but it’s also important to choose a topic that is relevant to your personal and professional goals.

Format Preference
Learning_Potential_1How does the training opportunity fit in with the rest of your commitments? Do you have the time needed to attend live workshops, conferences, or events? Is your preference to leverage self-study online courses accessible at convenient times from the comfort of your home or business? Or, does a webinar given at a prescribed time in which a speaker presents on a topic in real time interest you instead?

Determining the right environment and format can help prepare you for an ideal learning experience.

Learning Style

Lastly, but also very importantly, what type of learner are you? There are generally three types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

  • Visual learners absorb information better when viewing pictures, diagrams, or other visual representations of concepts. Such learners may want to participate in courses that are more visuals based and less text based.
  • Auditory learners learn best by listening to Relaxe woman at homedirections and information and verbally sharing information with others. Courses including lectures and engagement through team exercises may benefit these learners the most.
  • In contrast to visual and auditory learners, kinesthetic learners prefer to be actively involved and enjoy hands-on learning. Educational courses that include practice tests, knowledge checks, and case studies are important to such learners.

It’s helpful to understand your preferred learning style so that educational opportunities can enrich your learning experience.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Growing your professional knowledge, skills, and abilities is critical to progressing in your current position and, more importantly, in your future career. Understanding your professional developmental needs, course preferences, and learning style will help with your growth.

With more than 300 online self-study courses available 24/7, webinars on management accounting and leadership topics three to five times per month, and in-person conferences and events typically including lectures and networking opportunities, IMA is dedicated to offering a variety of learning approaches. Check out IMA’s Learning Center for more information. You can also view our new learning assessment tool, CareerDriver, to match your skills to 40 management accounting roles and build a development plan as a guide to the next step in your career.

Written by Debbie Warner, CPLP

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Ethics Training: It Starts Earlier than You Think

Ethics is a serious topic for professionals working in business. Stories of financial professionals failing to act in an ethical manner – and the consequences – are unfortunately commonplace. It’s important for management accountants around the world to be able to understand and identify unethical behavior. This importance is reflected in the requirement for professionals holding the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) credential to earn two hours of CPE credit in ethics each year.

While we often refer to ethical issues on the job, ethics training for professionals starts earlier than you think – even before college.

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Growing up, you acquire ethical values through many avenues, including your culture, religion, family, and more. These values stay with you throughout your life. While many people would agree that ethics isn’t something that you can be taught in school, you can learn how to recognize unethical situations in kindergarten through college.

In college (and with continuing education courses), you can learn about applying your ethical beliefs in the real world, the red flags that alert you to fraud and other unethical situations, and the procedures to report these situations. Most higher education institutions require their accounting majors to take an ethics course before graduating or incorporate an ethics component in other courses. This is a great way for students to learn how to address real-world ethical situations and understand what can happen when faced with financial pressures and your business’s reputation is on the line.

If you were ever to get caught cheating in school, consequences can range up to getting expelled. But if you get caught “cheating” in the real world, the consequences can be much more serious, including losing your job, damaging your reputation, and facing criminal charges.

Business
After you graduate and get your first job, you’ll need to continue to develop your ability to identify unethical situations and learn how to avoid them. One way to do this is by asking for a mentor at your company, who could explain how a seasoned professional would handle such situations. How would he or she recognize the red flag? How would he or she report it? Each company has different procedures, which should be followed first. The IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice can also be a guide in resolving ethical conflicts.

HiRes - stepsApplying what you’ve learned in the classroom to the business world can be intimidating. But if you know the signs of unethical behavior and the resources available to you, you will be able to successfully uphold your values in the workplace and keep your company on the ethical path to success.

As a leader in upholding the highest ethical standards in business, IMA offers many resources to help guide accountants and financial professionals:

In a time when the news is flooded with stories about big corporations committing fraud, it’s more important than ever to understand your values and responsibility as an accountant to hold yourself to the highest ethical standards.

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

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Memorable Conferences: How to Make Them Last

As IMA’s Professor-in-Residence, I travel to at least six conferences per year around the world to speak about accounting education, to advance accounting practice, and to network with like-minded professionals. I just got back from Budapest where I attended the General Assembly of the International Group of Controlling (IGC), of which IMA is a member. It was a great meeting that offered informative presentations and many opportunities for knowledge sharing with a beautiful city as the backdrop. These factors made the meeting memorable for me because they all contribute to my being able to help advance the management accounting profession. Here are a few more thoughts on how to make your conference experience more memorable.

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KNOWLEDGE SHARING
Typically, well-known speakers draw attendees to conferences. Hearing from passionate, animated industry experts make the sessions a lot more interesting and memorable. To this end, IMA hosts popular and inspiring speakers at our Annual Conference & Expo. This year Jerry Greenfield of Ben and Jerry’s will talk about being an entrepreneur, J.R. Martinez will talk about rising above our challenges, and Stephen Dubner will expand our view about business issues. Each has his own way of passing on knowledge and best practices to the next generation of business professionals.

It’s also important to hear the speaker’s insights to stimulate your thinking and provide you with ideas to bring back home. For instance, at the meeting in Budapest, Péter Horváth had a session about management accounting vs. controlling – the German version of management accounting. Horváth is considered the “Father of German Controlling,” and he had thought-provoking insights regarding the relationship between controlling, management accounting, management control systems, and performance measurement. This was followed by a cutting-edge presentation by Professor Dr. Klaus Möller on controlling innovation. Passionate, informed speakers such as these lead engaging, interactive sessions, so choose a speaker you’re interested in and ask questions. That will make your conference experience even more memorable!

BRING HOME THE VALUE
The most memorable part of a conference is the knowledge and value you bring back to your company, and value comes in many forms. The conferences I attend allow me to promote IMA and the management accounting profession while developing long-term relationships. At these meetings I form relationships with academics and practitioners from around the world, discuss emerging practices, and connect with possible future business partners. Attending these face-to-face meetings shows your peers that you’re truly dedicated to your profession and passionate about the work you do.

Raef-conference

You can also see the reach of your profession through the many conference attendees. For example, in Budapest I was able to learn first-hand the state of management accounting in many countries and how it’s developing among the local practitioners. It expanded my understanding of how management accounting is practiced globally, and the role IMA can play in advancing our profession.

EXPAND YOUR VIEW
There are many ways to make your conference experience memorable. Whether you attend for the people, location, or sessions, conferences help broaden your career horizon and also help you grow on both personal and professional levels. At the end of the day, attending a conference says a lot about you – that you’re passionate about your career, that you’re dedicated to your profession, and that you choose to increase your professional knowledge. Make it a point this year to attend at least one conference in your field to prove to yourself and your peers that you’re serious about your future.

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

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Get the Most Out of Your Conference Experience

In the past I’ve talked about how continuing your education by earning certifications and participating in mentoring programs can be beneficial to your career. Another important form of continuing education is attending a professional conference. Conferences should be a fun, engaging experience where you learn new skills and make professional contacts. Here are a few tips for getting the most out of your next professional conference.

Personal Development Plan
Before you go to the conference, spend some time reviewing the program and choosing the sessions you want to attend. Think about this in the context of your career goals. Write down what you want to achieve in the next few years (e.g., job change, promotion, etc.). Then do a self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and choose sessions that will help you address the needs you have identified.

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I’m a huge advocate of lifelong continuing education, and conferences are great learning forums. Conference sessions offer a variety of educational opportunities and, depending on your area of interest, can include discussions of top industry trends, how-to sessions, and motivational presentations. Not only can you learn from leading experts in the field, but you can also get inspired by hearing motivational life stories.

Attending the session is only the first step. What is perhaps even more important is applying what you learned on the job. That is how you reinforce what you’ve learned, improving your skills and helping you be more effective in your job.

Networking
There are so many opportunities for networking at conferences. It can be intimidating at first to start a conversation with someone you don’t know, but when you do, you’ll be proud of yourself for stepping out of your comfort zone. You might also make a valuable contact who will help you a great deal in your career, solve a current business problem, or offer career advice.

10458451_10152330358455829_6042484930867715104_nNetworking is also about helping others. Your knowledge and experience is valuable, and sharing it with someone else could help them in their job and perhaps help them advance their career. And you might also make a lifelong friend! Many of the attendees of conferences I attend, including IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo, became friends when they met at the conference. Conferences almost always build in time for social activities that keep it fun.

Many conferences now have mobile apps that allow you to not only plan your session attendance on your mobile device but also connect with other attendees both before and after the event.

Something for Everyone
Conferences are offered in nearly every area of interest. I attend IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo nearly every year and find it to be a great way to stay current in the field of management accounting. Every couple of years, I also attend conferences for testing professionals and association management, since I have to stay current in those fields as well. Attending conferences helps me stay connected with the latest industry trends and techniques and to other professionals in the field.

If you haven’t been to a conference yet, I encourage you do so as soon as you can. When you ask your boss for approval, be prepared. Show him or her which sessions you plan to attend and what skills and resources you intend to bring back to your job. IMA’s Annual Conference & Expo is coming up in June, and we can’t wait!

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

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Reverse Mentoring as Continuing Education

Not all knowledge comes from books and classrooms. Mentoring is a different “classroom” setting that will help you acquire skills needed for the constantly changing business environment. Mentorships aren’t only beneficial to young professionals trying to get their foot in the door—seasoned professionals have just as much learning to do.

Seasoned Professionals’ RoleSize difference
Professionals at any stage of their career can learn from their younger counterpart—called “reverse mentoring”—but they must have an open mind to do so.

Earning a certification shouldn’t be the end of your professional development. Continuing education, experience with special projects, and mentoring can help you advance your career even further. Young mentees can teach more “seasoned professionals,” for example, how to leverage new technology and use social media in new ways. The generational gap should be used to better the business rather than create barriers of status, power, or position.

You can also harness young mentees’ fresh, outside perspective about processes “you’ve always done” to make them more efficient. Just remember to be open to change and give honest feedback to their suggestions.

Young Professionals’ Role
Most of us know the basics of a mentorship: They help young professionals learn about their new industry, learn tricks of the trade, and work on their career development and leadership skills from seasoned professionals.

origami birds - Large_tealIn a traditional mentoring role, young professionals learn problem-solving skills, how to manage a staff, essential skills for performing well on the job, and more. But these skills aren’t acquired overnight. Mentees must be patient because these skills are developed over time, and there’s always something new to learn. After all, learning is a lifelong journey.

Sometimes mentorships are undervalued because “students” aren’t learning in a traditional classroom. But real-world exposure is arguably the most valuable learning tool for young people.

As someone who recognizes the benefits of reverse mentoring, I encourage you to find a mentee as soon as possible. Become active on social networking sites to be proactive with making these contacts. You will be glad you did.

Have you ever participated in a mentorship? What were your experiences?

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

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