Leadership / Management

What are your three words for 2014?

Inspired by Chris Brogan and Debbie Weil (our orginal blog coach) to come up with three words as guideposts for the year ahead, I am starting 2014 with my three words: Proactive, innovative, and collaborative.

I selected words that end in 'tive' -- adjectives that show the ability to perform the activity represented by the verb or competencies that can be developed. These are skills I intend to focus on for myself and our team at the MACPA and BLI.


Proactive is the opposite of reactive. It is easy to stand still and hope the storm blows over, yet in our work with young professionals in our Leadership Academies, after reviewing the history of the CPA profession, they all came up with "reactive" as a theme from our past that they would like to leave behind. To be proactive means to anticipate, predict, and think about what might be coming next and planning about how you will deal with it. To be proactive is to lead change versus managing it. We will pledge to be ever vigilant and alert to seeing farther in order to be better prepared -- and to better prepare our members so that they can be proactive with us.


Innovation, not invention. Innovation is more about continuous improvement and creativity. it is what we like to call "link and leverage" or "broaden and build," and can be incremental improvement as well as major breakthroughs. It is the ability to take new ideas and apply them to current and anticipated customer needs and pain points. In our work at the MACPA, we are fortunate to have relationships with our members, sponsors, strategic partners, and friends in the CPA profession who provide us with great insights about emerging trends and future issues. Our opportunity is to help convert these into ways to advance the CPA profession and our members. It gets right to the heart of our purpose of helping CPAs thrive in rapidly changing and complex times.

2014 will be the year we bring more innovation to our members. We are starting the new year with a special program to help us all become more innovative and manage innovation inside our core businesses. Rita McGrath, the sixth most influential business thinker in the world, will be at the BWI Airport Hilton and via web on Jan. 30 to kick off our BLI thought leader series. Information and registration can be found here. And of course, our Innovation Summit on June 16 at the Hyatt Inner Harbor will bring all of the CPA profession's latest innovations (technology, standards, services, and people) in this collaborative showcase for CPAs. (Sponsorship information is found here.)


Collaboration is the number one skill wanted by global CEOs in the IBM CEO Study last year, and one of the top five skills identified in our research that CPAs will need in the future. While collaboration is the essence of association, we will work harder to be even better at it and help teach our members how to do it. We will incorporate more collaboration in an attempt to get to the "wisdom of our crowds," both with members and among ourselves. I believe that the speed of change is forcing a new phenomena in which the collaboration curve will beat the experience curve. (See the Harvard Business Review article by John Hagel, John Seely-Brown, and Lang Davison.)

We will be using all of our tools support peer-to-peer learning and to see those emerging trends (proactive). Tools like our soon-to-be-famous MBSN (Management By Sticky Notes), our ThinkTank collaboration plartform, and our interactive conference and learning tool, Conferences.io. We will continue to build it into our leadership development programs like our Leadership Academy and in as many activities as we can. In fact, one of our first major projects in 2014 is to use ThinkTank to faciitate the CPA2Biz Saas / Cloud Roundtable in New York City. Last year, we successfully facilitated and supported the Maryland Competitiveness Coalition in creating a vision for Maryland's future (see our recap here). 

Here are my prior watch words by year:

  • 2013: Engage, Collaborate, Inspire 
  • 2012: Connect, Focus, Smooth (I think I got "connect," better at "focus," and still working on "smooth").
  • 2011: Messy, Integrated, There is no manual (actually this is six and it was done after New Year's Day).
  • 2010: Serious, Simple, Social -- borrowed with permission from our friend Jeff DeCagna of Principled Innovation.

What do you think? What are your watch words for 2014?