Business Strategy | Leadership / Management | Training & CPE

Summer of learning

With school back in session, I can’t help but be jealous of those organizing their pencil cases. The excitement of a new year and new things to learn is contagious.

Of course, we all know that learning doesn’t stop – not for summer and not after graduation. As MACPA CEO Tom Hood likes to say, in order to be successful, one has to keep their learning greater than the rate of change and competition (L>C2). With the speed of change these days, that means a pretty constant flow of new learning.

This summer was that constant flow for me. I attended several different conferences, and for those who weren’t able to travel to Nashville, Las Vegas or Kansas City with me, I’d like to share what I took away.

In early June I traveled to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville for the National Association of Black Accountants Annual Convention. The Business Learning Institute (BLI) was a proud sponsor of this great event that brought together more than 2,000 highly motivated and talented accountants from across the country. Ten BLI thought leaders led 27 sessions in topics ranging from Positivity and Team Performance to ObamaCare and Clarified Auditing Standards. I was able to sit in on a few of them, and I was so impressed with the level of engagement from the audience. I have sat through many CPE sessions and never seen such an active, engaged crowd. This is what true continuing professional education is all about – active learning. To have your L be greater than C, you have to participate and be intentional about your learning. It’s not about keeping your CPE credits greater than C2; it’s about keeping your active learning and knowledge greater than change and competition.

In July I traveled to Las Vegas for the annual AICPA / SEA Interchange gathering of the AICPA and my state CPA society colleagues. AICPA CEO Barry Melancon’s professional issues update alone could be the topic of a blog series, but for now I will keep it short with some of the key themes of his presentation.

  • The future of learning: The AICPA has formed a Future of Learning Task Force to explore next-gen learning – both the techniques and the students. MACPA COO Jackie Brown is on the task force and I look forward to its white paper.
  • The future of the profession: The profession is strong, with an unemployment rate 4 percent lower than the national average and a 16 percent projected growth by 2020. But the profession is graying and young talent demands a different work culture that includes diversity and inclusion, collaboration and flexibility.
  • The future of business: With hyper-connectivity, regulatory overload and an unstable global economy, the way we do is business is changing.

Finally, I had the privilege of sitting in on the Talent Development Advantage workshop at the 2013 Boomer Technology Circles Summit and Talent Development Advantage in Kansas City. In a room full of HR professionals from firms of all sizes across the country, one need stood out above the rest – new leader development.

Rebecca Ryan of Next Gen Consulting shared her findings from the 2011 AICPA / PCPS Top Talent survey. The survey gathers results from partner-identified “A” players in an effort to better understand how to find and retain qualified staff. We discussed the breakdown of these potential future partners and how the survey results showed that through conflicting priorities and a lack of commitment, only 30 percent of these all-stars were ultimately left on your partner track. With the “graying” profession mentioned earlier in mind, we discussed ways to increase this percentage. We talked a lot about mentorship programs, which are one of the top ways firms like to develop leaders. However, we didn’t talk much about something that I think is crucial to leadership development – training. That means developing everyone – your A, B and even C players – through learning. A lot has changed and there’s a lot to learn, and it’s not all technical skills but what we at the BLI like to call business success skills.

So overall, my summer of learning was all about … well, learning – what real active learning looks like, how it’s changing and how it can be applied to achieve success.

What did you learn this summer?


Rebekah Olson