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Get the Most Out of Your Meetings

Posted By Administration, 23 hours ago
Updated: 22 hours ago

I recently read a blog article entitled "Five Secrets of Great Leaders Who Get the Most Out of Meetings" that I found to be helpful. It had the basic, essential information that everyone who runs meetings should follow, but I thought it might be especially timely as most of our chapter boards are transitioning.Through my SDA journey, I have been a part of many committee meetings and these tips are essential to committee chairs and board leaders. Obtaining the skillset necessary to run an effective meeting is a big part of learning to lead. Here are five key ways the article said that a skilled leader gets the most out of meetings.

  1. Everyone knows that a meeting without a clearly defined and communicated purpose is a recipe for ineffectiveness.  Successful leaders will go beyond merely providing a purpose statement. They will arrive at a meeting knowing what they need to get out of it and they will be prepared to steer the meeting in the right direction should the conversation go off-topic. A creative approach that can be useful in meetings is to map out the agenda using a visual diagram, such as a mind map, and use it to document discussion points, decisions, and action items during the meeting.
  2. A good leader makes sure everyone speaks the same language. In a meeting, it can be easy to misunderstand what others are saying. It's also easy to be misunderstood. When speaking in front of people - and, in some cases, on the spot - there is a risk that messages may come across in a skewed or less than clear way. A great leader recognizes this risk and takes steps to ensure that everyone is speaking the same language. This could include developing an annotated agenda that includes key messages, coming to the meeting prepared with speaking points, and taking the time to speak slowly and asking others to clarify any positions that seem vague. This is just as important for a small team meeting as it is for a large board meeting.
  3. A good leader is patient and encourages everyone to engage in a conversation. Imagine the worst meeting you've been to. Did the chair point fingers, assign blame, or - worst of all - resort to threats? This is no way to run a meeting, nor is it an acceptable way to treat staff. Conversely, a good leader will run a meeting in a way that fosters respect, empathy, and professionalism. Productive meetings focus on strategy, information, and decision-making.  A way to ensure this is to never go into a meeting blind. Know what the problems are before the meeting starts, so you can react in a calm and professional manner.
  4. A good leader doesn't treat differences as weaknesses. Make the most of a meeting, it's important to consistently and repeatedly focus on results and not on egos. If you demonstrate to others, through consistent actions, that you will value and respect different opinions, you will build trust and encourage meaningful dialogue. You never know from where, or from whom, the next great idea will come!
  5. A good leader buys the first round. In fostering professionalism, there can be a tendency to become distant, disconnected, and impersonal. A good leader knows how to maintain professionalism, while building meaningful relations with staff. Don't be afraid to get to know your people personally. After a tough meeting, find other ways to relax and build camaraderie. Get to know them, and let them know you, too. Meetings hold great potential. By treating each meeting as an opportunity, you can create a culture where meetings are respected and productive, and seen as a positive part of the business day. Take lessons from great leaders, and don't settle for mediocre meetings.

What tips would you add to make this list even more complete? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

 

 

 

Monica Hodges, CDFA is the SDA National Past President for the 2017-2018 term.

She is the Office Manager for Barker & Associates in San Antonio, TX

 

Tags:  Leadership  Meetings  Productivity  SDA  Society for Design Administration 

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Taming the Paper Monster - My Approach

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Currently there are numerous digital tools available to (theoretically) reduce our reliance on paper in our work environments, yet personally I seem to be handling just as much paper today as I did in the past. But in this age of open office environments and limited storage space, it’s important to implement effective systems to manage the relentless flow of information.

According to Barbara Hemphill, author of “Taming the Paper Tiger at Work “, “clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.” Her statement sums up my workstyle so well. I delay making a decision until I’ve figured out the smartest place to store something with the goal of being able to easily retrieve the information again when or if needed. The problem with this plan is that paper continues to accumulate in my workspace until that storage decision is made. Frustrating! Overcoming this challenge is a work in progress for me. Here is my current process for taming the paper monster on my desk.

Just like most of you reading this, my days are filled with competing priorities and multitasking. I make time to routinely review and quickly analyze the items in my inbox. My approach is similar to triage in the ER - assign degrees of urgency to what needs to be done. As I go through my inbox I use sticky notes to flag required actions such as to be copied, requires a phone call, needs approval, etc. I then clip similar action items together and do them in batch mode which is more efficient for me than handling each action individually. On reference documents, I highlight or flag the most critical info. This makes the main point obvious and saves me from having to hunt for it every time that document resurfaces. From reference items I also log brief notes into my journal notebook that is always open on my desk and is taken with me to every meeting. Having a portable central record helps me overcome the concern that once something is filed out of sight, it could slip my mind. Once I’ve jotted down the important points, the paper is then free to be filed, scanned or shredded. Finally, I have added a recurring filing appointment to my Outlook calendar as well as semi-annual shredding.

I still have too much paper clutter but these steps are helping me to make progress. I may never achieve a fully paperless office, but the more piles I can eliminate, the better.  I apply some of these same strategies to managing the flood of information that I receive digitally. Software such as Outlook, Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote are amazing tools for categorizing and retrieving data. But in the end, the key to eliminating either digital or paper clutter is to eliminate postponed decisions. I’m working on it.

SDA has some great resources including an article in the Office Administration PEG section  "Conquering Clutter the 5S Way" and a webinar recording "Get Organized to Make This Your Best Year Yet".  Check these out when you have a chance.  In the meantime, share in the comments below your tips/tools/resources that you use to reduce the amount of paper clutter on your desk.

 

Consuella Clarke, CDFA, CDA  is a Project Accountant

with Rosser International in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tags:  Organization  Paper Clutter  SDA  Society for Design Administration 

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Welcome Our Newst SDA Members - December 2017

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Please join us in welcoming our newest SDA members:

First Name Last Name Chapter
Jessica Boyd Member-at-Large
Rachel Brown Baton Rouge
Dana Eddowes Member-at-Large
Michael Geary Member-at-Large
Vernie Gilmer Member-at-Large
Jennie Grunstad San Diego
Lark Hilliard Northern California
Tamara James Minneapolis/St. Paul
Joyce Larson Seattle
Anna New Orange County
Paula Ann Shawber Atlanta
Suzzette Sinclair San Diego

Be sure to connect with our newest members on SocialLink and encourage them to join in our many discussions!

 

Tags:  New Members  SDA  Society for Design Administration  Welcome 

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Paid Time Off

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Updated: Thursday, December 14, 2017

Recently, I have been doing a lot of research relative to our Paid Time Off (PTO) policy, and I have found that many employees think that PTO is required and governed by the Department of Labor (DOL).  This reference article from the DOL website (below) helped me to clarify the issue. Did you know the FLSA only covers certain types of leave? 

There is a common misconception that Department of Labor regulates leave benefits through the Fair Labor Standards Act. But, the FLSA only covers certain types of leave. In fact, there are a number of employment practices which FLSA does not regulate. For example, it does not require:

  • Vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay
  • Meal or rest periods, holidays off, or vacations
  • Premium pay for weekend or holiday work
  • Pay raises or fringe benefits
  • Discharge notice, reason for discharge, or immediate payment of final wages to terminated employees.

 Here is a link to the DOL page for your reference. What issues are you facing on the topic of PTO?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooke Simcik, CDFA, is the Business Manager for VAI Architects Incorporated in Dallas, TX

She serves as the 2017-2018 SDA National Vice President.

Tags:  PTO  SDA  Society for Design Administration  Time Off 

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Sales Tax Audit - Basic Information

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Surviving a few sales tax audits, I can say that initially, the scariest part was the unknown.  Why are they auditing me, did I do something wrong or what have I missed? Unless you have intentionally avoided paying taxes or falsified information to keep from paying state sales taxes, the worst that can happen is the interruption of cash flow when they find items that you should have paid taxes on and did not.  However, with that can also come penalties and interest; therefore you don’t want to exacerbate the issues by not supporting the process to the best of your ability. Most tax audits are looking for two things: taxable sales that were not properly taxed and taxable purchases that were not taxed (watch out for those internet purchases).  The auditor’s job is to make sure that tax laws are being followed and by doing so they intend to:

  • Collect revenue for the state.
  • Make sure businesses within the state are collecting sales tax and in the right amounts.
  • Generate future revenue for the state as businesses becomes compliant.
  • Find out-of-state businesses that may potentially have nexus in-state.
  • Reviewing transactions that are occurring in the marketplace in order to make new tax laws.

I would encourage you to see your first audit as a learning experience and remain compliant going forward.  You don’t want to have a second audit to find the same errors.  That certainly wouldn’t justify or guarantee minimal penalties going forward.

What are the rules of thumb during an audit?  First, you must understand that the auditor is not a consultant that will help you find ways to minimize the taxes you pay.  They work for the Department of Revenue, and they are trained to collect revenue for the state.  They look to identify the mistakes (in their opinion) that you make.   

Have respect for what the auditor is tasked to do and treat him/her accordingly.  Provide the required information in an organized manner that will allow them to complete their work as quickly as possible.  Afford them a quiet and reasonable place to perform the audit.

If you keep your ducks in a row, you are always preparing for a tax audit by periodically reviewing sales tax procedures and policies.  If you haven’t don’t panic, below are a few tips:

  • If you need more time to prepare, ask for it.
  • Make sure they understand how your business operates. For instance the types of services you provide, how your invoicing works, how your exemptions certificates are filed if applicable, and answer other basic question they may have for you.
  • It is crucial that you understand what they are asking for, and don’t give more than information than they are asking for as anything you give them is fair game. 
  • Have all the information ready and organized when the auditor arrives.
  • Let them know you are available if they have questions.  If you leave, let them know you are leaving and when you will be back. Don’t abandon them and don’t stand over them either.
  • In the event the auditor strikes up a conversation with other employees, advise the employees to direct the auditor’s questions to you.
  • Don’t sign any documents without fully understanding what you are signing.

Lastly, if you need to rebuttal a decision, make sure your information is cogent.  For more information on your states audit process, check with your state's Department of Revenue. Here is a link that may be helpful: http://www.aicpa.org/Research/ExternalLinks/Pages/TaxesStatesDepartmentsofRevenue.aspx

What tips do you have for surviving an audit? Share them in the comment box below.

 

Brooke Simcik, CDFA, is the Business Manager for VAI Architects Incorporated in Dallas, TX

She serves as the 2017-2018 SDA National Vice President.

Tags:  Sales Tax Audit Tips  SDA  Society for Design Administration 

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