J.L Accountants

J.L Accountants

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How Good Are Your Leadership Skills?

Who do you consider to be a good leader?

Maybe it's a politician, a famous businessperson, or a religious figure.

Or maybe it's someone you know personally – like your boss, a teacher, or a friend.

You can find people in leadership roles almost everywhere you look.

However, simply having the responsibilities of a leader doesn't necessarily make a person an effective leader. This is a shame because, with a little study, humility and hard work, all of us can learn to lead effectively.

Managing Your Career
Making the Best of Now, While Planning for Your Future

Janine squeezes onto her usual train, half listening to the same old music on her headphones, and tries to avoid her all-too-familiar co-commuters, with their sour faces and bad breath.

Is today Wednesday or Thursday? Which meeting is going to fill her morning? She can't remember. The days are blurring into one, on an endless loop. How did that happen? It really isn't what she planned for herself.

Actually, she's never really planned her career at all; she's just kind of hoped that things will work out for her. She always tries hard to do a good job, but where has it got her?

Janine has let her career take over and manage her. But she's not too late to take charge again and find her own direction. So, if you're one of the many people who, just like Janine, longs for change but can't see a way forward, don't despair.

In this article, we'll look at taking a step back, to assess your current position and choose a strategy for moving forward. We'll also give you some practical tips to ensure that your actions in the "here and now" will help you achieve your long-term goals....

Mind Maps®
A Powerful Approach to Note-Taking
(Also known as Mind Mapping, Concept Mapping, Spray Diagrams, and Spider Diagrams)

Have you ever studied a subject or brainstormed an idea, only to find yourself with pages of information, but no clear view of how it fits together?

This is where Mind Mapping can help you.

Mind Mapping is a useful technique that helps you learn more effectively, improves the way that you record information, and supports and enhances creative problem solving.

By using Mind Maps, you can quickly identify and understand the structure of a subject. You can see the way that pieces of information fit together, as well as recording the raw facts contained in normal notes.

More than this, Mind Maps help you remember information, as they hold it in a format that your mind finds easy to recall and quick to review.

About Mind Maps

Mind Maps were popularized by author and consultant, Tony Buzan. They use a two-dimensional structure, instead of the list format conventionally used to take notes.

Mind Maps are more compact than conventional notes, often taking up one side of paper. This helps you to make associations easily, and generate new ideas Add to My Personal Learning Plan. If you find out more information after you have drawn a Mind Map, then you can easily integrate it with little disruption.

More than this, Mind Mapping helps you break large projects or topics down into manageable chunks, so that you can plan effectively without getting overwhelmed and without forgetting something important.

A good Mind Map shows the "shape" of the subject, the relative importance of individual points, and the way in which facts relate to one another. This means that they're very quick to review, as you can often refresh information in your mind just by glancing at one. In this way, they can be effective mnemonics – remembering the shape and structure of a Mind Map can give you the cues you need to remember the information within it.

When created using colors and images or drawings, a Mind Map can even resemble a work of art!

Uses

Mind Maps are useful for:

Brainstorming Add to My Personal Learning Plan – individually, and as a group.
Summarizing information, and note taking.
Consolidating information from different research sources.
Thinking through complex problems.
Presenting information in a format that shows the overall structure of your subject.
Studying and memorizing information.
Drawing Basic Mind Maps

To draw a Mind Map, follow these steps:

1. Write the title of the subject you're exploring in the center of the page, and draw a circle around it. This is shown by the circle marked in figure 1, below.

(Our simple example shows someone brainstorming actions needed to deliver a successful presentation.)

Figure 1

Example Mind Map: Step 1
2. As you come across major subdivisions or subheadings of the topic (or important facts that relate to the subject) draw lines out from this circle. Label these lines with these subdivisions or subheadings. (See figure 2, below.)

Figure 2

Example Mind Map: Step 2
3. As you "burrow" into the subject and uncover another level of information (further subheadings, or individual facts) belonging to the subheadings, draw these as lines linked to the subheading lines. These are shown in figure 3.

Figure 3

Example Mind Map: Step 3
4. Then, for individual facts or ideas, draw lines out from the appropriate heading line and label them. These are shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4

Example Mind Map: Step 4
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5. As you come across new information, link it in to the Mind Map appropriately.

A complete Mind Map may have main topic lines radiating in all directions from the center. Sub-topics and facts will branch off these, like branches and twigs from the trunk of a tree. You don't need to worry about the structure you produce, as this will evolve of its own accord.

Tip:

While drawing Mind Maps by hand is appropriate in many cases, software tools and apps like Coggle, Bubbl.us, Mindmeister, MindGenius, iMindMap, and Mindjet can improve the process by helping you to produce high quality Mind Maps, which you can then easily edit or redraft. (Click here for a full list of Mind Map software.)
Using Mind Maps Effectively

Once you understand how to take notes in Mind Map format, you can develop your own conventions for taking them further. The following suggestions can help you draw impactful Mind Maps:

Use Single Words or Simple Phrases – Many words in normal writing are padding, as they ensure that facts are conveyed in the correct context, and in a format that is pleasant to read.

In Mind Maps, single strong words and short, meaningful phrases can convey the same meaning more potently. Excess words just clutter the Mind Map.

Print Words – Joined up or indistinct writing is more difficult to read.
Use Color to Separate Different Ideas – This will help you to separate ideas where necessary. It also helps you to visualize the Mind Map for recall. Color can help to show the organization of the subject.
Use Symbols and Images – Pictures can help you to remember information more effectively than words, so, where a symbol or picture means something to you, use it. (You can use photo libraries like iStockPhoto to source images inexpensively.)
Using Cross-Linkages – Information in one part of a Mind Map may relate to another part. Here you can draw lines to show the cross-linkages. This helps you to see how one part of the subject affects another.
Visual Example

Click on the thumbnail below for a great example of a Mind Map that has high visual impact:

Example Mind Map
Key Points

Mind Mapping is an extremely effective method of taking notes. Not only do Mind Maps show facts, they also show the overall structure of a subject and the relative importance of individual parts of it. They help you to associate ideas, think creatively, and make connections that you might not otherwise make.

Mind Maps are useful for summarizing information, for consolidating large chunks of information, for making connections, and for creative problem solving.

To use Mind Maps effectively, make sure you print your words, use different colors to add visual impact, and incorporate symbols and images to further spur creative thinking.

If you do any form of research or note taking, try experimenting with Mind Maps. You'll love using them!
This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here

Understanding Creativity
It is important to start with a clear definition of what we mean by creativity, as there are two completely different types. The first is technical creativity, where people create new theories, technologies or ideas. This is the type of creativity we discuss here. The second is artistic creativity, which is more born of skill, technique and self-expression. Artistic creativity is beyond the scope of these articles.

Many of the techniques in this chapter have been used by great thinkers to drive their creativity. Albert Einstein, for example, used his own informal variant of Provocation to trigger ideas that led to the Theory of Relativity. But anyone can learn to be technically creative, and use these tools. They are designed to help you devise creative and imaginative solutions to problems, and help you to spot opportunities that you might otherwise miss.

Approaches to Creativity

There are two main strands to technical creativity: programmed thinking and lateral thinking. Programmed thinking relies on logical or structured ways of creating a new product or service. Examples of this approach are Morphological Analysis Add to My Personal Learning Plan and the Reframing Matrix Add to My Personal Learning Plan.

The other main strand uses 'Lateral Thinking'. Examples of this are Brainstorming Add to My Personal Learning Plan, Random Input Add to My Personal Learning Plan and Provocation. Lateral Thinking has been developed and popularized by Edward de Bono, whose books you can find in the appropriate articles.

Programmed Thinking and Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking recognizes that our brains are pattern recognition systems, and that they do not function like computers. It takes years of training before we learn to do simple arithmetic – something that computers do very easily. On the other hand, we can instantly recognize patterns such as faces, language, and handwriting. The only computers that begin to be able to do these things do it by modeling the way that human brain cells work . Even then, computers will need to become more powerful before they approach our ability to handle patterns.

The benefit of good pattern recognition is that we can recognize objects and situations very quickly. Imagine how much time would be wasted if you had to do a full analysis every time you came across a cylindrical canister of effervescent fluid. Most people would just open their can of fizzy drink. Without pattern recognition we would starve or be eaten. We could not cross the road safely.

Unfortunately, we get stuck in our patterns. We tend to think within them. Solutions we develop are based on previous solutions to similar problems. Normally it does not occur to us to use solutions belonging to other patterns.

We use lateral thinking techniques to break out of this patterned way of thinking.

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Lateral thinking techniques help us to come up with startling, brilliant and original solutions to problems and opportunities.

It is important to point out that each type of approach has its strength. Logical, disciplined thinking is enormously effective in making products and services better. It can, however, only go so far before all practical improvements have been carried out. Lateral thinking can generate completely new concepts and ideas, and brilliant improvements to existing systems. In the wrong place, however, it can be sterile or unnecessarily disruptive.

Taking the Best of Each...

A number of techniques fuse the strengths of the two different strands of creativity. Techniques such as the Concept Fan use a combination of programmed and lateral thinking. DO IT Add to My Personal Learning Plan and Min Basadur's Simplex Add to My Personal Learning Plan embed the two approaches within problem solving processes. While these may be considered 'overkill' when dealing with minor problems, they provide excellent frameworks for solving difficult and serious ones.

The Creative Frame of Mind

Often the only difference between creative and uncreative people is self-perception. Creative people see themselves as creative and give themselves the freedom to create. Uncreative people do not think about creativity and do not give themselves the opportunity to create anything new.

Being creative may just be a matter of setting aside the time needed to take a step back and allow yourself to ask yourself if there is a better way of doing something. Edward de Bono calls this a 'Creative Pause'. He suggests that this should be a short break of maybe only 30 seconds, but that this should be a habitual part of thinking. This needs self-discipline, as it is easy to forget.

Another important attitude-shift is to view problems as opportunities for improvement. While this is something of a cliché, it is true. Whenever you solve a problem, you have a better product or service to offer afterwards.

Using Creativity

Creativity is sterile if action does not follow from it. Ideas must be evaluated, improved, polished and marketed before they have any value. Other sections of Mind Tools lay out the evaluation, analysis and planning tools needed to do this. They also explain the time and stress management techniques you will need when your creative ideas take off.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here

Communication Skills
Become a Skilled Business Communicator
The purpose of communication is to get your message across to others clearly and unambiguously.

Doing this involves effort from both the sender of the message and the receiver. And it's a process that can be fraught with error, with messages often misinterpreted by the recipient. When this isn't detected, it can cause tremendous confusion, wasted effort and missed opportunity.

In fact, communication is only successful when both the sender and the receiver understand the same information as a result of the communication.

By successfully getting your message across, you convey your thoughts and ideas effectively. When not successful, the thoughts and ideas that you convey do not necessarily reflect your own, causing a communications breakdown and creating roadblocks that stand in the way of your goals – both personally and professionally.

In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more than 50,000 employees, communication skills were cited as the single more important decisive factor in choosing managers. The survey, conducted by the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Business School, points out that communication skills, including written and oral presentations, as well as an ability to work with others, are the main factor contributing to job success.

In spite of the increasing importance placed on communication skills, many individuals continue to struggle with this, unable to communicate their thoughts and ideas effectively – whether in verbal or written format. This inability makes it nearly impossible for them to compete effectively in the workplace, and stands in the way of career progression.

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Getting your message across is paramount to progressing. To do this, you must understand what your message is, what audience you are sending it to, and how it will be perceived. You must also weigh-in the circumstances surrounding your communications, such as situational and cultural context.

Communications Skills – The Importance of Removing Barriers

Communication barriers can pop-up at every stage of the communication process (which consists of sender, message, channel, receiver, feedback and context – see the diagram below) and have the potential to create misunderstanding and confusion.



The Communications Process Diagram
From "The Mathematical Theory of Communication," Copyright 1949, 1998, by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Used with the permission of the University of Illinois Press.

To be an effective communicator and to get your point across without misunderstanding and confusion, your goal should be to lessen the frequency of these barriers at each stage of this process with clear, concise, accurate, well-planned communications. We follow the process through below:

Source...

As the source of the message, you need to be clear about why you're communicating, and what you want to communicate. You also need to be confident that the information you're communicating is useful and accurate.

Message...

The message is the information that you want to communicate.

Encoding...

This is the process of transferring the information you want to communicate into a form that can be sent and correctly decoded at the other end. Your success in encoding depends partly on your ability to convey information clearly and simply, but also on your ability to anticipate and eliminate sources of confusion (for example, cultural issues, mistaken assumptions, and missing information.) A key part of this is knowing your audience: Failure to understand who you are communicating with will result in delivering messages that are misunderstood.

Channel...

Messages are conveyed through channels, with verbal including face-to-face meetings, telephone and videoconferencing; and written including letters, emails, memos, and reports.

Different channels have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, it's not particularly effective to give a long list of directions verbally, while you'll quickly cause problems if you criticize someone strongly by email.

Decoding...

Just as successful encoding is a skill, so is successful decoding (involving, for example, taking the time to read a message carefully, or listen actively to it.) Just as confusion can arise from errors in encoding, it can also arise from decoding errors. This is particularly the case if the decoder doesn't have enough knowledge to understand the message.

Receiver...

Your message is delivered to individual members of your audience. No doubt, you have in mind the actions or reactions you hope your message will get from this audience. Keep in mind, though, that each of these individuals enters into the communication process with ideas and feelings that will undoubtedly influence their understanding of your message, and their response. To be a successful communicator, you should consider these before delivering your message, and act appropriately.

Feedback...

Your audience will provide you with feedback, verbal and nonverbal reactions to your communicated message. Pay close attention to this feedback, as it is the only thing that allows you to be confident that your audience has understood your message. If you find that there has been a misunderstanding, at least you have the opportunity to send the message a second time.

Context...

The situation in which your message is delivered is the context. This may include the surrounding environment or broader culture (corporate culture, international cultures, and so on).

Removing Barriers at All These Stages

To deliver your messages effectively, you must commit to breaking down the barriers that exist in each of these stages of the communication process.

Let's begin with the message itself. If your message is too lengthy, disorganized, or contains errors, you can expect the message to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Use of poor verbal and body language Add to My Personal Learning Plan can also confuse the message.

Barriers in context tend to stem from senders offering too much information too fast. When in doubt here, less is oftentimes more. It is best to be mindful of the demands on other people's time, especially in today's ultra-busy society.

Once you understand this, you need to work to understand your audience's culture, making sure you can converse and deliver your message to people of different backgrounds and cultures within your own organization, in this country and even abroad.

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you'll find here

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