You probably wouldn’t think farm work translates very smoothly into an accounting firm. But Rodney Kinzinger credits his country upbringing for teaching him the discipline necessary for leading Deloitte LLP’s St. Louis office.
The managing partner keeps a yellowing, wrinkled copy of an article called, “Everything I Learned, I Learned Growing Up on a Farm,” in his desk, although most of the lessons it lists are already inherent to his character.
“One of the first principles is: Work comes before play,” says Kinzinger, who stepped into his position in June 2008. “What that gets down to is the self-discipline of getting the really important things done first prioritizing those things and then having the focus and drive to just get them done.”
Kinzinger’s methodical approach to organizing his day including setting aside time for his 215 employees keeps him on top of the tasks he has to tackle.
Smart Business spoke with Kinzinger about how to prioritize with discipline.
Keep track of tasks. I put everything in my Outlook as a task. So if I’m on a phone call, I may scribble it on a piece of paper, but I have a pretty good discipline then on making sure that piece of paper gets into Outlook. Otherwise, you forget about doing it. Every morning, I look at that long laundry list of things, and I go through a mental process of: All right, which are the ones that are going to make a difference? For me, the ones that make a difference are those that are touching either our current clients or our prospective clients. Those are the ones that I address first. From there, it’s internal things related to people or other [issues] that we would have with running the business. So that’s the mental process I go through: clients, people and then administration.
Stay focused. It’s very easy to get distracted, especially in this technology world. You’re continuously getting e-mails, you’re continuously getting instant messages, you’re continually getting phone calls, etc. If you’re not careful, you just bounce all around and then you really don’t ever get anything accomplished at the end of the day.
So if I’ve decided that making a call to a client is important, then I focus on that task until that task is done. I don’t get distracted by other things until that task is done. That doesn’t mean I don’t multitask; I multitask all the time. But you have to know your own abilities as to how much you can multitask, and don’t exceed that limit.
When it gets down to focus time, heads-down time, then I stay focused and on task.
It’s kind of a joke within the office, but I also have places that I’ll escape to where only a few people know where I am. There’s a Ritz-Carlton I go to and then there’s a McDonald’s West and a McDonald’s East. So when I’m out of the office, I may get an e-mail from someone that says, ‘Hey, are you at Deloitte Central or are you at Deloitte West?’
That’s where I really use time to work on projects where I’ve got to put thought and concentration into them. That’s important to have your getaways. I do my best thinking when I don’t have a lot of distractions.
The people who’d need to know where to find me know where I’m at all the time. So my administrative assistant, my office manager, they can always find me. I’m not that removed. I want to have an open-door policy, but you know, people take you up on that. I don’t want to stifle the freedom of people to do that, so if I close my door and draw my shades, I’m now sending a very different message of having an open-door policy. So what I do then is I just leave when I need that private time. That way, you still always have the open-door policy [and] you’re still getting your work done.
Be receptive to new tasks. [When new tasks pop up,] I run them through the same filters. So if somebody comes in and they say, ‘Hey, we have a client issue,’ that would probably get my attention. If someone comes in and says, ‘Hey, I’ve got a great idea. I’d like to bounce it off of you,’ I do have times that I have an open door so I know that I’m going to get distracted. I just do things that I can put aside and pay attention when someone walks in the door.
When that person is in your office, they need to believe that they have 100 percent of your attention. Yet, you need to manage that time such that you don’t allow them to hijack your day. You have to mentally say to yourself, ‘OK, I have 10 minutes to devote to this,’ and for those 10 minutes, you need to be devoted to it. So you don’t answer the phone, you’re looking the person in the eye, you’re listening, you’re asking questions of clarification, etc.
But then you have to have the ability to say, ‘Well, John, I appreciate you stopping by. There’s a couple of things I really need to get out this afternoon. However, this is good background for me. Let me give it some thought, and I’ll get back to you on Thursday.’ And then you need to get back to them on Thursday. You have to abide by your word.
Some people will recognize that they’re not in there for chitchat but others don’t have that same recognition, and they’ll sit and chitchat as long as you chitchat with them. You can eat up hours if you don’t end the conversation and move on. I say, ‘I’ve really got this other issue I need to get to now. Can I get back to you?’ When you say, ‘now,’ that will give them the message that they need to scadoodle.
How to reach: Deloitte LLP, (314) 342-4900 or www.deloitte.com