Tax leadership lessons inspired by the “big game”

A group of business executives and thought leaders gather around a conference table for discussion. Part of the image is overlaid and obscured by the blue tone of reflection from the glass wall of the room.

Before you dig into the pre-game snacks for Sunday’s “big game”, consider devoting a few moments to reflect on leadership lessons from the realm of sports. This article is definitely worth some game-planning before kick-off. It contains fresh suggestions concerning how tax executives and managers can elevate their leadership playbooks. 

The article is part of Deloitte’s CFO Insights series, and it looks at what sport psychology can tell us about the mindset and coping mechanisms of elite athletes – and how these techniques can benefit C-suite executives. It’s a must-read for leaders in the high-stakes, high-pressure world of corporate tax. 

Here are some key recommendations for a winning leadership mindset: 

  • Tune in to what’s in front of you: Stay in the moment … take it one game at a time … These phrases may sound familiar, but there’s a lot to be said for paying close attention to how you pay attention. The key is to “focus on the process that will produce results, rather than the prize itself,” according to Deloitte. Think of it as a mindfulness exercise. Besides, the benefits of simultaneously juggling multiple tasks are overrated, according to the report, which indicates that multitasking can reduce productivity by 40%. 
  • Find “slow motion” opportunities: Athletes and teams cope with the constant chaos on the playing field by looking for ways to slow things down. For example, a football team might take a break from all-out offence to playing keep-away for a while. Consider a similar approach by, say, spacing meetings throughout the day as opposed to holding several sessions back to back. 
  • Give yourself time-outs: Working for long periods without a break can deplete your resources and escalate your stress levels. In a 2022 Deloitte poll, 70% of executives reported that they were seriously considering leaving their job for one that better supports their well-being. Take regular breaks to step back, reevaluate current assumptions and then redraw your game plan. 
  • Reframe the job: Viewing challenging situations from a variety of angles is a valuable skill for athletes and executives alike. It can be helpful to ask questions like: Have we zoomed out far enough to see the full extent of the problem? Is there an approach that we previously glossed over or ignored that could come in useful now? Do we need to scrap what we’re doing, or would a hybrid approach work better? Above all, accept that failure happens – without fixating on this possibility. Concentrate on winning, rather than how to avoid losing. 

This Sunday, it’s worth remembering the old saying that performance is as much a matter of mentality as skill. It applies to plenty of domains beyond sports, including tax.  

Blog Author

Larry Mellon, Tax Directory, Vertex Inc

Larry Mellon

Tax Director

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Larry Mellon is a Tax Director in the Chief Tax Office, where he is responsible for providing insights, thought leadership and customer-centric direction to Vertex functional groups, supporting the continued expansion of Vertex indirect tax solutions and overall enterprise strategy. He has over 30 years of experience in sales and use tax compliance, risk assessment, jurisdictional audits, administration and management, as well as VAT compliance. Larry joined Vertex in 2005 as a Sales and Income Tax Supervisor and has served as Tax Manager since 2012, where he has played a pivotal role in elevating and advancing the company’s tax management offerings.

Prior to joining Vertex, Larry served as a Senior Tax Accountant and Property Tax Manager at Foamex International, Inc., a polyurethane and advanced polymer foam product manufacturer and marketer. Mellon also held multiple roles at The Franklin Mint and is a member of the Institute of Professionals in Taxation (IPT).

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