Soft skills: The future for successful accountants
If you have been working for several years in the accounting industry or maybe just a few you would have noticed that successful team members know more than technical accounting skills.
They know how to manage a meeting, put clients at ease, deal with difficult clients and scenarios, persuade and negotiate, and make themselves known and appreciated. They write and send concise and focused emails and can deliver strong presentations that inform and lead to greater firm opportunities.
Chances are these team members have invested a lot of time and effort to develop their soft skills. Accounting soft skills like effective leadership, strong verbal and written communication and critical thinking can take the average accountant and transform them into star performers.
Here’s an overview of the top five soft skills I believe are critical for accountants:
- Effective verbal, written and non-verbal communication
The effectiveness of words is not measured by volume, in fact, just like with so many other things less is more. This is especially true for busy work colleagues. Emails can be shorter and stronger, presentations more direct and engaging and questioning skills more thorough and exploring. When you get to the point in your writing you will find it can positively influence your speaking and presentation skills as well. Finally, do not forget to look for and understand non-verbal cues. Many things that were not actually said also have a powerful impact.
- Thinking critically and focusing on problem solving
When you look at a problem like a spreadsheet what do you see? Just a series of columns, rows and numbers, or a totally different story inside? Analysing patterns, trends or developing an appropriate strategy is critical thinking. Developing a long-term financial plan or a well thought and structured business advisory engagement for a client requires critical thinking.
- Relationship management and persuasion skills
Accountants need to develop relationships with their clients through reliability and expertise. Good leaders persuade team members to work together to achieve a goal. Persuasion here is critical. It is as much about your own self-confidence and your ability to analyse a situation and come up with a plan. Think about how you will unlock the needs of clients in order to offer them more exciting solutions like advisory services. How will you engage them, what questions will you ask? Are you a good listener? How will you close the opportunity into an engagement? All great soft skills to have or develop in your career.
- Managing the benefits and future of technology
Knowing the law and how to extract discerning data out of a profit and loss statement and balance sheet is critical to an accountant’s success. This requires using software and other key tools and processes necessary to do your job. Team members who are comfortable with technology, who embrace change and are constantly on the lookout for better tools and processes are very valuable to an accounting firm. Assisting other team members or championing the strategy around, and implementation of, new technology is a valuable skill to have on your resume.
- Leadership and managing your team
This quality is not just about being a good manager or a trusted supporter, it is all about earning respect through effort, leading and displaying a good example. Good leaders communicate well. They think about their audience and how their words are interpreted. They are also big-picture strategic and concentrate on long-term strategies as well as more immediate issues. Think about a great leader you have admired either at work, your family or even from history or alive today. What makes their leadership special? What do they do that ultimately works? Perhaps following their lead may help you!
As you progress in your career, one, three or even five to 10 years down the track, you will comprehend how valuable these soft skills are for your success. The investment in training and developing these skills is equally as important as your technical skills, if not more important. Don’t look at this training as a cost. Look at it as an investment in the future of your career and life.