As the scope of roles for accountants broaden and develop, it is no longer enough to be purely technically proficient. Our clients, management and colleagues expect more from us. But what are the key skills we should look to develop? Clients are often multi-faceted, diverse organisations which require certain expertise to meet their changing needs. Considering this, I have set out below the skills you should develop if you want to excel in your role as an accountant and transform into a trusted business adviser.
Focus on developing solid relationships with both colleagues and clients. This involves actively listening and engaging with them in order for you to understand their needs and issues. Take the time to get to know your clients. Building rapport, and establishing trust and credibility will strengthen and develop long-term relationships.
Client expectation management
At a minimum, you should meet your client commitments and deliver on your promises. This builds trust. To do this effectively, you should be confident and assertive in order to manage your clients’ expectations and ensure there are no surprises.
Effective service delivery also means being proactive and organised in the execution of your schedule. Keep on top of your workload and allocate resources accordingly. Don’t be afraid to look for assistance when required. Being organised and focused on high quality delivery of services means that you can proactively propose solutions that exceed client expectations.
This skill is often underrated. Being curious enables you to develop more knowledge and skills, and strengthening your acumen and business experience. It is acceptable to say you don’t have all the answers but important to take time to learn how best to find a solution where required. If you are interested in a particular sector or industry, engage your curiosity and attend events or informal meetings to gain a greater understanding.
The focus on technical proficiency can often lead to gaps in our management skills. As qualified accountants, you are expected to know how to manage other people. If you are fortunate enough to have trained under a strong and capable manager who led their own teams well, you are in a great position to now emulate them.
Unfortunately, have been let down by previous managers. Management is a skill that must be nurtured and developed. It is the tool that will enable you to deliver your services through others. Done well, it enables great client service and personal satisfaction; bad management, however, can lead to difficulty for both you and your organisation. Look at cultivating and then demonstrating management skills such as delegation, motivation, feedback and coaching. The benefits of investing your time will be noticed by clients and colleagues.
Leadership is another skill that needs to be cultivated and this takes time and experience to build. At its core, leadership is an ability to inspire confidence, trust and respect through your words and actions. In this fast changing world, it is also important to constructively challenge the way things are done, promote innovation and process improvement. Good communication, with a particular focus on listening and understanding others, is key. Leadership is also taking personal responsibility and acting with ethics and integrity in your dealings with colleagues and clients alike. Demonstrating good judgement, especially when under pressure, is an inspiration to others. It builds both you and your organisation up.
All these skills may seem like a lot to develop, but with time, effort and a willingness to learn, they can be cultivated and lead to further growth in your career.
Originally published by Accountancy Ireland.