Essential soft skills advice for finance professionals in 2022

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Organizations increasingly rely on finance professionals to be strategic drivers and business partners to maximize efficiency, productivity and profitability.

Soft skills such as creative thinking, storytelling, empathy, collaboration, and building trust will be an essential part of the management accountant’s toolkit as they take on a larger business partner role in 2022.

We’ve rounded up some of our top tips for developing soft skills below to help boost your career.

Diversify your thinking

When faced with a challenge, it’s important to diverge your thoughts before converging on a solution, said Gabriella Goddard, director of coaching at the Brainsparker Leadership Academy in the UK. Divergent thinking involves generating various ideas or approaches to a challenge within a short period of time. Characteristics of divergent thinking include allowing ideas to take shape in the absence of criticism and over-analysis.

“Expanding the range of possibilities can lead to new connections, and one of them could spark this idea ‘aha’,” Goddard explained.

To do this, start by asking a question about your problem, starting with “How could we …?” For example, “How could we use AI to speed up the expense approval process?” “This type of question inherently implies that there is a solution and gives you the perfect framework to think about multiple possibilities,” Goddard said.

Another way to expand the range of possible options is to use concept mapping, she noted. This is a radial diagram where you write the central problem in the middle of a blank page and then branch it out with different possible answers.

Each branch can then be extended with additional details.

“Mapping your ideas in this visual format not only increases the amount of ideas you generate, but it can also reveal new connections that you hadn’t thought of before,” she said.

From “Daily Techniques to Stimulate Creative Thinking”, by Jessica Hubbard, October 7, 2021

Identify the “competition reflex”

According to London-based Catherine de la Poer, director of growth at Sheridan Worldwide, a global coaching and leadership development consultancy, most professionals have been trained and conditioned to compete with their peers, which may work against them in an environment where employees are increasingly needed to collaborate and create value together.

“Many of us have spent our lifetimes building the muscles of our competitors, but in the new world of work, success depends on co-creating, building fairness and the mindset of to be of service to others, ”she explained. “It’s important to start recognizing when your competitive reflex kicks in and to start seeing yourself – and your role – in a more service-oriented light.”

For example, when there is a situation of conflict or disagreement, do you respond by trying to ‘win’ or force others to compromise, or do you adopt an approach based on empathy and the desire to cooperate? -create a solution? By learning to repackage your thoughts and emotions in these scenarios, you can begin to transition from competing to collaborating at work. To accelerate this change, approach each interaction with the intention of listening to understand, being present, and asking the right questions. Most of us have poor listening skills and when another person is speaking, we are often planning our next point or counterattack, de la Poer said.

From “Building emotional intelligence: social awareness”, by Jessica Hubbard, September 13, 2021

Assess current levels of trust

The first step in creating an effective collaborative environment is to diagnose your current relationships so that you can understand what works and what doesn’t. In some cases, a direct conversation can be the best way to gauge current trust levels, but not always.

“Face-to-face conversations can be uncomfortable and awkward, but they’re often a shortcut to get to the heart of what isn’t working,” said Carlos Valdes-Dapena, New York-based, founder of Corporate Collaboration Resources LLC. “Sometimes it takes having courageous conversations, and I think it’s important that we recognize that it takes a little courage to engage, but they are priceless.”

If you think you can have a frank conversation with a collaborator, Valdes-Dapena recommended asking them what works and not working for them, getting suggestions on what might change, implementing those suggestions, then check back for a few weeks to see if there has been any improvement.

If you think you might not get an honest response from a coworker, you can try speaking with management or HR for advice on how to have courageous conversations. You can also write an email that addresses some of the issues, but be careful not to blame or inflame; the aim is to constructively build trust. And if you want to assess the general levels of trust within your organization or team, Kerry Wekelo, COO of Update Consulting, recommended sending a short survey and then sharing the results with everyone to increase confidence. transparency. Whichever method you choose, Wekelo emphasized that you should address issues as soon as they arise.

“If things are falling apart, figure out why and try to deal with these conflicts and challenges in the moment rather than simmering them,” she said.

From “4 Ways Finance Professionals Can Build Trust in Collaborations”, by Hannah Pitstick, July 13, 2021

Avoid burnout and stay healthy

Author, executive coach, and clinical psychologist Mike Drayton has suggested five ways to avoid burnout, especially when working remotely:

  • Develop a disciplined way of managing your day. This is especially important when you are working remotely. Set clear limits and have a start and end time appropriate for your schedule. It is essential to shut down at the end of the day.
  • Block time in your calendar for certain tasks. It’s better than the to-do list, which can be overwhelming and never achieved, Drayton said.
  • Take regular breaks and minimize work interruptions. Consider checking your emails at certain times of the day, if possible. The most effective way of working is to use short periods of intense communication, followed by longer periods of deep work, Drayton advised.
  • Volunteering. In addition to developing new skills and expanding your network, volunteering outside of the workplace can help fight burnout. “Encouraging employees to volunteer… reduces the occurrence of burnout. … You attack cynicism [part of burnout]”said Drayton.
  • Increase your resilience. There are many ways to do this, including finding the meaning, purpose, and value of your work, which increases resilience and minimizes the likelihood of burnout.

From “Burnout: are you vulnerable and how can you avoid it? “, by Oliver Rowe, October 8, 2021

Teri saylor is a freelance writer based in the United States. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Drew Adamek at Andrew.Adamek@aicpa-cima.com.


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