How Controllers Can Use Emotional Intelligence & Soft Skills to Become Future Proof
This is a guest post by SuiteCentric, a FloQast channel partner.
Sep 25, 2019 | By April Holman
Guest Post: April Holman is the ERP Practice Director at SuiteCentric. She leads all ERP activities and helps to facilitate growth for the company by leveraging her 25+ years of ERP consulting, sales, and accounting experience across a variety of industries including distribution, nonprofit, and financial services, among many others. Her opinions are her own.
New disruptive technologies like automation, the cloud, and business intelligence are among the most significant themes in conversations throughout finance and accounting communities. They are poised to upend the status quo, break down silos, increase efficiencies, etc. While these technology resources will be incredibly useful, there are non-technical resources that will never experience version lock, require a system upgrade, and can be used without a wireless connection. These 'non-technical resources' are soft skills, and they are becoming increasingly valuable because they can help make you and your team future proof.
In this blog, I will share three soft skills that controllers and accounting teams should continue honing throughout their careers. Practicing emotional intelligence, following the 212-degree philosophy, and remaining committed to mentorship. These will never become obsolete and have the power to inspire confidence personally and with your team, while also strengthening relationships with customers and valued partners.
Practice Emotional Intelligence
In simplistic terms, emotional intelligence (EI) is the ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions, read a room or situation, and then react accordingly. This soft skill helps build stronger relationships with others and can create a faster path toward mutually-beneficial outcomes. Some people were born with this ability, while others must continue developing it over time. Regardless of your natural abilities, possessing high EI can be a differentiator with your internal team, along with customers and partners.
One of the most reliable ways to enhance your EI is by learning to remove your ego from the equation. While this can be challenging, it will help you remain laser-focused on accomplishing goals or benchmarks set by the customer or your team. This will demonstrate your commitment to the team and your project and has the potential to inspire others to follow your lead.
‘Removing ego’ can also make you more adaptable when working with different personalities or under contrasting management styles. Maintaining focus on the task at hand and working toward common objectives regardless of the situation will yield tremendous benefits throughout your career.
Active listening is another method for improving EI, and it can be critical for relationship building with customers and your internal team. This is practiced by spending more time listening and asking thoughtful questions than talking during meetings or one-on-one interactions.
In customer-facing scenarios, this approach can establish your position as a trusted advisor and confidant rather than just another vendor. You will gain a holistic understanding of their processes and needs so your company can provide better, more personalized service. This will help your company stay top of mind for future projects, and it may present opportunities for higher-margin fees.
The same applies to your work within your team. You’ll understand the motivations, expectations, and roles of team members so you can all work together more cohesively. It could create new opportunities for you, as well.
Some companies offer a 'rules of the road' handbook or document that incorporates these elements to help establish and guide company core values.
The premise of the 212-degree philosophy, developed by best-selling author Sam Parker, is based on the temperature of boiling water. At 211 degrees Fahrenheit, water is very hot, but it is motionless, and nothing is happening. Raising the temperature one degree to 212 causes the water to boil, creating steam, which can power an engine for a train. This philosophy has been adopted by businesses, sports franchises, and organizations the world over. By giving one more degree of effort, you have the power to make big things happen. And if your entire team follows this philosophy, it can result in positive momentum for the entire company.
It sounds simple, but it can be incredibly impactful in a variety of ways. Think about different scenarios throughout your career where a little extra effort paid off. Maybe you sent a quick follow up email about ASC 842 and IFRS 16 to a new customer after your onboarding meeting, and this opened the door for an additional project next quarter. Little gestures or soft skills like these can make a positive difference at micro and macro levels.
Commitment to Mentorship
In essence, mentorship is the act of offering advice and lessons learned to a receptive person (mentee) who is typically younger and/or in a junior role to the mentor. Mentors can also serve as a sounding board for ideas or approaches to certain situations in which the mentee might be a little ‘green.’
There will also likely be opportunities where mentors will learn from mentees, and that is an added benefit of mentor-mentee relationships. A controller with 25 years of experience could offer up industry best practices in exchange for a newly minted CPA’s tips and tricks with new accounting software or plugin recently adopted by their company.
Starting out this process can be tricky because you don’t want to offer unwelcome advice. Pulling the prospective mentee aside to have a private conversation is a good approach. Offer to take them for coffee or lunch so you can learn about their professional aspirations, perceived role within their team and the company. From there, the mentor-mentee relationship will grow.
Establishing a precedent of mentorship will improve the cohesiveness of your company, and it creates a culture of paying it forward. It’s a reinvestment in individuals and in your company simultaneously. You never know the impact you can have on someone’s life and what opportunities can open up later on in your career as a result of being a mentor. Plus, developing and promoting talent from within is ideal, and if your company’s mentorship efforts are proven successful, then high-quality job candidates could start lining up at your door.
About SuiteCentric - NetSuite Consultants
These are soft skills we practice at my company, SuiteCentric. As NetSuite consultants, we exercise emotional intelligence in our work with customers on NetSuite implementations, development, and customizations. We also do our best to apply the 212-degree philosophy, and mentorship is important for developing our junior staff.