As an accountant, I know there are many of us who want to be promoted and eventually take charge of an accounting department as a Controller or Chief Accounting Officer. While that’s a great goal to have and all, if you don’t speak up and communicate your career aspirations, your professional growth could be stunted.
Generally speaking, accounting and finance professionals tend to be categorized as more introverted individuals. So, in this day and age of constant emailing and instant messaging, the lack of verbal communication, can significantly affect the upward mobility of accounting professionals careers—and not in a good way.
Regardless if you want to work toward obtaining a promotion, or simply want to communicate more effectively with your colleagues, it’s imperative to have strong verbal communication skills in the corporate world.
As a prior auditor for a large public accounting firm and a manager of a general accounting team, I have learned some of these lessons the hard way. Additionally, in my current role as Senior Manager of Business Development for Brilliant Management Resources, I work with some of the most successful accounting and finance leaders. As a result, I have observed many successful accounting and finance leaders’ verbal communication skills in action. That’s why I thought I’d take this time to share with you 3 Ways Accountants Can Improve Verbal Communication below.
1. Discuss more. Email less.
This has got to be the most common career pitfall for accountants. After going through a complex account reconciliation, you decide to email your fellow team members who are the source of the information and ask for them to review the numbers. You’re probably expecting a quick reply by the next day, right? However, you don’t receive any responses. Is this really a surprise?
I have found that by not only emailing your request but combining it with a phone call helps immensely. In your call or voicemail, you should mention that you will follow up at a specific time in the future and then send them a calendar invite for that time. These additional steps do not take up much extra time and actually give you more return for your time in the long run. Plus, you’re gaining more exposure to those individuals.
Another suggestion is to take a day to identify all employees in the company who are your customers or you are a customer of theirs. Then walk over to them and ask them to lunch as early as possible in your employment. Repeat this at least every quarter if you can. Going over to just say hello is also great but if you can go above and beyond and ask them to join you for lunch or even coffee with make you more memorable. You should not only be doing this at the director or manager level but also at the Senior Accountant level. These type of actions will be recalled during promotion time and can provide you great leverage in negotiating a new role within your company.
2. Dig further into business reasons behind transactions.
Part of every accountant’s role at some level is analytical review. This could be a fluctuation analysis between actual results and budget or analyzing the relationship between volume and price, among many other relationships. Instead of taking the basic answers from your business unit or plant professionals, you should dig deeper. For example, if a plant manager tells you that sales were higher due to more of product “x” being sold, then you have to ask not only “how much more?” but also “what is the business reason the product sold more?” Maybe customer “z” went into a new market, or maybe production processes were improved. If you are not able to communicate this to your customers, whether they are your managers or even the CEO, then you are putting them at a loss with their investors who demand robust and concise answers. Answers at the very basic level are not good enough.
3. Practice your verbal presentation with a manager or peer before the meeting.
How many times have you gone into a meeting with all of your notes prepared and then get asked a question by your Controller or even the Audit Partner only to realize your answer just created more questions? This is typical if you have not dug deeper into the section above or you have not practiced enough to be best prepared before the meeting. It is extremely important to schedule time with your manager before a sensitive meeting to verbally discuss how questions will be handled and what your role will be in responding to those questions. Once that is decided, it is very important to take 5 – 10 minutes and role practice this with your manager. This will assist you immensely, especially if your personality tends to be more introverted.
Do you have any other tips for improving verbal communication skills? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.