Communication and listening skills
Developing strong communication skills is essential when it comes to building a successful career. They help us overcome diversities, build trust and respect, and create conditions for sharing creative ideas and solving problems.
Some people find it easy to communicate and listen to people they have an affinity with but harder to do so with those who do not share the same values. But it’s just as important to put the effort in with everybody. As late US President Jimmy Carter once said: ‘It’s a terrible and tragic and counterproductive policy to avoid communicating with people who disagree with us.’
For those working in the finance profession, communication of financials can impact the bottom line. Caroline Copley, director of Permanent Talent Solutions, says: ‘Finance is integral to all businesses, and team members are expected to act as trusted advisers to people across the business. As highly visible business partners, accountants need to have gravitas, which stems from a combination of expertise and soft skills, particularly communication. They will come face to face with the wider business, so they need to be prepared to manage senior stakeholders and deliver updates in an engaging and confident way.
‘Communication and listening skills are a fundamental part of responding to the needs of different departments. A finance business partner who can listen to and understand the pressures and motivations of different teams will be able to explain complicated financial models in layman’s terms, share only the most relevant information and amend their approach for different audiences. A concise and clear explanation can massively help senior stakeholders with limited time.’
Copley also suggests that while good communication and listening skills will help further your career, lacking them will actually hold you back.
‘Senior team members will need proven experience of commercial awareness and business partnership, but accountants will not be afforded growth opportunities if they lack the right communication skills,’ she says.
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The good news is that even if you’re not confident of your skill set at the moment, there are measures you can take to improve them.
‘If you want to build these skills, consider reaching out to a talent solutions provider like Robert Half, who can offer consultative feedback on your CV and advise on how you can develop,’ says Copley. ‘My advice is that practice makes perfect – put yourself out of your comfort zone, get networking at non-finance events and use your connections to secure opportunities that will help you practise and become more confident in your communications.’
How to improve your listening skills
Communication is a two-way street. In order to have a meaningful interaction, you need to speak and then listen and vice versa. The best communicators in any workplace are those who are able to listen patiently without interrupting the person who is speaking. By doing so, you will be able to get and give information that is more likely to resolve situations and give people confidence in your ability.
One way to improve your listening skills is to pay attention to the type of language that someone is using. For example, if they use a lot of adjectives, like ‘huge’, ‘magnificent’ or ‘mind blowing’, this is an indirect indication that they are creative, while someone who breaks things down into lists or numbers is a logical thinker.
By understanding more about the person you are communicating with through their language, you will be able to more easily build a rapport with them by mirroring some of the language patterns. By building that bond, it will be easier to speak to them and explain things in a way that will resonate with them.
Author: Beth Holmes, writer
This article was first published in Student Accountant in January 2022