Contrary to popular stereotypes, accountants are brilliant communicators, says personal development coach, chartered accountant and NLP practitioner Carol McLachlan, who this week is on hand with some advice on how to cultivate good connections.
Q: What do you call an extrovert accountant? A: Someone who looks at your shoes instead of their own.
There are many stereotypes that poke fun at accountants’ personalities. Boring, introvert, obsessive – we’ve had them all, but how does that stack with such an intensively people orientated business? Communication is fundamental to what we do. From team work and colleague consultation, to relationship building and translation for the financially illiterate, accountants have to be consummate communicators.
Not only is communication an essential part of the job, but as accountants we are also one of the most well connected professions of all, so once again let’s take all this good stuff, stir it up and make it even better.
Get connected Let’s start with our connectivity. Even without being particularly proactive, our networks are incredibly wide, deep and complex, but do we appreciate how wide deep and complex they truly are? Do we leverage this – from past career connections, to our clients and their clients, intermediaries and their clients, our own suppliers and their clients? Not to mention ex-clients, new prospects and abortive prospects, and all of their connections. Before you start thinking ‘forget the day job, I’ll just spend my life networking’, here are two crucial tips:
Every networking investment should be looked at as exactly that, an investment. Before you commit your precious time you need to ask yourself, what is my objective here? What do I want to get out of this meeting or relationship? Then do a quick ROI calculation.
If you haven’t already done so, embrace virtual networking. This means much more than simply cruising ye olde Friends Reunited or Facebook. Hook up to specific business orientated forums where your time invested can go a long, long way (e.g. LinkedIn, UK Business Forums, Twitter, etc.). For those of you who’ve already discovered the promised land, think ROI here. What do you want to achieve, what’s your budget?
People like people who are like themselves Once we’ve fully exploited our networks, it’s time to optimise the relationship. It’s a proven fact that people look for similarities with each other and as opposed to differences, so on an accountants’ forum, technical banter cuts it. However, with a non-finance professional, duck the ‘boring’ slur by looking for connection points. From the old favourites like sport and the spouse and kids, to the more esoteric like body language, words and phrases, verbal pace and volume.
This is called mirroring and matching, and with a little practice it can become automatic. Switch on your conscious awareness right now and see how much you’re already doing without even thinking about it. Find those similarities. The key is mindful observation and active listening, that means actually hearing what’s being said. Have a look at my test and use it to ‘switch on’ to other people’s preferred styles. Then adapt your communication style so that you’re speaking the same ‘language’.
Fellow accountants, we are already fine communicators, translators and interpreters. Now take this to the next level and get even more from your relationships, at home, in the office - to infinity and beyond!