Over many years of working with accountants I have concluded there are many skills that are important for accountants. Putting aside the technical skills, I’ve identified three non-technical skills that I believe are core to the success of most accountants and the firms they work in or own. These are:
- Managing yourself and your priorities (“time management”)
- Project management
Let me expand on each.
Managing yourself and your priorities
Most accountants will end up in roles where they are supervising or managing others. But if you want to manage others you have to be able to manage yourself first. What I’ve noticed inside firms is that some people are definitely more organised than others and more able to focus on priorities and get the important stuff done. Sometimes I see less experienced accountants learning bad habits from more experienced accountants and adopting patterns of work which really do not serve them or their firm well. I’m on a mission to raise the standard of self management across as many firms as possible. I run face to face training on this topic and also have a self paced online workshop here.
This is one of the foundations for success in high performing firms. Done well the power of delegation is amazing. It sees each and every task inside a firm done by the right person. So it supports smart ways of working and improving margins. I regularly see senior accountants, managers and directors spending 50% or even more of their time doing tasks that could and should be done by someone less experienced. I also regularly hear a long list of “reasons” as to why delegation won’t work, most of which are really just excuses. Delegation is a skill that can be learned and enhanced and I believe investing in developing this skill at all senior levels in a firm will pay dividends. I run face to face training on this topic and have a self paced online workshop here.
My inclusion of project management skills may surprise some but I am convinced that these skills are essential for accountants. Change and improvement occurs in firms by way of projects, but in my experience these projects are often poorly managed and achieve sub optimal results, or in some cases are abandoned. The application of project management skills can ensure this doesn’t happen. Even better, these same skills can be applied to the core tasks of completing client work. Project management as a discipline is relatively young and most accountants have probably not been exposed to training in this area. I’d like that to change, as I see the benefits as enormous. I recently ran a project management session for a firm and it was terrific to see participants have light bulb moments and identify positive changes to how they work. I will have an online self paced workshop available for this soon.