Want to stand out from the crowd? Here are the traits that separate finance and accounting top performers from the rest of the crowd.
After interviewing, working with, and recruiting hundreds of top-performing finance and accounting talent, we’ve learned to spot some common qualities and traits that make them successful. Top performers do certain things consistently that allow them to advance in their careers and reach their individual objectives. As a result, they also help their companies grow and succeed.
It’s not that they’re particularly gifted (though some are), so much as that they do business in a particular way. Trained to see the bigger picture, the top-performing finance and accounting professionals tend to look at their jobs and careers from a more holistic perspective. The best people in finance understand that in order to succeed, they must aid and encourage success in others. They are sharp, analytical thinkers, but also strong communicators who can share their insights when they are called upon. The best people in finance are the types to explore opportunities for continuous improvement and can prioritize and formulate solutions that create win-win situations.
1. Interpersonal skills
The best people in finance possess strong interpersonal skills. They have the ability to transcend their normal role and interact cross-functionally with people in other departments. They can put themselves in other people’s shoes, see their points of view, and reframe a discussion accordingly. They ask questions, learn about people and use this information to solve problems.
2. Insight and analysis
Razor-sharp analytical skills are, of course, one of the top seven qualities of the best people in finance. They have the unerring ability to spot patterns in seemingly random data and to draw the appropriate conclusions. They then use their strong interpersonal skills to communicate their insights in accessible and meaningful ways.
The best people in finance understand that in order to succeed, they must aid and encourage success in others. They are sharp, analytical thinkers, but also strong communicators who can share their insights when they are called upon.
A true leader not only leads from the front, but they’re also right there in the trenches with their troops. They understand the organization’s goals and can nurture team talent to advance company objectives. The best people in finance move seamlessly between leadership roles – from setting a positive example to directing activities, and ultimately being available as a resource for their reports.
Being successful requires that you see the big picture. And that, in turn, means you have to be able to identify the processes in need of improvement. To the best people in finance, efficiency is the overriding goal. They are relentless in their pursuit of ways to make the business operate more efficiently and effectively. They don’t just report on KPIs, but understand them and make recommendations for improvements.
The world of finance is filled with rigid deadlines. Not only do the best people in finance meet those deadlines as a matter of routine; they are able to set priorities and create action plans that make sense for all parties involved. They are true multitaskers.
A mindset that is solution-focused, rather than problem-focused, is one of the qualities that all of the top financial minds possess. A true leader doesn’t see barriers – they see opportunities. They are flexible and willing to incorporate suggestions from others while focusing on a workable solution that makes sense for the company’s overarching goals.
The best people in finance move seamlessly between leadership roles – from setting a positive example, to directing activities, and ultimately being available as a resource for their reports.
7. Business partner
In today’s marketplace, finance people are expected to stretch their muscles and contribute to their companies’ strategic thinking. Gone are the days when the CFO’s role was simply to report company results. Today, the top CFOs take the vision of the COO, develop a plan to flesh it out, and unleash its full potential. At least informally, they don an operational hat and create scalable structures to realize, and not just report value.
Ultimately, the best people in finance are strong communicators, who can offer their insights and analysis in a solution-focused way. They have an ability to step out of the traditional boxes to which finance has often been consigned, and speak to the numbers in a way that makes sense to other members of their team and the company as a whole. The best understand that being a real leader means setting examples, being a resource for others, and bringing out the best in their team. They see their world with a view toward continuous improvement, setting priorities, and revising processes in order to make them more efficient and in the end, unleash their potential.
What are some of the traits you think define the top talent in finance and accounting? What separates the best from the rest? Let us know what you think!
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