Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Communicating Without Words: A Soft Skill Worth Learning

By Tiffany Underwood, CPA

Whether you are interviewing for your next job or facilitating an important meeting, recent studies suggest soft skills like communicating could come in handy and are becoming more sought after in the workplace. In addition to communicating, soft skills consist of dependability, teamwork, critical thinking, and leadership, among others. According to research from the American Psychological Association, employers were more likely to hire a candidate that was likeable. Results from a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management showed soft skills such as dependability, teamwork, respect and integrity were all vitally important for hiring entry-level jobs. A CNBC article listed five top soft skills to get hired; communication was a soft skill among these.

Communication seems easy, and we would all like to think that we do it well, but that is contrary to what perspective employers are saying. We have been told to be prepared, so we choose our words wisely. We try to speak as clearly and concisely as possible, but there is more to communicating than simply writing or speaking well. There is much debate on the amount of nonverbal communication that occurs in a conversation, but we can all agree nonverbal signals are continuously being sent. We each have experienced a conversation where someone’s body language does not match his or her words.

Nonverbal communications are messages sent without speaking such as posture, pitch, eye contact, emotional expression, hand gestures, listening skills and attention, among other traits. Nonverbal communication can make a good or bad impression and could be a determining factor for a job offer. The type of nonverbal communication used should be representative of the message and audience receiving the communication. For example, at an interview or meeting, proper posture and a more serious tone may be necessary for delivering a message. Eye contact is also important, but not too much or it becomes uncomfortable.

The best way to develop nonverbal communication skills is to practice communicating and watch and listen for nonverbal signals being passed throughout the communication. Nonverbal communication can be practiced with a mirror or video tape. Having another person watch and critique nonverbal signals may also be helpful. Whatever method you choose to practice nonverbal communication, it is important to learn and understand the messages being sent without words.

About the Author

Tiffany Underwood, CPA, is an auditor at the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. She can be reached at tiffany.underwood001@gmail.com

Friday, October 12, 2018

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence & Empathizing with your Coworkers

By Kati Uttz, TSCPA Memphis Chapter Student Ambassador

When you think about accounting, what comes to your mind? Number-cruncher? Nerd? Stuck in a cubicle all day? Well listen up folks, because I’m about to break the accounting stereotype for you. If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout my various internships, it’s that people are the true focus of accounting. Yes, you heard me right. Gone are the days that calculators reign as the mascots of accountants. Technology is changing the world, our profession included. With the implementation of bookkeeping software and the rise of automation, the jobs of accountants are shifting. Currently, the fastest growing sector of accounting is advisory. By nature, advisory engagements are driven by accountant-client interaction. Customers are moving away from basic financial services and moving toward consultations that are tailored to their needs. As we all know, human beings aren’t cold and calculated like computers. Nine times out of ten, our decisions are driven by emotion, not reason. This is why building emotional intelligence is so critical for success.

The term emotional intelligence (EQ) describes an individual’s ability to understand one’s own emotions while also empathizing with and responding to the emotions of others. You may be surprised to learn that EQ is now a better indicator of future success than technical skills alone. Yet, our accounting curriculum still focuses primarily on acquiring the technical skills. This can cause those extremely valuable soft skills to slip through the cracks. We are all aware that the number-crunching services are the ones most vulnerable to automation. Which is the exact reason EQ plays a vital role in maintaining a highly successful accounting career.

In today’s world, businesses revolve around emotions. It is important to gain the trust of your clients, and for them to feel like their business is meaningful. We now live in a consumer-focused market, which means that consumers are more likely to repeatedly buy from companies that put the needs of the consumer first. By showing your clients that their business has value, you’ve taken a step towards growing your EQ. You need to be ready to empathize with your clients when they’ve had a bad day. You should be willing and ready to listen to their concerns. You should show understanding when they become frustrated over potential problems. Your reactions in moments like these can make or break your relationship with a client. Learn how to relate your experiences to your customers. Take note of your clients’ motivations and how that influences their goals. Align yourself with them. This can help immensely in your ability to influence and persuade others.

On the other hand, you should strive to be in complete control of your own emotions. Too many times have I seen peers of mine "blow up" in anger when they didn’t see results they wanted. Not only does this leave a bad taste in your employer’s mouth, but you can also say “hasta la vista” to future business with a client that witnessed your emotional outburst. This kind of reaction gives the notion that you do not respect your clients’ time, and you are exhibiting a lack of willpower. Appearance is key in maintaining a strong relationship with your customers. Be certain your personal branding is one the client is willing and wants to trust. Remember that when clients share their financial information with you, they’re putting great faith in your character. Don’t give them reason to doubt that your relationship is anything other than excellent. By building and growing your own EQ, you too can become a master at maintaining relationships.