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.