Beyond Numbers: Essential Soft Skills for Aspiring Finance Managers

Meet Robert. First-time passes, talks like a US GAAP professor and always… acing his appraisals.

Meet Jane. Transferred from client services, keeps putting her hand up for projects and always… in meetings with the CFO.

There’s a promotion available to Manager level and everybody thinks Robert has it. Begrudgingly. He must do, he’s an Accounting genius and has a proven track record in smashing deadlines and meeting targets. He’s a wizard with the ERP system, and keeps his head down all the time, literally. Jane’s by far the underdog… isn’t she?

Leaving aside the superficiality of the above scene, the point it raises for the aspiring finance manager is becoming critically important as businesses continue to create value-add finance functions that drive the achievement of wider business goals. The skills required of today’s finance managers are so much broader and more demanding than ever before, and to make yourself a viable candidate for promotion, there are a number of essential soft skills you must master.

Communication & Commercial Awareness – You can reach a fairly senior point in finance by excelling academically and achieving targets set for you, but what will really set you apart from your peers is the soft skill set you develop around your technical knowledge. Day in and day out, talk to your teammates and your contacts in other departments to develop your communication abilities, develop partnerships and build awareness of commercial initiatives. Be open to training initiatives to improve your presentation, negotiation and conflict management skills. Or to really take it up a notch, and shake off those nerves, join Toastmasters or chance your arm at a few business networking events!

Project Management – Don’t shy away from talking to C-level executives; actively contribute, debate and present your opinion. Take on cross-functional projects and ask for varied tasks. Don’t fret about diluting your experience through project work, it will enrich your career portfolio and provide you with super sought-after skills. Actively identify and pursue opportunities to increase business efficiencies and always maintain a comprehensive awareness of the latest business and economic developments and leading edge thought leadership.

Above all, don’t let yourself become part of the background. Get your walking and talking cap on, get yourself noticed and put yourself firmly forward.

I’ll let you decide who got the job.

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