Want to be a great finance leader? Get talking!

As a finance professional, one of the core differentiators between staying at a professional level and becoming a manager, and an executive, will be your level of competence in engaging, communicating and conversing with others.

We all know having the ability to influence, to translate complex financial data into actionable insights and to partner with people across a business is a core skill required of finance professionals, across the spectrum. Yet funnily enough, it’s one of the toughest skills to learn if you’re naturally more introverted or less comfortable in situations where you have to engage frequently with others. And it’s not something you can fake either – but it’s certainly not something to fear.

Celeste Headlee, in her 2016 TED Talk, ’10 ways to have a better conversation’, has some top tips. Here are the ones that are most relevant for you, as an up and coming finance leader:


#1 Be Present

We’re all guilty of multi-tasking. And in today’s world, it’s difficult to sometimes focus on just one thing when notifications are popping up on your wrist, laptop and phone, or your juggling a virtual shopping list of pressing tasks. But if you want to get the most out of a conversation, focus your mind, listen and engage.

#2 Be Prepared to Listen

Don’t go into a conversation with a closed mind. Bulldozing a conversation with your view point isn’t a way to build productive relationships. You may be an expert, but in order to get things done in today’s working dynamics you have to be open to different ideas. Asking opening questions will not only enable you to build rapport, it will give you insight into key issues and pain points your expertise might naturally slot in to. No need for bulldozing.

#3 Don’t let saving face lead you to close off a conversation    

It’s OK to say you don’t know, or you need more information. Shutting down a conversation because you’re out of your depth won’t help anyone – needless to say making your job a lot harder. Being open about gaps in your knowledge base will also make you appear far more authentic and will allow the expertise you do have to shine – because when you say you do know, it carries more weight.

#4 Don’t make it all about you          

Sometimes, sharing similar situations with a person can build rapport and enable improved understanding. However, this can go too far, if used too often. If you’ve ever met anyone who has seen it and done it all before, or takes over the conversation with their ‘I know best’ scenarios you’ll know how off-putting it is, and how it halts meaningful conversation.

#5 Let the control go

You don’t have to own the conversation to get the best outcomes. Structure might come naturally to you, but it’s OK to ‘go with the flow’. Actually, losing the element of control over the questions you ask will enable the conversation to grow more organically, while also allowing you to actually listen and engage with the topics and answers that are arising from your conversation. Don’t fear not having a reply or an expert response – and in fact, these are the interesting problems you really need to be considering.


Above all, don’t see a conversation as a means to a specific end. See the conversation for what it is – an act of engagement and relationship building that will hopefully lead to many more conversations that will inevitably deliver results. Remember, good leadership is the art of delivering outcomes through others.


Read more: https://www.ted.com/talks/celeste_headlee_10_ways_to_have_a_better_conversation/

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