(Aspects of this blog post originally appeared in a partner blog post featured by FloQast.) 

AI and automation have been the biggest topics among professionals in finance and accounting over the past year or two. Regardless of the technology at our fingertips, soft skills will always be critical to the success of any business. And finance and accounting aren’t any different.

Here are three soft skills controllers and accounting teams must retain and continue honing throughout their careers.

  • Practicing emotional intelligence
  • Following the 212-degree philosophy
  • Remaining committed to mentorship.

These will never become obsolete. These skills can inspire personal and team confidence while strengthening relationships with customers and valued partners.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) means reading a room or situation and reacting with empathy. It also means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

This soft skill helps build stronger relationships with others and can create a faster path toward mutually beneficial outcomes.

Some people were born with this ability, while others must develop it over time. Possessing high EI can be a differentiator with your internal team, customers, and partners.

One of the most reliable ways to enhance your EI is by learning to remove your ego from the equation. This can be challenging, but it will help you to focus on accomplishing goals or benchmarks set by the customer or your team. This can demonstrate your commitment to the team and your project. It may also inspire others to follow your lead.

Removing ego can also make you more adaptable when working with different personalities or under contrasting management styles. Maintaining focus on the current task and working toward common objectives regardless of the situation will yield tremendous benefits throughout your career.

Active listening is another method for improving EI, and it can be essential for relationship building with customers and your internal team. How can you do this?

During meetings or one-on-one interactions, work on spending more time listening and asking thoughtful questions than talking. Listen and digest the information to understand the other person’s perspective, inspiration, and logical progression.

Face-to-face time is important for remote work arrangements too. This means being on camera during video calls.

You might not be physically in their presence, but being on camera during video calls will help humanize you. Plus, both of you will be able to better interpret the physical cues of the other person.

Body language is a large part of communication and seeing the other person can provide a more comprehensive understanding of their perspective and intent.

It seems easy, but it takes practice.

With customers, this approach can establish your position as a trusted advisor and confidant rather than just another vendor. You will gain a holistic understanding of their processes and needs so your company can provide better, more personalized service. This will help your company stay top of mind for future projects and may present opportunities for higher margin fees.

The same applies to your work within your team. You’ll understand the motivations, expectations, and roles of team members so you can all work together more cohesively. It could create new opportunities for you, as well.

Some companies offer a “rules of the road” handbook or document that includes these elements to help establish and guide company core values.

212-Degree Philosophy Helps Develop Soft Skills

The premise of the 212-degree philosophy, developed by best-selling author Sam Parker, is based on the temperature of boiling water. At 211 degrees Fahrenheit, the water is hot but motionless, and nothing is happening.

Raising the temperature one degree to 212 causes the water to boil, creating steam, which can power an engine for a train. This philosophy has been adopted by businesses, sports franchises, and organizations globally.

With one more degree of effort, you have the power to make big things happen. And if your entire team follows this philosophy, it can result in positive momentum for the entire company.

It sounds simple, but it can be incredibly impactful in many ways.

Think about different scenarios throughout your career where a little extra effort paid off…

Maybe you sent a quick follow-up email to a new customer after your onboarding meeting, and this opened the door for an additional project next quarter. Little gestures or soft skills like these can make a positive difference at micro and macro levels.

Commitment to Mentorship

In essence, mentorship is when you offer advice and share personal anecdotes to a receptive person (mentee) who is typically younger and/or in a junior role to the mentor. Mentors can also serve as a sounding board for ideas or approaches to situations during which the mentee might be inexperienced.

There will also likely be opportunities where mentors will learn from mentees, and that is an added benefit of mentor-mentee relationships. This is known as cross-mentorship or cross-company mentorship.

For instance, a controller with 25 years of experience could offer industry best practices in exchange for a newly minted CPA’s tips and tricks with accounting software or plugins recently adopted by their company.

Starting this process can be tricky because unwelcome advice can be annoying.

Offer to take them for coffee or lunch so you can learn about their professional aspirations and experiences within their team and the company. From there, the mentor-mentee relationship will grow.

Establishing the practice of mentorship will improve the cohesiveness of your company, and it will create a culture of paying it forward. It is a reinvestment in individuals and in your company simultaneously.

You never know the positive impact you can have on someone and what opportunities can open up later in your career. Plus, developing and promoting talent from within is ideal.

And, if your company’s mentorship efforts are proven successful, then high-quality job candidates could start lining up at your door.

About SuiteCentric

These are soft skills we practice. As NetSuite consultants, we exercise emotional intelligence in our work with customers on NetSuite implementations, development, and customizations.

We also do our best to apply the 212-degree philosophy, and our culture of mentorship is critical for the morale and development of our junior staff.

Please visit the About Us page to learn more about our company, and contact us to see how we can help you get the most out of NetSuite.