Communications: Methods and Applications for Financial Managers
Improving communication is one of the most important – and challenging – issues that management accountants face. In a global survey of CFOs, Ernst & Young said: “Despite two thirds of respondents saying that increasingly they act as the public face of the organisation, most point to communication and influencing as the most important area for improvement.”
In this publication you will learn:
- How do management accountants know if they are effectively communicating?
- What are the most effective techniques for improving their communication skills?
This book is specifically designed to meet the needs and interests of management accountants. It draws on interviews with finance professionals at every level of corporate accounting, as well as with communication consultants, executive recruiters and educators. It looks at how management accountants communicate inside and outside their organisations, identifies best practices, and gives hands-on strategies that accountants can use right away.
Readers will discover how to:
- Move their current communication skills to a higher level.
- Recognise the importance of communication within the context of their financial manager function.
- Understand the right way to deliver bad news and resolve conflicts.
- Manage the impact of new technologies on traditional communication channels.
- Develop the skills to use active listening as the foundation for positive communication tactics.
About the Author: James Carberry is the principal of Carberry Communications, a business writing and editing service based in Portland, Oregon. He has been a corporate writer and editor, a business writer based in Singapore, and, for ten years, a staff reporter of The Wall Street Journal. Before joining the Journal, he was a reporter for newspapers in Berkeley and Riverside, California. Carberry is the co-author, with Stan Ross, of The Inside Track to Careers in Accounting, published by the AICPA.
As a management accountant, you will attend and host many meetings throughout your career. Meetings can be time consuming. But if they produce results, the time was well spent. So if you’re organising a meeting, how can you ensure that you and the other participants will get the most value from it? The following list offers some tips on what to do before, during, and after hosting a successful meeting:
- Have a purpose. Do you want advice or a decision from meeting participants? Help in framing a problem and defining a solution? Be clear in your own mind about your purpose, and then you can decide whether a meeting is the best way to accomplish your goal.
- Consider alternatives. Do you have to meet? Maybe you could accomplish your goal more easily and efficiently by communicating with others by phone, e-mail, a memo or letter, or speaking to them individually. If you simply want to provide information, a meeting may not be necessary. Instead, you could send a memo or report to those would have attended. If you need a consensus on a course of action, then a meeting may be necessary.
- Choose appropriate attendees. Who really needs to attend the meeting? How can they contribute? Some participants may have special expertise in the topic under discussion. Others may be enablers, such as senior managers who have the power to move ideas forward. Some with excellent analytical skills may help to crystallise thinking about a question or issue.
- Preview. A day or two before the meeting, inform the participants of its purpose, the agenda, who is responsible for presenting items on the agenda, the time allotted for discussion of each agenda item, and the expected outcome. To encourage participation, consider giving every participant an assignment, for example, several participants might collaborate on addressing a topic, and select someone to do the presentation. Ask the participants to prepare for the meeting, for example, by reading background material you provide or offering topical suggestions.
- Pick the venue. Check the meeting room to make sure it is clean, comfortable and conducive to a meeting. Arrange for food and refreshments as appropriate, eg, if the meeting is expected to run several hours or during lunch.
- Keep a record. Arrange for someone to take notes at the meeting. Have them prepare a summary of key points discussed and follow-up responsibilities. Use this information to prepare a meeting report for participants and other interested parties.
- Start on time. Start on time regardless of whether everyone is present. If someone arrives late, you can tell them what they missed after the meeting is over. If someone cannot attend but should, let them know that decisions may be made without them. Then, they can decide whether it’s more important to them to attend the meeting or attend to something else. Incidentally, if you consistently start on time, participants will know that they won’t waste time waiting for the meeting to start, and they are more likely to show up on time.
- Stay focused. At the start of the meeting, briefly review the agenda, who will speak on a topic, and the expected results of the meeting. Concentrate on getting through the agenda on schedule. You might ask someone to be a timekeeper. If someone wants to discuss something that wasn’t on the agenda, thank them for the suggestion, but note that there isn’t time for a discussion. Ask the group if the topic can be discussed at another meeting or later by e-mail or phone.
- Be clear and succinct. Speak succinctly and to the point. Be clear in your statements. If someone starts to ramble or is confusing, try to help them focus by asking questions or politely restating what they said.
- Encourage participation. Encourage open, constructive discussion and debate. Try to get everyone involved. If someone is holding back, ask them questions to draw out their thoughts. If someone asks you a question, paraphrase and repeat the question before answering. This shows you want to be sure you understand the question. Thank people for their comments, ideas and insights.
- Engage everyone. While speaking, look around the room or conference table, maintain eye contact, and engage everyone. If someone asks you a question, don’t stay focused on them. Address everyone else.
- Listen. Use your listening skills. Listen to other people, and try to understand their point of view. Be attuned to their expectations and concerns. Don’t dismiss their ideas outright. Hear them out, even if you disagree with them. If everyone feels like they’ve been heard, you are more likely to reach a consensus on a course of action.
- Pay attention to your body language. Your facial expression, posture and other body language communicate your feelings more powerfully than what you’re saying (refer to the discussion of body language and metacommunication in chapter 3). If you’re angry, participants will realise this even if you’re speaking in an even tone. If you’re happy, they’ll know. Pay attention to your body language and the non-verbal signals you’re communicating.
- Finish on time. If you are disciplined about keeping the meeting on schedule, and participants are cooperating, the meeting will finish on time. Participants will appreciate this, and they will be more comfortable knowing that your meetings will run on time and not waste their time.
- Follow up. At the close of the meeting, summarise what was discussed. Get the agreement of the participants on follow-up actions to be taken, the deadlines, and who is responsible. Ask the participants for feedback on the meeting itself. Was it run efficiently? Did they feel like they were actively participating? Did they have the chance to express their opinions?
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