Ron Rael
Ron Rael

What CPAs Can Learn From Smokey the Bear

Are you a controller, CFO or finance director who is so busy fighting fires that you canít devote time to prevent them? Valuable tools show you how to be a solution provider.

August 2, 2010
by Ron Rael, CPA

* (This is an excerpt from the CPE self-study, Advanced Controller and CFO Skills and is available for purchase on the CPA2Biz website.)

It is amazing to me how we accountants and CPAs recognize that we must grow our skills and knowledge, yet we shy away from taking courses on personal development! Here’s how to help you grow out of your job. You do this by developing and enhancing your skills through practice and application of new tools. Make sure that one of the things you commit to from this day forward is to see yourself as a lifelong learner. Self-development is one of the greatest strengths that the Key Financial Strategist adopts as a personal mission. Are you ready to make that commitment?

Self-Assessment #5: Can You Use Objective Questioning?

Listen to (or read) each scenario below. Think of specific questions that will lead you to determine what each situation is about.

You can ask the facilitator only questions that can be answered “yes” or “no.” Your goal is to determine what is happening by asking precise questions and listening carefully to other people’s questions.

  1. Dick and Jane find Ted and Sue dead on the floor. Around Ted and Sue is a puddle of water. What is the situation?
  2. John is afraid to go home because another man with a mask on, named Bob, is waiting there. Why is John afraid and what is Bob holding?
Tom walks into the bar and asks for a glass of water. Fred, the barman, swiftly pulls out a handgun and points it at Tom. Tom smiles, says “thank you,” and leaves. What is the situation and what is Tom grateful for?

KFS Lesson: You will solve more problems by asking questions and listening objectively to each answer than you ever will by telling people what you know.

Lessons From This Self-Test

We accountants tend to want to go directly to the solution — it is one of our endearing yet undermining qualities. This humorous self-test is designed to show you that it takes patience and objective reasoning to be able to uncover the real story. The rest of this chapter gives you the tools to help you become a better investigator of the truth behind the problem.

How to Be an Effective Problem Solver

Whenever wearing the hat of solution creator, keep in mind:

  • The KFS's initial goal is to uncover the person’s pain.
  • The KFS’s ultimate goal is to build a relationship of trust.
  • The KFS treats each person as a client in order to maintain a professional approach to problem solving.
  • The KFS’s professional demeanor helps him to find realistic and innovative solutions for the client.
  • The KFS’s professional demeanor helps build a relationship of trust with those who rely on the KFS’s acumen and insight.
  • The KFS strives to be an equal partner with the other person because a partnership means that each party is invested in the relationship.
  • The person rarely knows what the source of their pain is because they are too close to the action to see things objectively. This is where the KFS becomes invaluable.

Your most valuable tools for uncovering the client’s pain are:

  • GAP Analysis (covered in Chapter 4).
  • Probing questions.
  • Problem restatement.

Their Pain

When discussing their pain, it refers to the fact that your firm’s executives, managers and employees have problems that are not getting resolved. As the Controller, you are the logical choice and most qualified person they rely on to help them get rid of their pain. You understand how the business operates, you understand how the finances work and you (hopefully) understand the key players (i.e., decision-makers and what makes them tick). One of the most rewarding aspects of the job of the KFS is to be regarded as the resource that employees think of first when they need a solution.

This does not mean that your coworkers and colleagues will get answers from you. What you will do best is employ your tools to help them find their own solutions. The last thing you want is to place yourself in a position where you cannot get your own work done because you are always solving everyone else’s problems.

An effective way to get out of this career-limiting situation is to see yourself as a consultant to others in the organization. A good consultant best serves their client when they enable the client to arrive at their own solution to a problem that instills accountability in them. In order to do this effectively, you must ensure that others trust you.

* (This is an excerpt from the CPE self-study, Advanced Controller and CFO Skills and is available for purchase on the CPA2Biz website.)

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Ron Rael, CPA, is a leadership coach and an award-winning speaker and facilitator who uses advanced learning techniques to deliver measurable, bottom-line results. His highly customized High Road training systems shape existing and emerging leaders. As a coach to individuals, Rael strikes a balance between encouragement and accountability, assisting the emerging leader to write and implement a personal action plan for growth and improvement. He has personally trained thousands of leaders and business professionals throughout the United States and Canada.