3 Steps to Help Your Accounting and Finance Team Focus on Strategy

By Lenore Goldberg

November 3, 2021
6 min read

As an accounting and finance leader, you have many job expectations resting on your shoulders. You're continuously monitoring, evaluating, and identifying strategic business initiatives while maintaining sound financial records and mitigating various risks. Alongside these departmental duties, you look to prioritize, plan and lead your team through effective communication and continued support and development. With your focus on so many jobs, how can you help your team focus on overall business strategy? When strategies need to be implemented, what tools can you rely on to support your team when rolling out initiatives correctly and successfully?

The three steps identified below can provide you with the tools needed to support your team and give them the ability to focus on strategic initiatives crucial for long-term growth, productivity, and even retention.

Step 1: Strengthen Digital Fluency

The skills that make up a successful finance and accounting team today are strikingly different. According to Gartner, 58% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done. The accounting and finance technologies now available can drastically reduce manual processes that may be soaking up your team's valuable time. That's time they could be spending on helping your business drive strategies that impact the bottom line. Solutions like cloud-based technologies, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning require skillsets not traditionally found in an accounting and finance department.

"It wasn't that long-ago accounting firms were only interested in hiring people with accounting degrees, and nothing more." Says John Weber, Senior Professor & Faculty Chair for the College of Business & Management at DeVry University, "If you didn't have an accounting degree, you had no shot of being hired. But today, your team needs to have more than just accounting skills. Deloitte has even come up with the term 'purple people,' which signifies human capabilities. These 'purple' superpowers have the rare combination of 'blue' business skills and 'red' technical skills. You likely have people with both disciplines on your team, and if you're thinking about the digital nature of accounting today, your goal is to cross-skill them, so they become, as Deloitte puts it, 'purple people.’ The next phase, is a ‘purple team.’ This is a team where digital skills exist across every person, not just with your select ‘purple people."

If building a team of 'purple' superpowers is the ideal goal, then businesses should be prepared to provide their team with upskilling and cross-skilling opportunities to make it happen. Investing in internal teams builds a strong work culture where employees are unafraid of change, innovation, failure, and success. In addition, you can invest in your team and help create an empowered employee workforce by offering flexible educational programs tailored to your team's specific skill needs.

Step 2: Build Strong Relationships

Your team evaluates industry trends and business outcomes, which helps build strategies for teams across the organization. However, those solid interdepartmental relationships typically grow from equally strong relationships among your immediate team. Creating a group of team players can foster an environment of collaboration and support but likely requires specific intention.

You could engage your team in specific team-building activities, which could positively affect team outcomes and relationships. These team-building activities don't necessarily need to be corporate retreats or trust-falls. Focus instead on areas within your team where you can provide meaningful interactions. Offer each individual the opportunity to build up their interpersonal working relationships with various team members and departments they collaborate with regularly. Some tools you might consider using to create stronger relationships on your team are:

  • Open communication

  • Empathy

  • Transparency

  • Truthfulness

  • Celebrating wins

  • Networking opportunities

  • Access to skill development

  • Mentoring opportunities

  • Creating entertaining events

Building up trust and strengthening relationships can foster a sense of belonging and pride within a company and its culture. A supported and valued individual can build confidence within their role and perform better. A happy employee is a more productive employee. Providing your team with these avenues to build up their relationships can put them in a better position to help the team focus on strategic goals and work together to achieve them.

Step 3: Hone Interpersonal Skills

Today, success increasingly depends on innovation, entrepreneurship, and other forms of creativity that rely on skills and less quantifiable capabilities such as critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and collaboration. These interpersonal skills can often be overlooked, but they can significantly impact whether someone succeeds in a leadership role and how they do as a leader. Here are some ways to help hone your teams' interpersonal skills:

  • Practice effective communication and continual feedback

    As a team leader, you likely check in with your team on an annual or semi-annual basis. But that's probably not enough. Positive and constructive feedback should be delivered as close to the events as possible and as regularly as possible, solidifying the input. When looking at your team's strengths and gaps, make sure you're looking at people skills as well. Identify where they could grow and create plans to address those gaps. Lastly, check-in on their progress and give them feedback as you recognize when they've done something well or even when they missed the mark.

  • Source diverse talent

    Today's leading companies are looking for individual team members with various educational backgrounds and experiences to bring diverse viewpoints and skill variety. When you build a team from different backgrounds, they can learn from one another.

  • Find learning opportunities

    Just like in 'Step #1,' you may need to cross-skill or upskill a high performer as it relates to their interpersonal skills. For example, they may have mastered data analytics and connecting them to business outcomes, but their presentation or communication of those findings could land better. That could be an obstacle to their growth as well as the interdepartmental relationships you've worked so hard to build in 'Step #2.'

Never Stop Stepping

While there are more than three steps to help your team focus on strategy, the three steps discussed here are an excellent starting point. To keep your team engaged and motivated, you likely need to strengthen their digital fluency, help them build solid relationships, and hone their interpersonal skills. Stay consistent with these steps and never stop the forward momentum.

According to Deloitte, 74% of organizations say reskilling the workforce is essential or very important for their success over the next 12–18 months. However, only 10% say they are ready to address this trend. For your business to grow and flourish - you must be a part of the 10%. Come prepared to assist and guide your team, and if you continue to provide your team with the tools and support necessary to accomplish the results you want - your business will reap the benefits.

To learn more about how DeVryWorks could help upskill your high performers, contact us today.

About Lenore Goldberg

Lenore Goldberg has been with DeVry University since 2010 and serves as the National Dean of Colleges and Curriculum. As National Dean, ...

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