In every corporate office, we pass through the halls and usually find that the department with less interaction, longer hours and lower engagement is the finance and accounting (F&A) department. We tend to hear the outdated clichés of “it comes with the job” and “accounting will always be mundane.” Well, based on my professional experience, I can tell you that it is neither.
It takes time to build a successful team, but when you keep working at being a fully engaged leader, you take others with you. As a financial leader, you need to ensure your F&A department does not turn into an airplane with autopilots filling your seats. I believe this is truly a recipe for disaster but one that you can intercept by adopting some simple practices. Over the years, I have mastered five simple ways to make a significant change within the teams I have led.
- Welcome customer service.
Coach your team to be a successful F&A department that provides quality customer service, both internally and externally. We have evolved into the problem-solvers, the researchers and the gatekeepers of everyone’s assets. We see all confidential information and are the trusted agents to resolve any issues that stop us from conducting business. Therefore, I recommend mentoring your team to become the ambassadors of your company and their talent. I believe they must truly become business partners with cross-functional departments and teach others to understand how their role and actions impact the company’s financial statements.
- Challenge the mind and put up an inspirational whiteboard.
Foster a dynamic of thinkers in your department. Put up an inspirational whiteboard and share your thoughts or quotes for the week. Invite team members to read your whiteboard, invite them to think and inspire them to aim to become better versions of themselves through simple conversation. Eventually, you create an open door for engagement and soon they will be sharing their own quotes of the week on your board. This creates both a professional and honest way to engage with your team.
- Take their seat.
I have also learned there is nothing more comforting to a team member than having their leader understand their job. If you want to enhance your team, take their seat! Shadow your team members and learn how they are doing their job, how long it takes them to complete their core tasks and what challenges they are currently facing. Two important values can come out of these sessions: You learn their function and their challenges to improve or accommodate them or you learn if they are not the right person for the job at hand.
There are times when we as leaders cannot spare our time to conduct these types of shadow sessions. If this is the case for you, then have your team conduct swap sessions. You will, in turn, implement cross-functional training while gaining a different perspective from another team member concerning other areas within the department. Challenge them to find smarter and quicker ways of working through this approach.
Another added bonus to this practice is that you can request that team members document their cross-training, and these scripts can be converted into material you can review for process enhancements or to commence the compilation of work reference manuals for each function. What better way to plan and cover for any unforeseen absences?
- Challenge employees to write down and elaborate on ideas.
When you challenge an employee to write down and elaborate on their ideas, you are helping them become thinkers and entrepreneurs based on their own thoughts and offering them the encouragement to take ownership of these ideas. This helps them develop a sense of confidence and intrigues them to think outside the box. In my experience, the more you support and work through their ideas, the more involved they get. Offer them the visibility they deserve and you will foster a group of proactive superstars in your hands. Those who fall to the side and do not step up to the challenge become just that: outliers.
- Reward completion of an on-time, in-full, free-of-error month-end close.
To make things fun and rewarding, pass out some kudos after a successful, on-time month-end close. It is easy to forget all the intricacies that fall within a month-end close. A successful team respects department workflow and collaborates to close on time, in full and free of error. As financial leaders, I believe we have to remember that this is no easy task and that we should praise our teams. Take the time to host a quick 15-minute gathering to announce some department wins for the month, raffle a gift card or offer a team lunch or any other small perk that can bring on a smile. Make your department a rewarding place to work.
Overall, implementing these five simple practices can strike a gradual upright change within your department. The finance and accounting function is the backbone of every corporate office, so nourish your team.
Source: Geanette Rodriguez* – Forbes
* Vice President of Finance at ARRI Rental US with 20 years of F&A experience and a proven track record of building highly efficient teams