Leadership / Management | Training & CPE

Soft skills are hard … and required

Class These are radical times for CPAs -- for all businesses, really.

Groundbreaking legislation, unprecedented regulations, shifting demographics, ever-changing technology, an uncertain economy -- they're all conspiring to give us a massive case of corporate indigestion.

Too much is happening too quickly. We need a new set of skills to deal with this mess.

When it comes time to load up on learning, though, many folks keep reaching for the nuts and bolts -- technical skills and tax updates.

They're missing the boat, says Greg Conderacci.

Today's business environment requires more than just technical skills. With so much happening, no one person can know it all. In this environment, "we" are definitely smarter than "me," and working in a "we" world means we have to know how to do more than just our jobs.

And still, too many people are ignoring so-called "soft" skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, negotiation, communication and collaboration. Here's what Greg has to say:

"In 2009, Grant Thornton surveyed more than 500 senior finance executives at U.S. public and private companies about their most pressing challenges. ... The number one answer: 'There are not enough individuals in the market with the necessary soft skills (e.g., critical thinking and problem-solving, negotiation and communication).'

"The Grant Thornton report cites a 2009 Accountemps survey that asked CFOs which factors would aid in the hiring decision between two similarly qualified accounting and finance candidates. Some 31 percent indicated that 'personality or people skills' trump other characteristics, such as technological capabilities or industry specific experience.

"The Grant Thornton report quotes a CFO for a $5 billion company saying, 'Our people can’t just focus on accounting principles. They need to broaden their experience and background knowledge to understand the business application of these principles. Many times, you need critical thinking and business judgment in order to translate data and effectively communicate it externally. Accounting professionals don’t always have both the soft skills and technical expertise.'"

Given the changes we're facing, one without the other just doesn't cut it anymore.

The Business Learning Institute has a huge library of leadership and soft-skills training. The first step, though, is recognizing its importance. Change is the only constant these days. As Tom Hood says, if your ability to learn isn't outpacing the rate of change, you're extinct.

Read Greg's article in its entirety, then tell us: Is your CPE diet rich in soft skills? Or are you starving yourself?


Bill Sheridan