How to find the best teachers for Finance Business Partners?

Written by on December 29, 2017

If like me you’ve probably had a number of teachers and mentors at different stages of your life and your finance career. And whilst it may be easy to pick a favourite it may be more difficult to figure out who was the best for you or even how to get the best of their knowledge.

Indeed having recently launched a podcast where guest mentors in accounting and finance share their real stories, experiences, and hard won lessons it got me thinking as to who was the best teacher I ever had as a finance business partner and what was the best way to trap their knowledge not only for my benefit but also so I could share it with others.

Then I came across an interesting article in the latest Harvard Business Review where Sydney Finkelstein writes that “The Best Leaders Are Great Teachers” and he makes some useful points as to how we can find the best teachers and best learn from them the necessary knowledge to become better finance business partners. After 10 years of studying leaders in Industry as to what set them apart he found that the best ones put a lot of emphasis on:

“ongoing, intensive one-on-one tutoring of their direct reports, either in person or virtually, in the course of daily work.”

The exceptional leaders were “teachers through and through” and routinely spent time in the trenches with employees, not in a formal capacity but their teaching was organic, flowing out of the tasks at hand which allowed them to pass on the relevant technical skills, general tactics, and not only business principles but also life lessons. They asked relevant questions, led-by-example when dealing with specific real life on-the-job problems that needed solving not only in the office environment but also outside it too.

Falling back on Traditional Ways

According to cognitive psychologies the main benefits of this type of personalised instruction is that it fosters better compliance, improved competence through mastery of necessary skills as well as an independence of thought and action. Like Finkelstein I agree that if these are indeed the benefits of leading with teaching in this way then why do so many of our finance leaders fall back on the more traditional development and management practices such as the formal review, CPD/CPE courses, advising on career plans, and acting as a sounding board to navigate internal organisational politics within the accounting & finance department and the business.

How to Find the Best Teachers

Regardless of the real reasons, if you want to find the best teachers for finance business partners you need to seek out leaders who will:

  • Personalise the lessons to be learned to you;
  • Take your experience beyond your current office environment; and
  • Lead by example but also have real experience of being in the trenches.

And that’s what we’re trying to achieve by building up the Strength in the Numbers podcasts. Given most companies still persist with the less effective traditional training & development approaches, if we just accept this then we’ll never be guaranteed that we’ll get the necessary practical teaching and knowledge that are relevant for our careers and improve our ability to make a bigger impact for our organisations.

So the guest mentors we invite onto the show are amongst the most effective leaders in finance & accounting. They offer lessons from their personal experience that comes from outside your current office environment and are still close enough to the trenches to know what’s going on day-in and day-out to provide relevant simple steps that work and you can replicated on how to avoid common pitfalls they’ve experienced and learnt from.

Naturally not all the mentors on our show may be relevant to you, you can decide for yourself by visiting the detailed show notes with each guest mentor’s bio, how to connect with them, key quotes from the episode, and time stamps of where the various topics were covered.

So check us out at

Tagged as , , , , ,