How to help others adopt a Finance Business Partnering mindset

Written by on February 17, 2018

Previously on our Strength in the Numbers Show I’ve discussed and covered the two megatrends in accounting & finance, digitisation and finance business partnering and why it’s important for us to understand the impact of these on traditional accounting & finance, but how do we help others see the importance of these, let alone help them change?

This was one of the questions that one of our listeners messaged me with, the Finance team where they worked were “quite pedestrian” and “100% focussed on current results, not the future or business partnering”. And this fellow listener wanted to know how to:

“. . . champion within my company improving the Finance team so that the core skills needed for the next 10-20 years are being learnt (data visualisation, business partnering, not being scared by automation/AI etc). And this seems to be what you’re about?”

I’m definitely all for skills, I mean why did so many of us train in accounting & finance, there’s many useful ones we can learn that can help our businesses today, and more we can learn and develop to help them tomorrow. However finance business partnering starts with a mindset shift, I mean it’s really:

“A choice we make  towards more regularly considering how can we better serve our external and internal customers.”

That’s not to say skill development is not important, it is, I’m just saying that if you’ve the right finance business partnering mindset first so that you’ll then develop the right, necessary skills that help you contribute insights; build influence and deliver your efforts with impact and in ways that add value for your customers & partners.

Auto-pilot vs. Always Thinking

And most people, rather than consider and think about what this choice means, instead jump straight into skills development potentially wasting time on skills that may not be very useful to helping add value to their customers. And this is only natural most people act instead of think and the thing is when we’re expecting others around us to shift their mindset, it’s first got to be a choice they need to make. And the bigger the decision to be made, well the more that their emotions will become involved. So what we may think from our viewpoint is the rational, straightforward choice may not be that way for others who seem more pedestrian or even what others (more emotionally driven) continue to choose to do.

So if you think about it, it’s been well documented that as human beings we operate most of our days on auto-pilot, not using the rational thinking parts of our brains, and that’s where it’s easy to get frustrated if others move at a different pace and can’t switch up gears, so to say.

Accessing our Emotional Mind

So any first step we want to take to help others in Finance who might be more “pedestrian” to consider the choices available such as adopting a finance business partnering mindset is to access their emotional minds first. And to do this we must seek to understand them, to establish rapport, credibility and ultimately trust. One way of accessing emotions is to tell stories, as people tend to more easily put themselves into the stories they play vividly on the big movie screens in their minds, and one of my favourite stories is the “Parable  of The Boiled Frog” (prior article link) to bring up the scenario that it’s important to have a mindset considering what’s going on around us.

Then linking this back to our profession, what happened to all those people in the Finance team who entered supplier invoices into the purchase ledger, they thought they were doing a great job but then were replaced by scanners, file imaging and workflow robotics who can do the work more accurately, efficiently and 24×7 for the same internal customers. Or even the Finance team recently at Blockbusters, probably managing their internal processes very well but not holding the mirror up to their businesses about what external customers really wanted from them. Both didn’t have the right customer-oriented mindsets.

Getting Numbers Right vs. Getting Numbers to Get Right

You could argue what role does Finance play in business, you might even suggest what we’re responsible for is simply getting the numbers right, which is probably what the purchase ledger and Blockbuster finance teams thought was going on, rather than being aware of:

“what do we need to be doing right for our customers so that that we ensure there are any numbers to get right in the first place.”

How can we help improve the business around us so that it is growing more sustainably & profitably, drive and support our partners in the right way, and that’s were a finance business partnering mindset comes in. Ultimately once we’ve opened people’s minds up to being aware that there’s a choice to be made, then we can use a logical levels approach (prior article link) to help them begin to choose how best to improve and move in a better direction for themselves and the business.

Be Patient

And that’s why I spend a lot of time studying how the mind works best so that I can help other colleagues find their own ways to a more finance business partnering mindset. This stuff doesn’t get taught in our accounting & finance studies which teach us to be more rational & logical than empathetic & understanding. So this process requires patience and will be worth it as our colleagues and customers will benefit from such a shift in mindset.

So how would you recommend to a fellow listener to help their colleagues adopt a finance business partnering mindset? Or what steps would you take yourself?


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