Traditionally accounting & finance professionals have been very much tasked to prepare & report the numbers, and analyse the KPIs, but some of them, the most effective ones, have realised that possessing this key ‘human’ quality allows them to make an even bigger difference in today’s digital age.
What’s this key quality? They are authentic or to put it in terms of what they do, they create authentic connections with others.
I’d like to share a story of one of my former mentees, she’s an accounting & finance analyst in her mid-twenties, recently qualified and who has as her personal project over the next two years to get promoted to manager by leveraging her understanding of the numbers to drive more value for her business partners. Her nature tends to mean that she’s cautious, perhaps a bit introverted and shys away from people. Her upbringing from home, her family life and her schooling did not put much value on females being leaders, so if she’s going to achieve her goals she’s going to have to override part of who she is. But she’s worried that in so doing doesn’t that make her less authentic?
Let’s help answer this question by looking at what it means to be authentic.
What does being Authentic Mean?View Post
Most people say that being Authentic is about being “true to yourself,” but then when you ask them how do you know if you’re being true to yourself they struggle with giving you an appropriate framework to answer the question. The best guide I’ve seen and come across is Brian Little’s recent book “Who Are You, Really?” where he identifies the 3 subtleties of being authentic:
- Biogenic authenticity: Your first nature determined by the genes you’re born with.
- Sociogenic authenticity: Influenced by how you’ve been nurtured and programmed to behave in certain cultural environments.
- Idiogenic authenticity: Which arises from your personal projects & singular claims in your life which may conflict with the other two.
So is our mentee from above being authentic or not? Well I’d suggest by choosing to put her personal project first she’s being very authentic and she’s still being true to herself. Yes, she does have other sides to her, like we all do, and if she didn’t have this project it would simply mean that she’d be defaulting back to either her natural (biogenic) or nurtured (sociogenic) authenticity.
Ultimately the key to being authentic is being aware of what type you’re tending towards, because once you have this insight it’s easier to then figure out how to being reaping the benefits from being authentic.
Why does being authentic matter?
The benefits of being authentic don’t just have positive personal impact, but are highly conducive to being successful in our accounting & finance careers. They allow us to:
- Build Trust: Our bread & butter in accounting in finance is to sign off on the numbers, guarding that trust and making sure our basics are sound. However we can sometimes forget how powerful it can be to be more transparent about who & what we are to build trust & make authentic connections with others. In finance we’re generally perceived to have a reputation for integrity and following through on the promises we make, so why not leverage this?
- Drive Change Ideas & Innovation: In our flattening hierarchies, it’s more important than ever to be able to influence others who don’t report to us. Understanding what makes others tick, their agendas, which they’ll generally share if we’re transparent about ours allows us to drive change, ideas & innovation by aligning their agendas with ours. Moving together is more effective than moving alone.
- Create Better Experience: Studies conducted by Ernst & Young on their finance & accounting engagement teams globally show where employees rate highly their ability “to be fully themselves” in their work environment actually experience greater client satisfaction ratings and stronger client retention.
- Live Healthier & Longer: Research by Barb Fredrickson shows that our capacity for experiencing authentic connections is linked to our health and longevity as it builds the strength of our vagus nerve, a central component of a person’s social-engagement system.
How can I Be More Authentic?
So given that being authentic has so many benefits how can we go about connecting more authentically with others. First is to understand yourself & what you truly value, which may resonate with your personal projects, how you were nurtured or even your nature.
“The more connected we are to ourselves, the better we can connect to others, and achieve more of what we want.”
Second, should we ever care to look up from our number-filled spreadsheets there’s a whole other world of other people out there who have the potential to come together and raise the bar on their own performance and also of those around them. Knowing ourselves better creates a platform from which we can create purposeful and authentic connections with others by using our technical skills to formulate insights from the numbers that align with the common projects and interests of others, so that we can work on them together.
“Good accounting & finance professionals connect the right dots, the best ones also connect with the right people.”
Today, the best accounting & finance professionals have realised that given we’re spending so much of our waking weeks at work or in the office we might as well create an environment that resonates with not only ourselves but those around us too. They do this by establishing authentic connections, by coming out from behind their desks into their businesses, talking, listening and understanding the ‘wants’ of their key stakeholders, influencing & partnering with them, delivering the outcomes genuinely aligned to their values and adding even more value to their business.
And the finance teams that will thrive in this digital age are not only embracing what the latest technologies have to offer in developing better insights to support decision making, but even more importantly:
“ . . . they’re doing the most human of activities: building authentic connections with others.”
In what ways are you building authentic connections with others? Let’s all contribute to make this another resource for other aspiring finance business partners so please like or add your comments below.