Why accountants need to be more confident

Sep 20, 2012 | STANDING OUT

The ACCA published a new research report in August 2012 entitled ‘Closing the Value Gap’. This explores the role of accountants today and in the future. A couple of statements in the Executive Summary caught my eye as they provide a new take on the issue I have been focusing on recently; that too many people think accountants are boring. Remember, Boring Is Optional!

The Executive Summary notes that:

“Old-fashioned images of what it is to be an accountant, such as the classic bean-counter stereotype, can be at odds with the changing landscape and the rapidly evolving trend towards greater specialisation.”

This is followed by a quote from Richard Sexton, executive board member for reputation and policy at PwC.

‘It’s important for us to come out of the shadows into the daylight and use that as an opportunity to better explain what we do, how we do it and the value we generate. There will be some challenging conversations. But it’s important that you’re confident enough to talk about what you do, why you do it and why it’s important.’

This issue of confidence is important. Too often accountants seem almost apologetic when answering the question, ‘What do you do?’  If you can’t be proud of your professional qualification and confident in the value of the role you play, how can you expect clients, friends, family and other third-parties to hold you in high esteem?

Important caveat. There is an enormous difference between confidence and arrogance. Arrogance is not a positive quality. Those who are arrogant often seem to be looking down on others. Arrogant accountants are rarely liked or admired by anyone.  If your confidence makes other people feel insulted, whether you intended this or not, you will be considered arrogant.

I like the suggestion that ‘confidence is arrogance under control’.  A confident accountant uses their talents to genuinely try to be of use, or to succeed at the task at hand.  Such an approach makes them likeable, admirable and interesting. And that’s much better than being thought of as Arrogant or as Boring, wouldn’t you agree?

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