Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Work Flow: What it says about your communication style

I've discussed communication here before, it's challenges, importance and why we still get it wrong even with all the resources exerted on mastering the task. While we usually link communication to speech and body language, we seem to overlook how it's transmitted through work ethics.

Professional experience has taught me that even when words are not exchanged, you can learn a lot about other's communication proficiency by the work they produce. Even before meeting the person, how their final work product is delivered says a lot about how efficient they are with interpersonal skills.

In my profession, uncertainty is expected. Without much warning, you can have a load of accounts dumped on your desk. Sometimes they come with some instructions, few times they come with training if you're lucky. But for the most part, you're expected to figure things out on your own. And it better be before those month-end deadlines hit. No excuses, mind you.

The expectation is you load the account on your computer and find some sort of pattern going on. You start looking through prior month's and believe there is a methodical or standard approach to making the accounts balance. Of course, you are aware of the deviations; the random expenses that hit the wrong account or accrued at a moment's notice. But if after analyzing an account for a few days and nothing logical is projected from the work flow, there is a communication problem.

As accountants operating in the financial industry, we are obligated to fluently communicate a company's transactions to the public. Mainly because we are agents to the yearly financial statements the public desperately relies on to make investment and career decisions from. Not everyone understands the complexities of corporate activities, and it is our duty to explain them through our final output. Efficient communication, then, plays an even more important role in our field. Because what does it say about a company when it is unable to relate to the public? Not much. In fact, it can potentially turn some of its members away.

The same can be said about our personal work ethics. How is the work we produce interpreted by its receivers? If a colleague or even a manager decides to audit your work, what message are you sending? Chances are, if it's sloppy or incoherent it's not a very positive one. And more likely than not, it's a tragic first impression of your personal communication style. I learned this recently when a few accounts were transferred to my desk. The individual training me was just downright impossible. She couldn't explain the simplest processes, and became defensive when I had questions. Her responses were fleeting and didn't make sense, very much like the way she was managing those accounts.

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