It has been a few years since the movie the ‘Sixth Sense’ hit theatres. It was a great movie and showcased Bruce Willis in a way we rarely see him. It’s about a little boy who has the ability to see dead people. His mother, obviously concerned about him, takes him to Bruce Willis, a therapist. See the movie. And don’t let anyone reveal the shocking end until you’ve seen it.
But what has the movie and the title of this post have to do with you as a controller? This is a theme I’ve touched on in earlier posts and I will come back to often. You could be the smartest accountant out there. Maybe you passed the C.P.A. exam on the first pass. (I didn’t). But none of that is going to make you good at your job if you do not have people skills. Sales Managers are usually promoted because they were great sales people. Does this mean they know how to manage people? Very often, that is not the case. And accountants, just the same, who excel in accounting are promoted to Controller and Assistant Controller positions. They foolishly believe that their new position is just about accounting.
As a Controller, just as a Sales Manager, getting promoted doesn’t necessarily mean you have the people skills set necessary to achieve your company’s objectives. It takes a sixth sense to know if there is trouble brewing on your accounting and finance team. Even if you spend long hours at the office (that’s a post for another day) if you lock yourself up in your office, you end up smothering out the small flame of information that might reach you in time to do something about it. CASE IN POINT…..
- We had a great clerical/administrative employee. She was always on time, did her job well, and didn’t involve herself in the daily office drama. I learned that she was unhappy and was interviewing for another job. I knew that she seemed unhappy and I asked someone on our staff that was close to her if there was a problem. I set up a meeting with the employee. Her unhappiness was caused by a few things that were easily fixable. When I left the company, she was still there.
More importantly, a sixth sense is really the ability to see things others don’t. Are you good at getting to the root cause of a problem. Can you problem solve at all? Have you noticed how long it takes to mail out end of month statements? Maybe it is taking two people to fold and stamp them. Is there a better way? How many customers would prefer to receive an e-statement? Did you know there are companies out there that you can outsource this to? What if someone says in a meeting how long it is taking him to calculate all the finance charges? That should raise a HUGE red flag.
How else can I define ‘sixth sense’? We can call it other things……………perceptive? extra sensory perception (esp), intuitive? And if you have none of these abilities…………….ask yourself this?
- Am I on the ‘grapevine’ (do colleagues and staff members confide in you?)
- Do I know the names of my employees’ spouses and children?
- Am I interested at all in making my staff’s and other employees jobs easier? More productive? More efficient? (You recently told someone that six year old p.c. should be just fine and they will have to put up with how slow it is – you get an ‘F’)
- You are a micro-manager which means you don’t trust the employee to do the job right.
- Is your way the only way because you are the boss?
- Do you refuse to share information with your employees that would give them a better understanding of what is going on in the company? Information that is not confidential………….information that other managers may be sharing with their staff?
If any of these describe any of your behaviors as a Controller, I urge you to see yourself as a resource person, not the Commanding General. Those ‘Commanding Generals’ cost companies a lot of good employees. You know, the really smart and independent thinking staff members. They will move on just as soon as they can rather than stay and squander better opportunities working for better people.