Are you ready for a senior management role? Being the best at what you do isn’t enough; you also need to develop your “soft skills”.
Soft skills could also be defined as people skills. They are often under-appreciated and under-developed by those climbing the ladder in a specialized business – especially one that puts a lot of emphasis on technical proficiency.
Think of how many careers that describes these days. Sure, there are traditionally “technical” jobs in IT, engineering or accountancy, but consider how specialized and technical such fields as law, marketing and healthcare management are these days.
These days, nearly every business demands that senior management have a keen understanding of information strategy, and the latest tools for using data and managing customer relationships.
A Mix of Hard and Soft Skills
Staffing firm Robert Half recently polled chief financial officers to determine what they look for in a candidate for senior management.
Fifty-four percent of the CFOs interviewed for the study said they give equal weight to both specialized and nontechnical, or soft, skills when evaluating candidates for staff-level accounting and finance positions.
When it comes to filling management-level roles, 50 percent of CFOs said that technical and nontechnical skills are of equal importance.
If this is true of a “technical” field like finance, imagine how important this mix is for traditionally more people-oriented fields like sales and marketing?
Robert Half used its survey results to concoct the following tips. We think you could easily substitute the word “finance” for whatever business you’re in:
- Business acumen: Step outside of finance and learn as much as you can about your company’s big-picture objectives and challenges. Ask for cross-departmental assignments and project management opportunities.
- Leadership: Volunteer to take on a new project or fill in for a manager. These are experiences that can help you develop your leadership skills and prove you’re ready for more responsibilities.
- Communication: Hone your ability to tell the story behind the numbers in an easy-to-digest manner, particularly for audiences unfamiliar with financial principles. Take every opportunity to develop your written, oral and visual communication skills.
- Relationship building: Foster genuine relationships with other professionals in your company — long before you need help from these contacts. One way to start is to invite them for coffee to discuss how you can help them with their priorities and challenges.
- Intellectual curiosity: Pursue training offered by your company as well as external learning opportunities. Earning a professional certification is another way to stay on top of industry trends.
If a role in senior management is your career goal, you do well to follow this advice.