The Importance Of Emotional Intelligence For Accountants
While it’s exciting to be living during this time of ever-growing technological advancements, the development of various programs and applications, and tech stacks that help accountants to do our work as quickly and productively as we can, we’re also on the edge of these advancements replacing us in many ways. As automation increases, the need for accountants to be able to do things that technology can’t yet do, is going to be incredibly important.
While technology can do the manual accounting work that many accountants have built their careers and businesses on, thankfully there are some important qualities that humans possess more than computers – creativity, adaptability, problem-solving, and most importantly, emotional intelligence, also known as EQ. Although our industry was warned years ago about the need to tap into the skill set of emotional intelligence, most practitioners and educational programs ignored the warnings.
For example, back in 2016, the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs” report told us that emotional intelligence would be one of the top 10 job skills in 2020. I don’t know about you, but I have rarely seen any CPE classes teaching accountants this important skill, and unfortunately, most of the accountants I’ve spoken to over the years would scoff at emotional intelligence as a “soft skill”.
Also, as the world has gotten smaller and we can use technology to connect with people from every corner of the globe simultaneously, we’ve also gotten used to a lack of “touch”. Even before the pandemic and the physical restrictions we’ve all had to adhere to for our safety and wellness, we have been gradually disconnecting in one way or another, using technology and social media to create a false sense of connection.
Now we’re half way through 2021, and heading towards a big wake up call if we don’t start to pay attention to how the lightning speed at which technology is advancing, is going to require us to change our beliefs about what it takes to be the best accountants we can be. Not only is emotional intelligence good for business, but it’s also an incredibly important skill in our personal lives as well.
The truth is that emotional intelligence isn’t only crucial for you as an accountant, but it’s also something you will want to master as a mother. As a parent, your influence on your children’s emotional intelligence is huge, which is why it’s so important to raise your own EQ, allowing your power of example and teaching, to positively affect your children and their future.
Unfortunately, while most accountants are highly intelligent, often using our IQ as a badge of honor, that’s no longer going to be enough because no matter what your IQ, CPA exam results, or years of experience, computers will beat most of your analytical skills most of the time. If not now, then very soon.
So what can you do to make sure you insulate your career, your future goals, and also give your children a head start as they eventually have their own careers in this high tech world? My answer is to be open to learning more about emotional intelligence and how you can apply it in both your professional and personal life.
This week I’m going to discuss what emotional intelligence actually is and how to improve your emotional intelligence.
What emotional intelligence actually is
When it comes to accountants, I’m going to bet that most of you would say that you chose to study accounting as a career because you were good at math, you saw it as a good career path, and you like solving problems. I’m also going to bet that most of you did not go into accounting wanting to learn more about managing your emotions and how to understand other people’s emotions as well.
But here’s the thing – emotional intelligence, which is the measure of someone’s ability to identify, use, understand and manage the emotions of themselves and others in a positive way, should be addressed if you want to continue to have a thriving accounting career. Basically emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize emotions in yourself and others, and to regulate your own emotions.
Now I can see you shrugging your shoulders wondering why this is important for an accountant to know, probably believing that interpreting emotions is a therapist’s job, not an accountant’s. While that seems to make sense, I want you to stay tuned to the end because this belief, that managing emotions isn’t important in accounting, is something you may want to take a look at and be open to learning how to shift.
Interestingly, emotional intelligence isn’t a new term; it was actually introduced in the 1970’s, gaining widespread attention with the 1995 book “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman. This topic was so important that Time magazine ran a cover story on its importance titled “What’s Your EQ?”, stating that emotional intelligence may be the best predictor of success in life, redefining what it means to be smart.
Since the introduction of the concept of emotional intelligence, numerous studies have been done, pointing to the fact that EQ is becoming a better predictor of professional success than someone’s IQ. Some of the results of those studies show that:
- Emotional intelligence is becoming a stronger predictor of academic performance than IQ
- A child’s ability to recognize, understand, label, express and regulate their emotions directly affects their social competence, adaptation and academic success
- Emotional intelligence is responsible for 58% of your job performance
- 90% of all top performers have a very high emotional intelligence
- People with high emotional intelligence make on average $29,000 more annually than their counterpart
- There is a significant statistical correlation between emotional intelligence and leadership effectiveness
- In 2015, Grant Thornton UK presented the results of a five-year organizational transformation in which EQ was built into its leadership training, resulting in a 35% revenue increase and a 16% uplift in client satisfaction
- Partners at a large US public accounting firm found that those with significant strengths in self-management contributed 78% more incremental profit than partners without them
As you can see, since the introduction of the concept of emotional intelligence, there has been a deluge of studies done in order to figure out its importance in academic, professional and personal success. From the top of an organization, and a family for that matter, down to the bottom, the ability to identify, understand, and manage your emotions has been proven to be incredibly useful as both an accountant and a mom.
Unfortunately, with our education and work experience, as accountants we tend to hide behind the numbers, often delineating and placing greater importance on technical and analytical skills, referred to as “hard skills”, and minimizing the importance of human and people skills by labeling them “soft skills”. While that might have been fine in a less technology, automated world, that’s no longer going to work.
Your ability to manage your own emotions, as well as your interpersonal skills, can no longer be ignored as “soft”. As we’ve seen this past year, change is inevitable, especially in the field of accounting, therefore your ability to manage those changes, support your clients, add value. and continue to evolve both professionally and personally, is going to take a new and improved approach that embraces and incorporates emotional intelligence.
How to improve your emotional intelligence
If you haven’t yet listened to episode #140 – Feelings Are Information, Not Problems, you might want to go back and listen to that episode. Basically what I shared is that every feeling you have fuels an action which is why it’s so important to understand what you’re feeling; those feelings are always dictating what you do or don’t do, as well as the results you eventually get.
The issue is that once we enter the world of accounting and finance, we tend to turn off our feelings and become numb to them, believing that they’re not useful, or worse, a hindrance. We’re so used to being in our analytical minds for the work we do, that we habitually ignore our feelings or shove them in the closet, hoping they don’t find a way out.
We go to school for accounting, learn all the different aspects of accounting, finance, and business law, but are never taught the importance of being able to manage our own emotions, as well as the ability to read other people’s emotions; to manage overwhelm, stress, a boss’s expectations, deadlines, difficult clients, etc.
We’re so focused on the product we produce without deliberately managing our emotions along the way. A big part of the reason why there’s a high turnover rate and why I often speak to accountant moms thinking about leaving the profession, is because of accountants, and accounting firm’s, general lack of understanding of the emotional intelligence from an organization’s stand point, an individual’s stand point, as well as what they’re expecting of their employees.
Unfortunately, burnout is also happening at such a high rate because accountants don’t have, or look for, emotional support. We push ourselves and others to be more productive, but rarely stop to discuss how we, or they, are feeling.
In previous episodes I’ve talked about perfectionism being rampant in the accounting industry, but another big issue is that when you set yourself up to be perfect, you have also created the perfect scenario for burnout. We have to start to take this more seriously than we have, and emotional intelligence is one of the best places to start.
In the Balanced Accountant Program that I use to coach my clients, I teach that the key to understanding and improving your emotional intelligence is understanding that you have a human brain and it has the amazing ability to think about what you think about. Why is this so important? Because when you begin to pay attention to your emotions, notice how you feel, pause, and ask yourself why you’re having that emotion, you create awareness.
When you begin to create awareness of your emotions, you then begin to create awareness about how your thoughts are the only thing creating your emotions. And when that happens, you’re on your way to higher emotional intelligence because you’ll begin to understand how to manage your mind, your emotions, and also be able to understand what drives the emotions of other people.
The reason I wanted to make sure you stayed to the end of this episode is because when you get a better understanding of, and then control of, your emotions, you become more focused and productive, much better at dealing with other people, with making connections, and with understanding what motivates them. As you improve your emotional intelligence, you don’t just allow how you feel in the moment to dictate your mood, your focus, or your actions, you instead have the ability to decide ahead of time.
For example, you don’t just go into a normally stressful situation like a job interview, a sales call with a potential client, or a holiday with your difficult mother-in-law, not being prepared with exactly how you want the situation to turn out. With emotional intelligence, you get to decide exactly how you want to feel, what would be your ideal emotion to have in any situation, as well as understand the emotions of others.
You begin to understand how to reverse engineer the results you want, whether that’s in business or in your personal life. The studies and research are clear – improving your emotional intelligence will improve your job performance, your finances, your relationships, open the door to more opportunities, and much more.
Think about it – if you could manage your fear, self-doubt, anxiety or dread, what would be possible for you professionally or personally? What would you start doing? What would you stop doing? How would you handle situations differently? If you could understand why other people feel the way and then do what they do, how would that change how you interact with them?
By becoming more aware of the relationship between your thoughts and how those thoughts create your feelings, you increase your emotional maturity. When this happens, you no longer blame the people, places, and things in your life, but you instead take ownership and responsibility for your feelings.
And don’t forget that when you improve your emotional intelligence, you also become an example for your children, setting them up for greater success as they mature and eventually go out into the world. As you learn how to manage your emotions, become better at being proactive instead of reactive, as well as understanding why others may feel and behave the way they do, you show your children this same skill.
So much of your power as an accountant and a mom lies in your emotional intelligence, but unfortunately has been overlooked and underutilized. You can continue to wear your IQ as a badge of honor, but I hope that after listening to this episode, you’ll also see the importance of increasing your EQ.
I want you to really understand that, while your IQ is fixed and doesn’t really deviate to any significant degree, your EQ is able to continually grow and improve, making it a much more important “hard skill” than most accountants have been led to believe. Just know that your ability to manage your emotions, as well as understand other people’s emotions, is going to not only help you to be a better accountant, but to also be a better mom.
- Although our industry was warned years ago about the need to tap into the skill set of emotional intelligence, most practitioners and educational programs ignored the warnings.
- The truth is that emotional intelligence isn’t only crucial for you as an accountant, but it’s also something you will want to master as a mother.
- Since the introduction of the concept of emotional intelligence, numerous studies have been done, pointing to the fact that EQ is becoming a better predictor of professional success than someone’s IQ.
- As you improve your emotional intelligence, you don’t just allow how you feel in the moment to dictate your mood, your focus, or your actions, you instead have the ability to decide ahead of time.
- I want you to really understand that, while your IQ is fixed and doesn’t really deviate to any significant degree, your EQ is able to continually grow and improve, making it a much more important “hard skill” than most accountants have been led to believe.