P R O F E S S I O N A L C O N T R O L L E R S


COMMUNICATION (Advice to Colleagues)

by Adrian W. Hollander, C.P.A., CISA, CIA, CBA, CFSA,

President of COMPLUS Inc. Ė Professional Controllers



There is a fascinating paradox involving accountants. We work with the "language of business," yet our profession is frequently criticized as being among the poorest communicators. We should dare to be different.

Letís focus on being likable. Possibly the dull stereotype of an accountant may work to our advantage by comparison. Be friendly. Be witty. Be cheerful. Be enthusiastic. If the CEO doesnít like us, he/she will never let us show him/her how smart we are.

Have you ever been stood up? Confirm appointments before travel. Let your fingers do the walking -- before your feet do. Tell appropriate client personnel when youíll be back, and why.

Encourage questions from everyone around us. We should be flattered by being asked to show off what we know. Every question deserves an answer. We may joke about making one up, but if we really donít know an answer when a question is asked, help the questioner find one. We can learn, too.

We will frequently hear from client personnel (usually early in an engagement), "We canít tell the boss about ..." or "The boss doesnít want to hear ..." We should be an ally to the boss. Hearing these comments should stimulate heart-to-heart talks -- especially with the boss. Over lunch is a good time.

Be available. We should be part of the management team. We want each client to feel like they are the only client we have, even though they do know better. We want to help other leaders to understand the implications of their decisions and actions so they can run the business without feeling blindfolded. Tell the people with whom you work how to reach you, and respond quickly. Tell people what your typical response time is, then try to do better.

The responsibility for communication is "bottom-->up." Itís a very good idea for leaders to communicate top-->down, but itís a requirement for subordinates, bottom-->up. Hiding something from a superior, on purpose, should be an offense justifying dismissal. Message to the people who work with me: "You may surprise me with good news, but NEVER with bad news." To make sure that "the boss" understands our point of view, try this comment, "I canít guarantee that you are going to like the information I bring you, but it will be the truth, so please letís agree, now, to deal with the news and not to shoot the messenger."