Many of you leaders have bossed or been bossed, by quintessential accountants. Accountants are resource custodians at organisations. We all want a free hand at accessing and controlling organisational resources. In doing the latter, we clash with the so-called gatekeepers, our accountant friends. Humans distaste control. Accountants have the unenviable and thankless task of resource gatekeeping for organisations
Even in our homes, those responsible for family resource gatekeeping are not always liked – especially when the family pay cheque does not leave lots of disposable income. It is the family resource gatekeeper that has to help facilitate discourse on family expenditure prioritisation. Such dialogue leaves many family members unhappy with the choices made.
Those of you at the helm of organisations are familiar with the common complaint against our accountant friends. Accountants are accused by other staff of frustrating or slowing down business at organisations.
It is not uncommon for CEO’s to get caught between accountants and non-accountants lobbying. CEO’s have to determine when to support accounting cadres or not. In choosing not to support accountants, CEO’s can compromise resource management at the organisation. After all, CEO’s do not want to see every staff putting their hands in the pie. The Enron and Bearings bank scandals remind us of the need not to put the accountant into potential ethics-compromising situations; for this, they require CEO protection.
On the other hand, organisations need to guarantee business continuity. Too much control slows down business activity, resulting in frustrated staff, and ultimately undermines value creation at organisations. CEO’s want to avoid a situation where money earned is extremely safe in the bank, but never increases. Wealth creation is about how effective and efficient organisations become at investing extra or borrowed organisational resources
CEO’s need to strike a delicate balance. Not to over protect the accountant at the cost of business continuity and value creation of the organisation and vice versa. The latter is a leadership skill that CEO’s master over time; yet as we shall discuss in Series two and four, accountants also have a role to play in enabling this critical balancing act
Accountant stereotypes – organisational ‘Gestapo.’
Accountants are perceived as a brutal and no-nonsense force at organisations. Well, what else do we expect from them? They are the resource gatekeepers! In this blog series, accountants are referred to as the Gestapo at organisations; they are the resource police.
Indeed, accountants may be the most stereotyped profession in the world. They are called all sorts of things – insular, introverts, bean counters, unfriendly, etc.
A Google search on accountant stereotypes returns an interesting list of stereotypes:
- All accountants are nerds
- To be an accountant, you must be introverted
- If you are an accountant, you have no creative flair
- Accountants only talk about numbers
- You only go to see an accountant to get your tax completed.
- Is one of a dull and boring person
- Focused only on counting the beans
- Having a keen eye for detail but few social skills.
Is accountant stereotyping bad?
Stereotyping of the accountant is not a bad thing – can you believe that?. Stereotyping allows accountants to keep their exclusivity and retain their power – apparently; these two are critical tools in the accountants professional tool box.
However, it is thinking like the above that reinforces and sustains the ‘gestapo’ perception of the accountant. We at the Effective lab call upon leaders to support efforts to change the skills profile and ultimately perception and value add of the accountant
The need to modify the accountant’s skills profile – evidence
‘In a worldwide survey of 549 chief executives by KPMG, 30% said their CFO doesn’t understand or assist them enough with the challenges they face in running the company. “One thing is clear: something has to change if CFOs are going to close the gap between the expectations of their CEOs and the reality on the ground,” KPMG said in its survey report, “The View from the Top.”
‘Apparently, one thing that’s not going to happen is a dial-back in those expectations. Among surveyed CEOs, 63% said they believe the finance-chief role is destined to increase in importance over the next three years.’
‘Still, CEOs are united in their views on how to best improve the finance function. A whopping 97% said talent management is the most important factor for that purpose, or at least equally important as another top factor. Unfortunately, just 33% said their CFO is performing that duty effectively.’
What Strategy should CEO’s use to change the conventional accounting paradigm held by professionals, including accountants?
Next week: The end of ‘Gestapo’ accounting – Strategy – Series 2: The role of ‘You, the leader’ in steering the organisation towards the emerging accounting paradigm
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