(c) Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland. Contact ICAS for permission to reproduce this article., Strategic Management

Unleashing your potential in a changing business world

Hamisha Mehta CA, Senior Commercial Financial Manager pladis, 2019 One Young CA winner and the winner of the Top 100 Young CAs Talent category, shares her thoughts on how young CAs can stand out in a changing environment and the types of leaders the future needs.

The business world is changing faster than ever before. The way that people work and what they do is continuously evolving due to technology, the political environment and globalisation. It’s important for young CAs to stay up to speed on these trends and developments to help them stand out and unleash their potential.

Let’s look at social media as an example. It is vital for any branded business to be seen on social media, as that is where a large proportion of customers (especially new ones) are spending their time. By increasing their knowledge of social media, understanding what the latest trends are and thinking about the wider implications of these trends, CAs can hold more productive and well informed conversations with their marketing, sales and communications teams. This can, for example help to reach a collaborative, financially sound decision on whether to spend more of the marketing budget on a TV commercial or a social media campaign.

Overcoming barriers
Young CAs will add the most value to any organisation if they feel comfortable being themselves, sharing their opinions and being made to feel valuable. That comes from knowing, understanding and being comfortable in your own style. Not everyone is the loudest person in the room – but everyone has a valuable opinion or an idea that is worth sharing.

Investing time in understanding what makes you, you is hugely important. If you are able to be your authentic self, your confidence is naturally visible, and those around you, not only see this, but value it. We often get caught up in the momentum of learning new skills, seeking the next promotion, finding the next project and forget that a significant aspect of personal development, is understanding yourself. As you develop your career, it’s something that you get more used to doing. But as a young CA, being aware of what you value, what motivates you and how you want to be perceived by others, will help progression just as much as attending a management training course. Furthermore, understanding the barriers that hold you back from being your best self and working to overcome these, will unlock the influence you want to have.

Creating a diverse workforce

As our profession and society changes and technology becomes more prevalent, it’s likely that processing and logic-based roles aren’t going to exist in the same format in the future. For organisations, this means that nurturing talent and valuing the people they have is going to become more important. If the future means computers that are able to perform an audit in 24 hours – or less, CAs will need to add value in new ways.

I believe the balance of skills that future leaders will need will shift towards building relationships, voicing opinions and creating ideas. For a CA, that means taking advantage of the access we have to all areas of an organisation and using the knowledge and connections we make, to facilitate the generation of ideas and influence change.

To generate the best ideas and influence change, leaders need to have the most diverse minds around that table. Working with the innovation and brand teams at McVities, I know that when we have the most varied people around the table coming up with ideas for new products and marketing strategies, we get the best ideas. For me diversity and inclusion aren’t just about gender, race, disability, sexual orientation and the other outwardly visible differences between people. It’s about diversity of thought, and that comes from all of these things and backgrounds, experiences, upbringing, education. If there is little diversity in the room, the thinking of the room is similar and then you’re not going to get the breadth of ideas that truly challenges the norm.

I believe that making sure that pipeline of diverse backgrounds is there – from the most junior team members through to the most senior levels – will make a difference.

The leaders of the future

To help people find their place in an ever-changing business world, we need effective leaders. I believe any successful leader of the future will be able to influence the path that people take – and make sure that path is the right one for them.

The term ‘influencer’ is a very millennial term –but it can mean so much more than how many followers you have on social media. Leaders of the future can almost take a similar perspective. It’s not about saying, ‘I’m the best, these are all the things I’ve done to get to the top and you should do it too’. It’s about influencing others to make the right choice for themselves.

There are so many different directions CAs can take, and as most of our generation won’t be retiring at 65, I believe there will be more tangents as we progress through our working lives. Career breaks and changes will become commonplace as a 30-year career across one or two companies will become the exception rather than the norm. It’s probably going to be more like 50 years across 7 or 8 organisations, with a year or three of backpacking, and a side-hussle thrown in.

Whether that break is to have and bring up children, to travel, learn a new skill or explore a new career path – future leaders and organisations need to recognise that and value it. When people say, I’ve had a career break for two years, we shouldn’t assume that those two years have no wider benefit. We should realise the immense value in those experiences, and that even though it may be a break from climbing the ladder, it’s still development.

If they choose to return to their job, they will do so with experiences and skills that add to the diversity of the teams they re-join. Through recognising the value of such experiences, companies can give the support their employees need in order to integrate well back into their role and crucially, to bring those extra skills and knowledge into the company with them. This will be key for future leaders.

This article was originally published by ICAS.