A highly effective accounting manager is critical for a firm to operate at maximum efficiency. Efficiency means more than just completing projects on target; efficiency includes reaching stated company goals, maintaining a positive work environment, and retaining the best and brightest staff. The best accounting managers have the following traits, whether he or she manages an accounting firm or an accounting department in a company:
Displays expert knowledge
It should go without saying that an accounting manager should know accounting, but sometimes companies make the mistake of putting a manager in place who supposedly knows how to “manage people.” In order to manage people well, you have to know the challenges they face. A great accounting manager will have plenty of experience as an accountant or CPA, becoming an expert in at least one of the industries in which your firm or company specializes – and preferably several.
Knowledge of the field helps great accounting managers maintain accuracy, which is the very foundation of the accounting field. Mistakes in reporting can lead to serious consequences. Not only can the company’s or the client’s performance suffer due to inaccurate reporting or tax preparation, but it can also open them up to possible regulatory penalties.
Has strong communication skills
After knowledge of the subject matter, strong communication is the most critical aspect of a great accounting manager. Given the nature of our work, a manager needs to be able to easily pivot between communicating with clients, account staff, c-suite, and financial and regulatory experts, adjusting his or her communication style and information to the knowledge and needs of the audience. This is a powerful and rare skill; and while strong communicators are often “born,” this skill can also be learned through training and experience.
The manager must be clear on company goals, both short-term and long-term, and have the ability to identify steps along the way that need to be implemented to achieve those goals. A great manager provides clear pathways, signposts, and motivations for the staff to achieve those goals.
Maintains good boundaries
It can be difficult to develop a healthy balance between approachable and friendly while maintaining authority and accountability. A great manager can create that balance, without arrogance or pretension.
Great managers can also delegate, helping junior staff accountants to grow while publicly recognizing the leadership qualities and expertise of senior staff members. This builds morale because more experienced employees feel recognized and junior employees see that experience is appreciated, inspiring personal goals.
This trait supports every other trait. As accountants, we have a responsibility to remain constantly up-to-date regarding new laws and regulations, and in order to maintain our CPA status, we must fulfill certain CLE requirements. At PSTAP, our courses help fulfill those requirements.
But a great manager will encourage his or her employees to stretch and grow in other areas. PSTAP’s wide variety of courses helps many managers of PA accounting firms and accounting departments to encourage their staff members to branch out. If the firm is considering growing into a new market or industry, great managers will discuss with staff the opportunities to build their careers by expanding their knowledge base into these new areas.
This benefits both the company and the employees, which is the ultimate proof of a great manager – someone who cares about helping both the company and the employees reach their goals. In his book, Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch wrote, “When you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown. You were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” That sums up, in a nutshell, all the traits that make a great accounting manager.