Following the numbers – Financial Acumen

Leadership and management teams need to have business acumen, not just vision and leadership skills.

I made this point when I was the guest speaker at a recent, Leadership in the Spotlight seminar held locally. Leaders and managers need people skills, implementation skills and, importantly, financial and numeracy skills.

At the seminar, the discussion turned to managers needing financial acumen. Whether you work in government, the private sector or for a not for profit, you have to be able to read the numbers. Budgeting, forecasting and having a handle on the profit and loss is an increasingly crucial skill, not just for the finance team or chief financial officer (CFO). A lot of my work is helping organisations gain solid data about their people and business. While I do the data analysis and map the strategic implications and actions for clients it is important for organisations to have people who can properly analyse data.

How do leaders and managers get these skills? One option is further study. A Masters of Business Administration (MBA) or company directors’ course teaches these skills. If you don’t have the time or resources to complete these options there are shorter courses.

The other option is to reach out to other organisations or within your organisation. Your professional association may hold such courses or you could suggest they should do so.

What’s stopping you from asking your CFO or a finance team member for a crash course? It is in their interests to have a more financially literate organisation outside of their team. Take an interest in the executive meeting and ask questions, even if they sound dumb to you, when it comes to the numbers item on the agenda.

Asking to be involved is a key tool for aspiring managers and leaders. Organisations need to ensure they have a culture that enables and rewards people who ask to be involved to boost their general business acumen. At one of our recent general management workshops, we had that conversation with participants. One participant reported back that until then she’d been waiting for leadership and management opportunities. On returning to work, she asked to become involved in certain projects and set up meetings for skills transfer sessions. She received an enthusiastic response.

Don’t wait to be asked, invest in your own business acumen skills.



First Published by Fairfax Media.  Photo by Helloquence on Unsplash


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