Who are you when you go to work?

Craig Vickery, head of ACCA Scotland (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), believes there has been a tendency to believe, mistakenly, it is necessary to have a dual identity: one for work and one for outside work. This he says, can create needless blockages and waste the potential of people who are suppressing their natural styles, energies and talents.

HeraldScotland:

Craig Vickery, Head of ACCA Scotland at ACCA

He points to a report published by ACCA last month – Emotional Quotient in a Digital Age – that addresses these issues in the context of the future of accountancy. “Our report essentially highlights that being able to express yourself fully, while recognising, applying and regulating emotions, remains a very human process, even in a digital age” he says. “There is now a greater focus on bringing one’s ‘whole self’ to work.”

With more than 208,000 fully qualified members and 503 ACCA’s reports have influence on the innovative, strategic thinking of accountants and emphasising emotional quotient (EQ) recognises the kind of adaptive behaviour needed by a fast-changing world.

Helen Brand OBE the chief executive of ACCA says: “To the casual observer, emotions and accountancy

can seem like unrelated concepts from two separate worlds. But to succeed in a fast-evolving digital age, professional accountants need a rounded set of skills that go beyond technical knowledge, and these skills include emotional intelligence.

In an increasingly technology-led future, sustainable advantage will not come by trying to replicate the tasks of, or compete with, machines. It is more likely to come by leveraging the competitive advantages inherent in our humanity - in effect by being human in a digital age, and emotions are fundamental to being human.”

In 2016 ACCA developed the ‘professional quotients’ of success for the professional accountant of the future and the report examines both the level of EQ in the digital age and the impact of digital technology on the need for EQ. Emotional intelligence, it says, refers to “the ability to identify one’s own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and to regulate and manage them”.

HeraldScotland:

Helen Brand OBE and Chief Executive at ACCA

Although many people have an intuitive sense of EQ, which is seen as something to do with emotion and effective interaction with others, it’s important to realise the value embedded in emotions.

When it comes to accountancy and the disruptive power of technology, the report says EQ is often the elephant in the room. In EQ, individuals have a resource that is integral to who they are as human beings, which is inherently difficult for machines to replicate.

“Considering return on time and effort spent, there is a strong case for those in the accountancy profession to build their EQ competencies as part of strengthening their competitive advantage.”

Some of the reports key findings include:

A growth mindset matters. Emotional competency is a key enabler for the development of EQ and improvements here can help with improvements across all emotional competencies more generally.

EQ can be learned. It’s not a magic trick and like most other skills it can be developed and improved over time. The more one focuses on it, the better one can get at it.

EQ is an under-used asset for influencing others. There is unexplored potential for accountants to use emotions as a tool for influencing. Rational arguments are not the only means of driving influence.

There is an integrated need for EQ when considering digital impact. A range of emotional competencies are required when considering the impact of digital technologies, with the growth mindset often featuring.

HeraldScotland:

This article was published in the December edition of Business HQ - Click here to view

For professionals such as accountants, ethic is an important part of a professional’s training and practice.

Ethical behaviour protects the public and it also maintains the reputation of professionals and so ethics and beliefs for accountants are also stressed, in this way: “Influence enables one to advocate an ethical approach to digital adoption, and self-knowledge helps one to understand one’s own beliefs when setting boundaries and ensuring quality of life in an ‘always-on’ environment”.

Influence, it adds, is also needed in human-machine interaction to prevent loss of control, for instance, through outsourcing decision making: “Amid the increasing role of machines a growth mindset enables active engagement with, and deriving value from, interactions with technological tools.”

The report also highlights the role of EQ in the ‘softer’ forms of influencing needed in a less hierarchical, digital workplace.

“A growth mindset enables one to engage with new ways of working that may challenge the existing power structures.”

Developing EQ involves, it says, working on a range of competencies: growth mindset (feeling comfortable in overcoming obstacles and challenging one’s own identity; self-knowledge (recognising the feelings and motivations that underlie and drive actions); perspective-taking (using one’s personal learning and accommodating the viewpoint of others; empathy (responding in ways that make others feel included) and influence (inspiring and encouraging others to do well).

The information revealed in the report was the result of a detailed survey completed by more than 4,660 respondents, underpinned by an assessment of the impact of EQ gathered from a series of interactive workshops involving more than 120 professional accountants and participation from around the world, with sessions conducted in Australia, Canada, China, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore and the UK – a truly diverse spread of global experience.

While many people have a sense of what EQ is – being able to interact effectively with people – the report says that just as data analytics can be badly implemented to create misleading insights, emotions can be erroneously harnessed to destroy value.

“The ability to understand the value embedded in emotions is particularly important as we look ahead in a digital age . . . ACCA’s view is to see technology as an opportunity: one that can allow accountants to focus more on value-added capabilities, while letting the technology handle more repetitive, mundane tasks that are ripe for automation.”

And, importantly: “Understanding how to harness emotions to become an effective leader is as relevant as ever, regardless of a fast-evolving digital age in which one may be leading both humans and machines.”

It stresses that emotions are not a switch that can be flicked on or off, depending on whether one is at work – rather, they are an integral part of the human experience and a “life-long companion” in all aspects of life.

There is now a greater focus on bringing one’s ‘whole self’ to work, with many strands of thinking advocating that the best results occur in the workplace when individuals can be ‘who they really are’.

“Emotional competencies are integral to becoming a trusted and able professional accountant – someone who can combine analytical rigour with emotional maturity,” says Helen Brand.

“This report on the emotional quotient represents one step in our long-term commitment to providing the finance leaders and strategic professionals who will create the accountancy profession the world needs.”

This is also central to Craig Vickery’s vision for ACCA in Scotland: “I want to ensure ACCA Scotland adds direct value to our members by our unique global footprint and network to continue as the leading advisor, on the world of finance, to government, business and the profession in Scotland”.

The ability to identify your own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, can only help to unlock important human potential, even in an increasingly digital age.

To learn more from ACCA visit their site www.accaglobal.com/uk