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Ten Ways Leaders Can Jump-Start the Future

© Mary R. MacBain, Shawnee, KS 2017

The Future of …

While the accounting profession frantically tries to answer many questions, their leadership continues to discuss “the future of…,” leaving the profession in a suspended state.

This state is currently the profession’s comfort zone. As long as the understanding of change is somewhere down the road – in the future – the profession never has to act in the present and overcome painful obstacles to change. Applying Newton’s Law of Inertia, we know the external force necessary to move from a current state (be it at rest or in motion), is massive. Before the profession acts, a force outside its control could render the accountant obsolete (stop and think about that for a minute).

To answer any question related to the future of the profession, consider both technology and society. Technology continues to radically change our world and is now the foundation. The best accountant is one who effectively uses both the right and left side of his or her brain, allowing him or her to work as a bridge between the many disciplines serving an organization and the decision makers. Accounting is both an art and a science. We stand on science while providing value through art – professional skepticism, judgment, analysis, synthesis, insights, and, most important, communication.

Because individuals who pursue accounting must be able to use both sides of their brains, the profession must attract different talent into the profession; transforming the curriculum to include liberal arts; and offering dual majors, with one outside the college of business.

Only when one enters a PhD program in accounting, does one begin to study how our profession impacts society. To meet the demands of the “future” profession, applying social science to technical knowledge must happen much earlier. Further, continuous learning must enhance individual competency and not focus on regulatory compliance.

Here are ten ways leaders can jump start the future today:

  1. Gain diverse experiences and skills for more insight and impact.
  2. Develop a global perspective by pursuing languages and studying cultures.
  3. Seek opportunities to practice communication skills, and prepare for, experience, and learn from real-world situations.
  4. Allow regular 360 degree feedback.
  5. Capitalize on the social and emotional intelligence of men and women. Encourage the expression of empathy and thoughtful ideas. Don’t just reward those who stoically make quick decisions for the sake of efficiency.
  6. Continue to equalize women and men in organizations, promote diversity. Avoid non-equity partnerships.
  7. Reward those with passion for the profession.
  8. Emerge from the sweat-shop mentality and qualitatively measure teams. Start by setting a tone at the top of integrity and value creation and openly communicating with the team.
  9. Make certain there are enough resources available, training is appropriate, compensation is fair, and team members are appropriately evaluated and rewarded.
  10. Apply the same effort exerted in thinking about the future to helping clients assess their own. Use data analytics and projections, and communicate this information in a meaningful way to ensure the right decisions are made.

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