active listening

Improve Your Active Listening Skills

Today’s employers are recruiting finance and accounting professionals with a solid set of soft skills. Although, CFOs still emphasize technical skills, over half value job candidates with soft skill assets.  Whether you are actively seeking a finance position or advancing in the profession, focusing on your soft skills is a sure boost to your career. Central to communication abilities is active listening.   Active listening refers to a method of listening that keeps you engaged. It means to listen attentively, paraphrase, reflect and withhold judgement.  It is more than just hearing someone else speak. When you actively listen, you listen with all of your senses making the person speaking feel heard and valued.  Hence, active listening is the foundation for successful conversations.

Engage Others in an Active Listening Dialogue

Engage your friends and colleagues in conversations about active listening. Observe their listening actions as you exchange ideas. Take note of:

  • Mannerisms that make you feel that you are being heard.
  • Actions that are disconcerting or convey lack of attention.
  • Methods people use to reflect on what they have heard.

Follow up with a conversation about the experience. You’re likely to gain insights to shape your active listening style.

Listen and Learn

Learn to listen well by reducing inner thoughts while another is speaking. This is especially likely to happen when time for a dialogue is limited, as during an interview or client meeting. Here are some tips for becoming a focused listener:

  • Keep a comfortable level of eye contact.
  • Take a slow, calm breath to refocus if your mind wanders.
  • Assume a comfortable posture for effective listening.
  • Wait for a pause to offer a reflective statement or question.
    • Doing so demonstrates active listening.
    • This gives you the chance to gain clarity or added information.

Lean in with Meaning

Use non-verbals to communicate attentiveness. Simple actions such as these convey a world of meaning:

  • Nod your head to express agreement or acknowledge what is being said.
  • Lean toward the person to show that you are fully engaged in listening.
  • Use facial expressions to show appreciation for the speaker’s message.
  • Refrain from being distracted or fidgeting to show respect for what a prospective employer or client is sharing.


For more communications tips, check out Communications Skills for Workplace Success


soft skills

Accounting Career Boosting Soft Skills

While staying abreast of accounting best practices, legislative mandates and digital trends, don’t overlook your soft skills. Research conducted at highly regarded institutions concludes that 75-85% of education and career success is because of well-developed soft skills. The effect of technical or hard skills falls dramatically lower, below 20%.  That being said, technical skills are important, but it is imperative to be a well-rounded accounting and finance professional who excels in both hard and soft skills.

As you review these soft skills decide if there are areas you need to strengthen. Doing so, assures future success and satisfaction with your work.

Communicate Soft Skills Clearly

To do so:

  • Attend to what others are saying and conveying through their actions.
  • Request clarification as needed.
  • Use non-verbals and body language to demonstrate attentiveness.

Display Patience

Patience can be tested in fast-paced settings. Emerge as someone who brings a calm, level head to tense situations.

  • Observe what is occurring before interacting.
  • Slow and deepen your breath to promote inner calm.
  • Use a well-modulated tone of voice, using a moderate speaking pace.
  • Choose words that lower tension by expressing gratitude and the ability to move forward.

Effective Problem Solving

Generate solutions by drawing on your creative instincts and abilities. These are honed as you:

  • Allow yourself to clear your mind to engage your innovative side. Options are to daydream, doodle, exercise, rest, or whatever unleashes your creative genius.
  • Gather others’ opinions and ideas to assure the best options are available for inclusion.
  • Use your growing problem-solving skills to negotiate within the workplace and with clients.

Demonstrate Empathy

Be open to others’ lives and work circumstances. Empathy is demonstrated by:

  • Hearing another’s perspective without judgment.
  • Listening with an open mind, withholding advice unless requested.

Engage in Encouragement

Use positive words and actions to offer colleagues and clients encouragement. Doing so strengthens relationships and engenders confidence.

Be a Writing Whiz

Act like a writer even when you are unsure of your skills!

  • Read emails aloud before clicking ‘send’.
  • Try out new vocabulary.
  • Adapt your writing style to be akin to business writers whose style you admire.


For more career advice, check out Business Email Etiquette