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Today’s CPAs must go beyond technical training to protect their relevance and position themselves for long-term career success as client and business demands change.

It’s no secret that effective technical training is the foundation of a CPA’s success. Most accounting firms and public and private companies, regardless of size, invest in providing their accounting and finance professionals with a strong technical training program, either in-house or by outsourcing it to external service providers.

But technical training is only one of the many ingredients in the recipe for professional success. Succeeding in business today requires more than technical expertise and knowledge – it requires effective communication, team building, leadership, relationship building, delegation and performance management skills, and more . I like to call these soft skills “success skills” because they are often directly tied to a person’s advancement.

As CPAs increasingly look for ways to move away from compliance tasks – and business leaders and clients demand more comprehensive strategic advisors who add deeper value and can manage client relationships , building teams and being excellent communicators with all stakeholders – these success skills are going to become increasingly important to master. Unfortunately, far fewer employers offer a Success Skills curriculum.

In many cases, these skills are left “to be learned on the job” by observing others. Too often I’ve seen the “role models” in this informal training to be less than ideal sources of wisdom – not to mention that observation alone usually perpetuates a lack of knowledge, or worse, undesirable behaviors.

This is where every CPA initiative should come in. In many cases, you will need to seek your own training and development in the success skills you wish to develop. If you find yourself in this position, you may be lucky enough to identify a pre-built program that is already aimed at current and future leaders in the accounting and finance profession.

As you seek training that addresses the topics that interest you and that you hope will help you advance your career, consider upgrading in the following foundational skills:

1. Communications

Becoming a better communicator often starts with understanding how you communicate and how others react to your communication style. Consciously working to be a good listener will also improve your ability to communicate effectively with others and help you thoughtfully choose the right communication channels for your messages, which should help you avoid or minimize miscommunications and miscommunications. misunderstandings. The bottom line is that communication is a critical skill for success and developing yourself in this area will greatly benefit you and those around you.

2. Personal and team leadership

Leading today seems trickier than ever, as the pressure for increased collaboration often clashes with our increasingly dispersed work environments. In many ways, it might seem like just being a functional member of the team is as essential as being able to lead and grow a team around you. But truly understanding your organization’s vision and goals and your unique team dynamics, and tapping into the right team members for the right tasks, all contribute to being a high-performing leader in the business environment of today.

3. Delegation and performance management

In many cases today, efficiency is achieved through delegation and leverage. But without deliberate delegation, you and your team members are deprived of important learning and advancement opportunities. Improper delegation could be even worse than no delegation, as it can create an endless cycle of misfires. I believe it is essential for every leader and aspiring leader to develop effective delegation skills and learn how to manage the development and performance of others (whether team members, contemporaries, or even clients).

4. Training

Naturally, coaching is often confused with mentoring. A mentor willingly shares their knowledge, skills and experiences. A coach provides guidance specific to an individual’s goals and helps them reach their full potential.

The differences seem subtle but, to me, being a good coach clearly means helping others answer their own questions and achieve their goals based on your guidance. I believe effective coaching is a skill that has lasting effects on both those who coach and those who are coached. Learning how to be a better coach is going to be essential for you to effectively develop the talent around you at every stage of your career.

5. Relationship Building

Accountants are often stereotyped as introverts who like to be hidden to work on their numbers. Realistically, accountants are people-facing professionals, whether reporting quarterly financial performance to a board of directors or presenting a tax return to a client.

If you’re in a customer service role, you probably need to constantly work on your relationship-building skills. Beyond customer service, relationship development is key to attracting new customers, which means relationship building skills should be highly coveted by those looking for a promotion to become a business partner or director. finance for their business. My advice: being good at building relationships comes from discovering commonalities, which creates bonds and builds trust between people.


Today, being a comprehensive CPA and accounting and finance professional means going beyond technical skills to build your skills for success. If you are lucky enough to be part of an organization that already supports your professional development in these areas, consider yourself a frontrunner.

But if you’re not, there’s no better time than the present to research and build your own curriculum for success. The more you develop your skills beyond your technical abilities, the sooner you will become a strategic advisor who will rise through the ranks and take our profession to the next level.

The original article appeared in Insights Magazine, the official publication of the Illinois CPA Society.