7 Essentials I learned at the AAT branch conference

The great and the good of the accountancy world gathered at the AAT Branch Conference in November 2019 to get the latest for finance professionals.

Here we outline the seven essential tips from our speakers so you’re up to date too.

1. Setting goals and making them happen

One of the key lessons, from HR consultant Toni Trevett, was focussed around defining your career goals, and turning them into a reality.

The type of goals you set can depend on your circumstances, what you hope to achieve and how quickly you want to achieve it.

“We talked about how important it is to write our goals down and make them come alive, ideally making them visual too so they work for us individually,” she explains. “One person may want a goal that says, I will write my book by Christmas, whereas smaller visual goals may work better for someone else, like: I will write five pages of my book each week.”

“After all the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time!” says Trevett.

Key takeaway:

  • write down and visualise your goals
  • remember goals can vary according to your circumstances
  • be realistic about what you can achieve.

2. Don’t forget how much personal influence you can have

People are most easily influenced by those they know, like, trust and respect, says Trevett, so if you want to learn how to influence people you need to tick as many of those boxes as you can.

“Face to face communication is also key in influencing,” she notes. “It’s so much harder to say no to a person standing in front of you, yet even the most passive person finds typing no into an email incredibly easy.”

“The top line is – there are many ways to influence others but we should never forget how much personal influence you can have on others just by how you confidently, clearly and concisely you package up and present what you’re saying,” says Trevett.

Key takeaways:

  • remember that people will be influenced by others they know, like and respect
  • focus on face to face communication
  • include reasoning, assertiveness and interpersonal skills in your CPD to develop your personal influence.

3. Know where you’re going and have a plan

“You have to know where you’re going, have a plan and motivate yourself to achieve it while avoiding the pitfalls on the way,” Trevett says. “The key learning point for me is to imagine what you want to achieve. For example, your goal is the rowing boat, your focus is the rudder and the actions you actually take are what you need to do to move the oars. Sitting in your boat without rowing is a fairly pointless exercise.”

The key to success is knowing what you’re aiming for, believing in yourself and motivating yourself to take the actions needed, says Trevett.

Key takeaways:

  • outline what exactly you’re aiming for
  • look at what sort of obstacles you need to overcome to get there
  • believe in yourself.

4. Outline the CPD areas you want to focus on

Paul James, Benefits & Services Delivery Manager at AAT, said CPD (continual professional development) can take many forms.

“Think about what knowledge or training might help you in your current or future roles,” he says. “It might be formal training to enhance skills and behaviours, but also short bits of information which enhance your business awareness. It might include large-scale conferences and events, webinars, podcasts and e-learning, but also conversations with colleagues, or articles you come across.”

It usually pays to have a plan about what you want to cover and include too. “While not all CPD needs to be planned – you might happen upon a really useful article or conversation – it pays to have a CPD plan which outlines the areas in which you wish to develop knowledge or skills,” James says. “Once you’ve undertaken some CPD, reflect on how it’s helped your professional or personal development – and record the details! Regular CPD recording pays dividends.”

Key takeaways:

  • remember CPD can take many forms from formal training to bite-size learning through YouTube
  • have a CPD plan which outlines the areas you wish to develop
  • if you’re an AAT member, take advantage of the range of CPD resources and events.

5. Aim for a collaborative approach

When it comes to negotiating you should always aim for a collaborative approach, says Trevett. It should be a win/win for both parties. You’ll get to a solution quicker if you’re open to what they have to say and are willing to meet them half-way.

“You need to see things as a joint problem to be resolved by both parties,” she says. “For example; ‘You want to sell a car and I want to buy one so let’s looks at what a reasonable price might be.’”

Key takeaways:

6. Use your skills to help the ‘ethically challenged.’

Adam Williamson from AAT Professional Standards, says it’s all too easy to switch off when it comes to ethical issues.

“When faced with an ethical dilemma, disengaging can often seem like the most painless option,” he notes. “However, using your professional knowledge and skills to help others extricate themselves from positions of difficulty can be more beneficial to everyone in the long run.”

Taking very small steps to help combat climate crisis can, for example, make all the difference.

“It can seem overwhelming at times, but we can all do our little bit by looking at our business operations – travel, paper, energy use, office equipment disposal, supply chains – and making small improvements where we can,’ says Williamson. “Learn how you can harness your skills to provide advice and guidance for your clients in these new areas.”

Key takeaways:

  • don’t disengage from ethical issues, such as climate change
  • try not to get overwhelmed
  • realise that taking small steps can make a difference.

7. Build a responsible and sustainable business

“Increasingly, reporting based on climate-related and workforce-based issues is becoming an expectation from investors assessing the long term viability of businesses,” Williamson says.

Engaging with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can make your business more attractive and viable, he advises. “Accountancy bodies and big business are looking to the SDGs to shape their ongoing behaviours and decision making processes. Ensure you’re talking their language by understanding the background and aims of these global goals.”

Key takeaways:

In summary

Delegates learned about a number of aspects of running a business from how to influence and negotiate to the importance of running an ethical and responsible business. Writing down, setting and visualising your goals and plans was also a recurring theme, as was investing in Continued Professional Development.

Volunteer at your local branch to take part and develop as part of your CPD programme.

Further reading on the AAT branch network

Georgina Fuller is an award winning freelance journalist and editor.

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