Becky: [00:00:03] Hello, everybody, and welcome back to another Book Club episode of the Accounting Twins Podcast.
Norma: [00:00:18] My name is Norma.
Becky: [00:00:19] And I'm Becky. So we are super excited that you're here for episode five of the Book Club for "Advice for a Successful Career in the Accounting Profession: How to Make Your Assets Greatly Exceed Your Liabilities" by Jerry Maginnis. So today our episode is going to be talking about Chapters 9 and 10 of the book, which honestly just really talks about communication, its importance, and just ways to be a better communicator.
Norma: [00:00:46] Yes, communication is so, so, so important. So this is a really good part of the book that we are going to be focusing a lot on depending on different areas and all that stuff.
Becky: [00:00:57] Yes. So in my opinion, I think these are the chapters I have enjoyed most because I never really understood the importance of communication up until this past year with my internship this summer and then just with my communications class. So I guess let's just get right on into it. So the first chapter that we're going to be talking about is Chapter 9, Working Effectively with Others. And the first aspect that Jerry talks about is how, in public accounting, you really need to have effective communication, because, yes, you're going to be working with your internal audit team to perform the audit, but there is a huge emphasis placed on that you are going to be speaking to your client and you really do have to have a great communication route with your client because it kind of may... It doesn't necessarily make or break the audit, but having effective communication and telling your client what resources you need and what your expectations are kind of just sets the tone for the audit.
Norma: [00:01:59] On the private accounting side, you and your team are the people responsible for closing the books. Everybody has their own important aspect of it. So you may work with multiple people for one part of the close and multiple people for the other parts. So you need to know who everybody is, what they do and what their role in the books closing and the accounting is. Because if you are working with other people and you don't know what they're doing, you can't effectively answer a question, you can't effectively ask a question. So you need to be able to know who everybody is, but also how to communicate with them and their findings.
Becky: [00:02:33] So a great thing that Jerry does within this book is when he's talking about communication with anyone, internal or external, there's kind of just a way to go about this into ways to increase your communication and just to be effective at your work. And the first one, which is not necessarily related to communication but really helps, is kind of just planning. You need to make sure that you're organized on what you're doing, what you need to do, and you need to identify what information that you may need and from who. So, for example, this is important communication because Jerry says people appreciate advance notice of things, especially since everyone's busy with their own tasks. So being proactive and kind of planning out what you're needing to do and then figuring out who you're going to need to communicate with and what you're going to need for them is very effective because you might want to give someone a day's notice being like, "Hey, so tomorrow I'm going to be working on, I guess like accounts receivable. Can we set up a time that we can meet up and go over this?" Instead of just being like the day of, "Hey, I'm working on your accounts receivable, I need you to help me right now." By planning ahead, you'll be able to increase your communication with the person that you're doing and just be better and more effective within the work that you're doing.
Norma: [00:03:51] Exactly. And on the opposite side of the planning end, instead of just telling somebody you're going to be doing something and asking for help, if you are the one who's doing the communicating and the teaching, make sure that you know what you're teaching ahead of schedule. Again, for example, accounts receivable. "Hey, I'm going to teach you accounts receivable." Plan ahead what you are going to teach to make sure there are no bumps in the road and there are no errors in the work papers you're going to be teaching about because that makes things a lot more difficult. If you notice an error along the way and you have to fix it and then you have to go back to teaching. So plan your communication and plan what you're going to do. It makes it easier for you and the other person in the long run.
Becky: [00:04:31] Yeah, it kind of reminds me of like seeing my friends tutoring other people in the undergraduate department. Even if they are very well-versed in the subject that they're tutoring, they're kind of just planning out what they're going to talk about, looking at all that information again beforehand and what they're going to be teaching just to make sure that their communication is effective and that they really understand what they're going to be discussing and how they're going to present it.
Norma: [00:04:59] And another great thing that Jerry brings up is, in communication, yes, you have to be great at communicating verbally, but you also need to be great at listening. You need to be able to take notes of what's being taught to you or what's being discussed, and you need to summarize the importance of the tasks that you are doing, but also you need to be an active listener. You're not kind of slowly, like in one ear, out the other, listening to what someone's telling you, you're comprehending what they're saying and not thinking about not your rebuttal, but your communication back towards them.
Becky: [00:05:37] Exactly. In communication, there are two important things, the actual communication, but also the listening. So again, take notes. Maybe ask to record the Zoom session. Ask for a list of ideas that are going to be talked over. Because like Norma said, you don't want things to go in one ear and out the other, you want to be able to actually understand what is going on and you need to give it your full attention.
Norma: [00:06:02] Also, a good thing in communication is empathy. Remember, no two people are the same. So try to see the situation from the perspective of other peoples when dealing with something. When your success is dependent on others as well, their problem is your problem. So if you are working on a work paper and there's multiple people working under you, try to understand what another person may be struggling with, that way you can try to effectively plan what you're going to talk about. Communicate everything so that they can be a good listener. Take time to understand what someone is doing and maybe struggling with, and it can help strengthen your relationship with them, the communication style between you guys, as well as the work that you are doing itself. Remember, again, like I said 30 seconds ago, no two people are the same, therefore you need to be empathetic of how people listen and communicate.
Becky: [00:06:55] Yes. And another great way mentioned in this book to work effectively with others is to establish checkpoints when you are working together. This could be checking in every few hours, days, or if it's a long project, even just a week, because you need to be able to monitor you and your group's progress and success. So it helps you see how close you are to your goal. Let you know if you're spending too much or too little time on areas. And it also is a great way to review over your work. So let's say, I know this happened a lot in my internship, I was working on a task, I would always go to my in charge, probably like an hour or two after I was given my task so I could check up with them, show them my work, and if it was wrong, I was very grateful to having this check-up because then I could go throughout the rest of my job and do it correctly. And I didn't wait until the very end and have wasted time.
Norma: [00:07:58] Next thing you should also do is don't be intimidated by the work you are doing or the people you are going to be communicating with. You're a professional, so you should be confident in your work. Don't let anybody try to tell you a different story. You were there for a reason. You were hired. You were put on the project or you're put on the audit for a reason. So your intimidation may be able to show through in your communication. So remember, you are there, you are valid, and everything you are doing is great.
Becky: [00:08:25] Yes. And along with that is a great way to not be intimidated by others is also just treating people consistently. This is, in my opinion, something very honorable, I guess, to mention in this book, because in a great way, I guess on the flip side of not being intimidated, don't necessarily try to intimidate others. Treat people consistently. You don't want to treat an intern differently than you would a partner of an accounting firm. You want to treat everyone the same way. It gives everyone the same expectation and it builds a great relationship with them. Yes, you should probably have different communication styles with every person, but you're not going to put a partner up on a huge high pedestal and think so highly of them but then look at an intern and think very lowly of them because they don't have the knowledge set. By treating everyone consistently, everyone in your group is treated the same and they all have great expectations of your group work.
Norma: [00:09:28] Exactly. So on page 78 is discussed that you should try to build the same relationships and rapport with the most junior employees of a company as you do with the organization's CEO. Rank shouldn't matter because the work that somebody does is equally as important as the next person's. Why? Everybody's doing their own work to make sure the project or the work paper or the audit gets completed. Therefore, everybody's work is important. Make sure when you're trying to communicate with people, regardless of their rank, find a common ground between you all because you need something to help strengthen your connection, whether it be your love for audit, whether it be something completely unrelated to work. Find something that you can use to respect people and build a common ground between them so you can treat people consistently.
Becky: [00:10:16] Yeah, and I think a great summarization of this chapter is when Jerry mentions an instance when he was an audit manager and there was a client that he didn't necessarily get along with, not everyone had the greatest rapport with them as an auditor to the client. And Jerry kind of wanted to change this. He started to get to know the client a little bit better, became a little bit more personable, and the claims that the client was making started to seem a little bit more realistic and more applicable. And by getting to know this client more, they were able to provide better circumstances and better work for the client. So yes, some of the things that Jerry was talking about his client with didn't necessarily make sense, weren't necessarily valid. He built a great relationship with his client, was able to provide better service eventually when he made partner at the firm. One of the first people to contact him and congratulate him was this specific client. So the lesson learned is to make time to listen to others and understand their concerns don't necessarily go along with how other people are viewing this person and just build a better relationship and communicate with them better. Moving forward, Chapter 10 is titled "Developing Your Communication Skills". And so this will be touching on how to be a good communicator and the importance of different things that make up communication.
Norma: [00:11:45] So as accountants, everybody says, "Oh, we're really good at numbers." But we need to be able to communicate these numbers. We need to be able to communicate our findings, whether it be in writing, verbal communication, or through Excel Spreadsheets. So we need to be able to communicate them very well. We need to demonstrate our insight, our knowledge, and our findings, and we need to show observations, statistics, all of those types of things, so we can be able to show a company's good financial standings.
Becky: [00:12:14] Yes, I think one thing that I really do want to point out that I love is another myth in this book. The myth says good communication skills are related to personality, and good communicators are amiable and enjoy talking with people. Sure, you can be very outgoing and have a great personality, but your communication could be lacking because it's not effective. And just because you're outgoing doesn't mean you're a great communicator. There are a lot of people that I know that are necessarily more introverted, a little bit more quiet, but their communication skills are clear and concise and some of the best skills I have seen. So don't think just because someone is more outgoing that their communication is going to be on par because sometimes it's really below average and that's not always the case.
Norma: [00:13:03] So communication isn't just verbal, as we've always talked about, it's also writing. And so I know I stated this within the beginning of the chapter, but accounting isn't just numbers, it's communications. The computers can do most of the numbers, but we as accountants have to be able to verbalize and write these communications ourself. We need to summarize controls. We need to talk about accounting issues. We need to give recommendations. We need to just give going concern for a company. For example, in the book, Maginnis mentions that between 2008 and 2009 and now, he has noticed a decrease in writing skills of many different people, which I can agree with because of texting and IMing and all those things. When I go on to my company's platform for messaging, I noticed I sometimes don't use correct verbiage or I'm not capitalizing certain things, or I'm also just cutting to the chase and using tech slang. I'm in a professional setting. I need to be using my professional wordage, I guess you would call it. And the more often that we as professionals bring in text slang and IM slang, that could affect our writing when we need to go type a 10K, a 10Q, and we need to give going concern. So we need to be better at communicating more professionally and more concise, I guess you would say.
Becky: [00:14:28] Yes. And in addition to just the in-personal and professional communication skills that some Gen Zs have been bringing to the workforce, it's also the habit of the lost art of self-review that Jerry notices that people aren't using as much. When someone is writing an email or a professional report, he often finds mistakes in them because people aren't self-reviewing as much. Sorry. If you're listening to this, this is your note. Start getting into better habit of self-reviewing your own work. I know every time before I send an email, I let it sit for 10 minutes and then I go and look at it again and then send it if I haven't made any changes so far. Just self-review your work because you might think of another way to communicate something more effectively and concisely.
Norma: [00:15:21] Exactly. Also, don't be afraid to ask other people to review your work or take an extra step to review it. One of my biggest pieces that I learned throughout college that I use in the regular workday is print whatever you're trying to say if it's something long and important. Because even though platforms have spellcheck and grammar check, they're not always perfect. Print it and look at something word for word on a piece of paper, and you'll find more errors than you thought would exist. So don't be afraid to take that extra step to make sure your work is perfect and to make sure that you are reviewing your writing.
Becky: [00:15:55] Yes. And another way that people communicate within the workforce that Jerry mentioned is during presentation. Jerry says he's probably done over 500 presentations during his professional life and things have gotten easier and easier for him as time goes on. So when you're first starting your job, you might be a little bit more nervous with your presentation skills, but practice makes perfect. Don't just wait the day before to practice something. I know I have a problem with that. But the more you are practicing your presentation skills, the less you have to prepare in the future because you are effectively building those skills.
Norma: [00:16:31] Exactly. Don't be afraid to ask someone to practice in front of them. As effective as practicing in front of a mirror or even on camera can be, being able to do it in front of people, even if it's your roomie or your friend or your parent gives you the opportunity to be in a pseudo-like life setting. So don't be afraid to be a little vulnerable and say, I'm going to give you a presentation that you have no idea what the information is about, but I need you to listen because I need to be able to see how I'm communicating.
Becky: [00:17:03] Yes. And this food for thought that Jerry mentions at the very end of the chapter, it's a quote by George Bernard Shaw saying, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." People can get anxiety about communication that they have to have in the future or what they've had in the past. Don't focus on the fact that the conversation, the presentation, the email has to happen, focus on what you actually are going to be doing within that form of communication. What is the point that you are trying to get across? What is the presentation you're going to be talking about? Just overall, what are you trying to do? Don't focus on what is happening, focus on the contents in it. So overall, I probably think we said the word communicating or communication like 500 times. I'm sincerely sorry, but I hope that this kind of just makes all the listeners realize communication is vital, vital, vital, vital to being a great accountant and being honestly just a great employee, no matter what profession you are doing or where you are working.
Norma: [00:18:10] Exactly. And like we said, communication comes in many different forms. Practice and know the importance of everything that you're doing and you'll be set. Believe in yourself. Like even communication, when Becky and I were doing the podcast together, we were always telling each other of ways that we can improve in order to make sure that you, as listeners, are better able to understand what we are talking about. Like at the beginning of the podcast, Becky and I would always be so vague with what we were talking about because she and I already knew what was being discussed.
Becky: [00:18:41] And if we said something, we thought you knew in our minds what we were trying to talk about. Now, as the podcast has progressed, we're now being a lot more specific because we realize the viewers might not have the knowledge we do about each other.
Norma: [00:18:55] Exactly. So communication is key, and we'll leave it at that. So thanks for listening to another Book Club episode of the Accounting Twins Podcast and we'll see you in the next chapters.