Finance is the management of money. It is by nature analytical as investing, lending, borrowing, saving, and budgeting ultimately ends up in a P&L and balance sheet. There tends to be a skew towards being analytical. Accurate. Logical.
However, as finance leaders become people leaders then the skills which once served them may no longer be enough. Unlike P&L’s people are not always logical – they have emotions and opinions. So how can finance experts be as effective with people as they are with models and spreadsheets?
The answer is to develop your intelligence for holistic workplace impact.
Howard Garner identified 8 types of intelligence in his theory of multiple intelligences. He proposed people are not born with all of the intelligences they will ever have, rather they can be developed throughout life, and accelerated with focussed learning efforts. At any age, everyone has the capacity for all eight intelligences, they are always at varying degrees of proficiency.
So what are the intelligences highly relevant to the business workplace and people leadership?
There are 4 intelligences critical to today’s corporate workplace:
- Logical-mathematical: this relates to quantifying things, making hypotheses and proving them. While AI will help with processing and structuring data to be insightful, people ultimately make decisions, and logic is the foundation for decision making.
- Linguistic: this is finding the right words to express what you mean – physically, verbally and in writing. This manifests as effective communication in the workplace. Being able to express your point of view in a compelling and persuasive way is a critical intelligence, whether it be in person, virtual or hybrid settings.
- Intra-personal: this relates to understanding yourself, what you feel and what you want. Being “self-aware” is language frequently used to describe this intelligence in the workplace, and it’s this intelligence that enables people to receive and act on constructive feedback, rather than react.
- Inter-personal: This is where you are able to sense other people’s feelings and motives. It’s “reading the room” and understanding other people’s strengths and styles so you can tailor your own to be more effective and influential. Inter-personal intelligence harnesses empathy to build trust and enable diversity to flourish.
In general, Finance, Supply Chain and IT functions generally require higher competence in logical / mathematical intelligence, whereas Sales and Marketing functions tend to require a higher competence in Linguistic intelligence.
However, as you move into people management and leadership roles, Intra-personal and Inter-personal become increasingly important. That is because your effectiveness is through people and as a leader of others, rather than as a technical expert. Being able to understand how others view you, as well as being able to connect, lead and influence a diverse range of people becomes crucial to success. The more senior, the more critical this becomes. Understanding which of the intelligences you need to develop more of becomes crucial.
So what actions can finance leaders can take to develop holistic workplace intelligence?
- Be aware of the different intelligences, and your natural preference. Beyond an IQ test which measures reasoning and problem solving, there are helpful profiling tools like Myer Briggs or Gallop’s Clifton Strengths Finder which can give deeper insight into yourself versus others.
- Invest in developing other intelligences relevant to the next level up. You may need to be a financial whiz now, but if you aspire to be a people leader, then you will need to develop other intelligences, like inter-personal.
- Learn from people “not like you”. Research has consistently shown that diversity delivers better problem solving, innovation and business growth. Seek out people unlike you, and partner with them. Ask for feedback. Even observing people with different strengths will raise your awareness.
- Find a mentor who is strong in the intelligence you want to develop. Ask them for feedback and advice. Learning something which is not our normal behaviour requires more effort and enrolling the help of someone who is good at it can uncover our blind spots
- Reflect on your growth journey and make adjustments. Every person is unique, and the better we become at understanding ourselves, the better we are able to identify what we need to increase our impact.
Finance is a highly valued function, but like all functions it may overdevelop a specific intelligence. So start with you – understand your strengths and development opportunities across all the relevant workplace intelligences, and see how your impact expands and your career thrives. It just may get you to CEO!
Written by Rowena Millward.
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