By: Mary Werner, CPA, MOD, Big4 Guest Blogger
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eye for an instant?”
~Henry David Thoreau
My dog Zoey should have been named “Radar.” She has an uncanny ability to sense what family members are feeling and react to those feelings in kind. Whether we’re watching an exciting basketball game on TV (she goes crazy when we do), or one of us is feeling sad or discouraged (she makes a bee line for our lap), Zoey, completely without judgment, is in tune with our feelings.
Possessing accurate radar is in a sense what the EQ skill of empathy is all about. And empathy is the fifth and final skill that I’ll discuss as being critical to becoming a “trusted advisor.”
When you have empathy, you are “tuned in” to how others are feeling. You are able to look at a problem or conflict from another person’s perspective. Empathy is also a critical skill for negotiation as well, understanding what the other side wants and working to create a win-win result. (So it’s far from a “touchy-feely” skill.)
Empathy involves understanding another’s perspective, even if theirs’ is much different from your own. (Remember, it’s without judgment.) It involves letting the other person know that you have understood them, thus creating a bond and a relationship that surpasses “box checking” or “order taking.”
According to David Maister, one of the key hallmarks of a trusted advisor is their “focus on the client rather than themselves.” That is the essence of empathy. To put yourself in the shoes of the client in order to see a challenge from their perspective, understand what they are feeling and why.
This key EQ skill allows you to forge a strong bond of collaboration that helps you to solve your client’s problems and create successful and lasting client relationships.
Five EQ Skills Critical Trusted Advisor Skills
To recap, over the last several posts I’ve shared five key EQ skills:
- Pursuit of Meaning: Your goal, desire and motivation to become a trusted advisor.
- Emotional Self Awareness: You are aware of your emotions and how they impact your behavior and others.
- Interpersonal Relationships: You have an ability to build and develop mutually satisfying relationships.
- Problem Solving: You effectively use your emotions in the process of solving a problem by gathering information and making decisions without being emotionally distracted, stuck or overwhelmed in the process.
- Empathy: You are “in tune” with how others are feeling, understanding their perspectives and forging a bond that builds outstanding relationships.
The good news is that each of these EQ skills can be learned or enhanced. If your goal is to move your role from client server to the next level of trusted advisor, add these five skills to your foundation of technical expertise. I know it can happen. I’ve witnessed my previously reticent coaching clients successfully make that shift.
What do you think? What are your perspectives on what it takes to be a trusted advisor?
To your success,
Mary C. Werner, CPA, MOD, formerly with Ernst & Whinney (now E&Y) and a Partner at a regional CPA firm, is the founder of Werner Coaching and Consulting, Inc., an executive coaching and organizational change consulting firm. She is also a founding member of The CPA Consultants’ Alliance, a working group of thought leaders unified in their efforts to further leadership in the accounting profession. Mary, a certified executive coach through The Hudson Institute, is especially skilled at coaching and consulting with CPAs and other business professionals who are interested in accelerating their personal and professional growth for breakthrough results. She blogs regularly about leadership and change in individuals, firms and organizations.