To the casual observer, emotions and accountancy can seem like unrelated concepts from two separate worlds. But to succeed in an era of increasing digitisation, professional accountants need a rounded set of skills that go beyond technical knowledge.
ACCA refers to these skills as the professional quotients – a unique model that encapsulates technical excellence, ethics, and a range of personal skills and qualities, one of which is the emotional quotient (EQ).
Emotional intelligence can be defined as, ‘the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others, harness and apply them to tasks, and to regulate and manage them’. And developing one’s EQ involves working on a range of competencies that are particularly relevant for this purpose.
Five emotional competencies
- Growth mindset: feel comfortable in one’s ability to overcome obstacles and challenge one’s own identity, and to extend oneself into new areas
- Self-knowledge: recognise the feelings and motivations that underlie and drive one’s actions
- Perspective-taking: be adaptable, using one’s personal learning and see things from the viewpoint of others (ie accommodate them)
- Empathy: respond warmly in ways that make others feel heard and included
- Influence: compellingly affect, inspire and encourage everyone to do well.
The growth mindset emerged as a key enabler for the development of EQ and is a point of high leverage, ie improvements here can help with improvements across all emotional competencies more generally.
The impact of technology
The report also explores the multi-dimensional impact of technology on the need for EQ in professional accountants. This impact is articulated along six areas, namely: change readiness, increased diversity, ethics and beliefs, cognition and learning, human-machine interaction and shifting power.
- Change readiness: empathy is needed for dealing with technology-related job-losses and a growth mindset can overcome fear of change.
- Increased diversity: perspective taking facilitates understanding the viewpoints of a wider pool of stakeholders, who are made accessible through remote working and technology tools.
- Ethics and beliefs: these enable one to advocate an ethical approach to digital adoption, and self-knowledge enables one to understand one’s own beliefs when setting boundaries and ensuring quality of life in an ‘always-on’ environment.
- Cognition and learning: a growth mindset will help to challenge cognitive tribalism (eg where people congregate in online environments of like-minded individuals) and to develop the self-knowledge to understand what to prioritise, among a lot of ‘noise’, in an era of fast reactions and high volume.
- Human-machine interaction: EQ is needed to prevent loss of control (for instance, through outsourcing decision making) amid the increasing role of machines, and a growth mindset enables active engagement with, and deriving value from, interactions with technological tools (yielding insight, not just reporting).
- Shifting power: EQ has a role in the softer (rather than directive) forms of influencing needed in a less hierarchical, digital workplace, and a growth mindset enables one to engage with new ways of working that may challenge the status quo.
It is intended and hoped that the findings from this research will shed light on the importance and potential of human emotions and their role in helping professional accountants succeed in a digital age.
A unique diagnostic tool has been launched alongside the report for individuals to self-assess their level of EQ against a credible global benchmark specific to the accountancy profession. The tool provides practical guidance on how to improve effectiveness in this competency.
*Emotional quotient in a digital age is an ACCA global report. 4,660 ACCA students, members and affiliates and other International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) bodies were surveyed as part of the research. A series of interactive workshops were also carried out with 120 professional accountants participating in Australia, Canada, China, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Singapore and the UK.
Discover the full report at https://www.accaglobal.com/EQ
This article brought to you by ACCA.