Your A/R team can masterfully issue invoices and process payments, but have they fully developed more interpersonal, soft skills?
The next gen of leaders
According to Leahy, to help your A/R staffers become strong leaders, CFOs should focus on these three areas:
- People management: For A/R to be successful, staffers need a steady leader at the helm, someone they can trust and turn to. Someone who always pushes forward for improvement, but at the same time, can steer the ship in a different direction when necessary. A/R leaders must be ready to take on a whole new host of management duties – discussing performance, evaluating workloads, training and upskilling, etc.
- Communication: With their own staff, related company teams and external customers, it’s important for A/R folks to foster strong communication skills. That includes knowing the right medium for the conversation (e.g., face to face, phone, email) and the right way to approach a conversation (e.g., delicately, authoritatively). And in a role like A/R, where company money is on the line, timeliness and responsiveness are essential.
- Conflict management: Whether it’s internal or external, dealing with conflict will always be a part of credit pros’ jobs. Customers will miss payment deadlines. Staffers will disagree about the best direction for a project. The list goes on. That’s why it’s key for A/R leaders to know how to deal with conflict on the regular. They must be able to look past emotions. They must logically, respectfully and reasonably handle whatever the workday throws at them. And in doing so, they act as a role model for staff on how to efficiently problem solve.
More soft skills for A/R
To keep staffers engaged and develop well-rounded future leaders, it’s also important to present your team with new challenges, projects and opportunities. That’s the advice Amy Cook, the Credit Manager for McNaughton-McKay Electric Company, shared with NACM.
Cook also named three interpersonal skills that she says work in tandem with technical skills to create strong A/R leaders:
- Empathy: Leaders must be able to understand others’ positions and show support when necessary. Fact is, everyone’s human. And keeping that human aspect in business can benefit not only your staff but also your customer relationships.
- Accountability: No one is perfect. As A/R dives into new waters and tackles different tasks, staffers must be able to admit failure and respond accordingly. That may mean having a conversation about what went wrong and how you’ll do things differently going forward.
- Resilience: From customer issues to improvements to digitization, A/R leaders must be strong and work through any obstacles that may stand in the way of success. And they must inspire their staffers to be right there with them – to set goals, to stay motivated, to keep pushing forward through difficulties.