- Leaders must continuously update their skills to stay ahead
- Communication is the key to helping clients embrace technology
- Think from the client’s perspective to appreciate what will resonate with them
Chris Osborne CA has a passion for building skills that will keep him at the top of his game while helping his businesses achieve their goals.
“If our customers are happy, successful financially and achieving what they want to achieve, we’re succeeding in our business,” he says. “Anything which empowers us to do that for them helps us.”
A Chartered Accountant with a Masters Degree in analytics and a focus on life-long learning, Osborne has amassed an impressive set of technical skills to apply to his work. He has also developed strong communication and strategic management capabilities, and reports the CA Catalyst Leadership Development Program offered through Auckland’s The Icehouse is in a class of its own.
"Honestly, it's the best course I've ever done," he says, adding that while each session delivered useful material in its own right, the program overall was far more than the sum of its parts: even topics that appeared unrelated on paper tied neatly together, delivering a greater depth of knowledge.
The program combines formal training, covering topics such as teamwork, improving efficiency, and managing change; plus a practical project. It runs in two residential blocks of three days each, followed by a one-day workshop.
CAs who communicate effectively can inspire clients to improve their businesses
The communication skills components of the course really stood out for Osborne. He says effective communication is all-important in motivating clients to adopt new initiatives.
Osborne draws from a broad arsenal of communication techniques when interacting with clients and says the program armed him with fresh ways to inspire clients to innovate.
"I've never had a situation where I thought: 'Well, I wish I communicated that worse'. It's one of those soft skills where no matter what you end up doing, it will stick with you and help you get to that next level in working with clients," he says.
Osborne recalls a recent conversation with a client in the construction industry where the topic of cost came up.
"I was talking with them about some software solutions for managing their assets," he says. "Being able to quantify the benefits changed the conversation from 'How much are we going to be spending?' to 'How much are we going to be saving?'"
By identifying the client's hot-button issues, Osborne modified the discussion to focus on factors that would help his client fully appreciate the merits of his proposal and embrace the technology.
“Involving the whole team in the strategy session allows it to be something where the team comes up with the plan - not just the director.”
Teamwork makes the dream work
During the Leadership Development Program's practical component, Osborne ran an off-site strategy day to review Ivanov Consulting's business plan, focusing on ways to build on its successes to date.
The consultancy has developed into a thriving business since it began five years ago with staff members from a variety of professional backgrounds. This diversity allows the business to draw on a wide range of perspectives – for both its clients' and its own benefit.
"Involving the whole team in the strategy session allows it to be something where the team comes up with the plan - not just the director - which gives everyone a strong sense of ownership," Osborne says.
Taking the lead in running the strategy session gave Osborne an excellent opportunity to consolidate his skills at facilitating business-critical discussions. His efforts in planning for the exercise, which took about two days of pre-work, freed the firm's director to spend that time on other activities.
Sharing knowledge benefits everyone
On the program's final day Osborne and fellow participants presented their success stories to the group.
This was just one of the many aspects of the program that encouraged ideas exchange, Osborne says. During formal training, facilitators offered expert advice then asked participants to share their experiences. Being partly residential, discussions naturally continued informally after class.
The presentations provided a structured setting for participants to share their insights with each other. One participant, who worked for a marketing agency, offered Osborne suggestions for optimising Ivanov Consulting's client communication strategy.
Osborne shared his accounting expertise, suggesting activity-based costing to another participant whose project focused on controlling costs in a rental business in the tourism sector.
Osborne reports the Leadership Development Program has allowed him to exercise his expanded capabilities for the good of other professionals in the program, as well as for his clients and his business.
CA Catalyst Leadership Development Programme
The CA Catalyst Leadership Development Programme is designed specifically for managers in privately-owned businesses who want to refine their leadership skills and contribute more to the success of the business. The programme allows you to take seven days away from the business over three months, so you can reflect and learn.Learn more and register your interest
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