Date posted: 17/08/2021 3 min read

From fixer to listener

Listening with empathy, rather than finding a solution, was an important lesson for one Chartered Accountant in CA ANZ’s Counting on U program

In Brief

  • Learning about mental health empowers us to better communicate with people
  • The Counting on U program equips accountants to listen and ask the right questions
  • Skills are transferable to dealing with work colleagues, family and friends

Rachel Mendlik is a bit of a fixer. “If someone comes to me with a problem, I want to fix it and that puts a lot of pressure on me because I take ownership of people’s problems.”

After CA ANZ’s Counting on U program — which provides free mental health training for CAs — the Hobart-based Chartered Accountant says she has changed how she relates to clients.

“I feel a lot more confident, and also a bit more relaxed,” says Mendlik, a director at WLF Accounting and Advisory in Tasmania. “I know that if a client has a problem I’ve got the tools to help them navigate the issue — you don’t have to find the solution and you’re probably not the right person to find that solution, but you can help them along the path.” 

Mendlik works with a range of industries, as well as not-for-profits. Cattle and sheep farmers on remote properties are another significant group of clients.

Rural and remote

“Being out there on their own with no support, some clients experience depression and anxiety,” she says. “The Counting on U skills give you the ability to ask the right questions to find out what’s really going on.”

I now understand that accounting is all about relationships. I can ask the right questions.
Rachel Mendlik CA

The program has also taught her that sometimes silence in a conversation is acceptable — it doesn’t have to be a continual exchange of questions and answers. 

“You don’t always have to fill a void. You can sit there with them and you don’t have to say anything,” she says. If the client needs professional support, she also refers them to organisations such as Rural, Alive and Well. 

“The benefits of understanding mental health better is that I understand that accounting is all about relationships,” she says. “You’d think it might be all about numbers but it’s actually all about relationships.”

Listening to employees

In her role as a director, Mendlik also deals with her firm’s employees and is using her new-found skills to be more empathetic in her workplace, as well as with family and friends. 

“I’m looking at everything in a new light and listening more deeply to conversations that we’re having, noticing things about people’s behaviour and wondering whether that's out of character or if something’s going on with them,” she says.

The Counting on U program also emphasised self-care and so Mendlik continues to focus on her own mental health, taking time for activities she loves such as ballet dancing and building furniture out of reclaimed timber. 

Counting on U

The Counting on U program offers complimentary CPD hours to eligible members.