I used to work for a very senior executive of a global company. This Director had a team of people whose job was to deliver complex analytics to him, so that he can give marching orders to our offices in the entire Midwest. His team is nimble, smart and seasoned. But the volume and intricacy of data and calculations consume the team, so much that sometimes obvious errors go undetected.
Because the Director is not down in the weeds, he catches these errors easily, often within seconds of seeing the results. And because he is not tangled up in footing calculations, battling system limitations and maneuvering spreadsheets, he’s also able to spot trends and gather insight very effectively.
As leaders in the Accounting function, we miss opportunities to get our team to act like my old boss.
In fact, we do the opposite.
We inadvertently put skilled managers in quasi administrative roles – asking them to tick and tie, update checklists, search for data and enforce document retention. These activities are not only burdensome, but they force managers to spend time on minutiae and dilute their ability to help you do important high value work. Here is one example we see constantly:
Managers tracking and reporting reconciliation completion status for hundreds of balance sheet accounts each month via spreadsheets. This activity is purely administrative in nature, even though it’s a required compliance procedure.
With a bit of help from our technology, here is the type of work they can be doing instead: Real-time review of the Close as it occurs. Or, an analysis of reconciliation open items for write-off consideration before the first day of Close. Or, reducing the number of days to close the books.
Strategic, high value work invigorates and challenges your team, because they are given opportunities to change the game. On the other hand, activities that hone clerical skills deflate employee morale and cause managers to languish at their jobs, when they have much to contribute at work.
So, what will your managers work on this month?
Will they be given a chance to grow in their role?
Or, will they be limited to behaving like a cost center?