PracticeAccounting FirmsBecoming a partner: one of the gang

Becoming a partner: one of the gang

Making partner doesn’t have to be a dark art, explains our reporter. Be less self conscious to be more influential and get peers agreeing with you

There’s a significant leap between being an accountant and being a partner.

Imagine just for a moment that you are a highly-trained, experienced airline
pilot and, suddenly, you are asked to run the airline. It’s obvious that the
move from cockpit to boardroom requires a different set of abilities and would
not suit many pilots. Yet, in accounting, such a leap is a natural career

A new partner is expected to be an influential ambassador, developing strong
teams and capitalising upon opportunities to develop the business through
networking and presentations ­ but how do you make that transition?

Improve your odds

Recent research by ACCA indicates that nearly 70% of accountants believe luck
has a large part to play in achieving a leadership position, but as Arnold
Palmer famously said, ‘The more I practice the luckier I get’. There are many
ways that accountants can more pro-actively improve their odds.

It is often recognised that some individuals need to begin to behave, and
even think, in a completely different way to succeed, which can be a daunting
challenge to face.

There is a big difference between analysing a spreadsheet and transforming
that analysis into an engaging and powerful presentation and this is the bridge
that any ambitious accountant must cross to reach partner level.

Directors and senior managers may have experience of presenting and managing
others, but these skills could be a long way from the ‘dark art’ of delivering
powerful, engaging and inspirational communications, all of which are learnable
talents ­ contrary to popular belief.

The two most common requests for development that I receive are, ‘how can I
gain more gravitas?’ and ‘how can I be more influential?’

Gaining ‘gravitas’

According to the dictionary ‘gravitas’ is a solemn demeanour, a seriousness,
a quality of substance or depth of personality. But if someone is sitting next
to you right now with gravitas; how do you know? What are they doing? Can you
describe that behaviour? A typical description would be something like: A quick
thinking extrovert who is confident and always right. But let’s dispel a few

  • Being quick ­ It’s not a necessity, a slower, more considered response can
    carry more weight than the knee jerk reaction;
  • Being extrovert ­ Not essential either, some extroverts are ignored and
    introverts’ more infrequent comments are often more valued;
  • Confidence ­ This is easier to attain than people think. It’s the absence of
    self doubt; stopping any self-attributed, negative thoughts will leave a
    naturally confident state;
  • Always being right – An unachievable objective, defending a weak position is
    a mistake, as is withholding your contribution for fear of being wrong is
    psychologically crippling.

A key thing to consider is whether your attention inward or outward? Ask
yourself: When you meet someone for the first time are you thinking, ‘what do I
think of them?’ or are you thinking ‘what do they think of me?’? Being ‘self
conscious’ is exactly that. So turn your attention outwards, set observational
tasks, listen more carefully and be more aware of the world surrounding you.

It is suggested that 55% of meaning comes from our body language, so it’s a
very powerful and often overlooked communications tool. Does your body language
match what you are saying? When it matches it’s clear that you are congruent
with your message, that you believe it.

Inspiring influence

As for the question, ‘what is influence?’ misguided answers include: ‘Being
an expert on your subject’, ‘having a well-prepared, strong argument’, and
‘being in an influential position within an organisation’. There are some
un-influential individuals that fit those descriptions and some influential
individuals that do not.

The dynamic of influence is surprisingly simple ­ it’s agreement. The
influential suggestions need to be agreeable and the other party needs to be
thinking ‘yes’. It is not possible to influence someone who is thinking ‘no’, no
matter how strong or correct your argument.

So to influence and communicate in such a way that your suggestions are easy
to agree with from the perspective of the other person. Be mindful of their
perspective (how does it affect them? what do they get from it?) and then put
your message across making it easy for them to buy-in. One-sided communication
is not influential from the other perspective. ‘Telling’ provokes resistance,
‘asking/discussing’ provokes engagement. There are many techniques you can learn
to achieve this.

Setting your path for partnership

So if partnership is your goal, start paying attention to this now. It takes
time to develop and refine powerful communication skills, and feedback from real
experience is the only real teacher. To make partner you need to be skilful in
your communications so that you can develop new business, artfully negotiate,
influence decision makers, and present confidently ­ these are the qualities
that will set you apart as top talent in this fast-paced business world.

Daryll Scott is joint MD for personal development
consultancy Use Your Noggin

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