Over the years I have been asked many times by friends, children of friends and junior associates what should they study if they want to pursue a career in business. My response? Study accounting. After all, accounting is the language of business, and if you are going to be successful you have to be able to speak the language. I would reiterate that once you know accounting you can pursue many different paths to success in business, but if you don’t know the basics you can’t advance.
This advice has served me well and served numerous acquaintances well over the years. So, I would say to any future leader: make sure you know accounting, and read your company’s annual report and/or 10K. If you don’t understand it ask questions, and if necessary ask for tutoring or a mentor from someone with financial expertise until you do understand it.
While this is still sound advice, what has become clear over the years is that “Talent” is the other language of business.
If future leaders don’t know the people in their business, don’t know how to develop them or lead them, in other words if they don’t possess leadership skills, they can’t be successful. So, ask yourself: do your future leaders know where to find the best employees, how to onboard them, develop them, put them in the right roles and retain them?
Just as I encourage future leaders to read the annual report or 10K, I would tell those same leaders to become an expert at identifying key talent, developing others and leading teams. If you don’t know how, get a coach or mentor who can help you.
Don’t wait until you are a chief executive to get coaching, get coaching now as a new or mid-level manager to accelerate gaining leadership skills. You have to know the basics, whether that be basic leadership skills or the basics of reading the financial statements, to become expert and advance in business.
Your future leaders will be far more successful and personally satisfied when they have the leadership skills that allow them to get the most from their teams.
Do what it takes to help your future leaders speak the two languages of business.