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Management Accounting Critical Character Traits

Critical Management Accounting Character Traits

Management accountants have gotten a traditionally poor reputation as introverted, bookish, and loner individuals who sit at a computer all day in a darkened office.

This could not be further from the truth.

Today, management accountants must have a diverse skillset, eagerness to learn, and the appropriate character traits to help them succeed.

Table of Contents

  • Critical Management Accounting Character Traits

ATTITUDE- Management Accounting Character Traits

A can-do attitude is critical. There are often challenges with messy data, broken processes, and insufficient systems that must be tackled. Management accountants need to maintain positivity and an eagerness to fix the existing issues with eagerness to support the business.

Conflicts and disagreements will inevitably occur when working with different functions and people. Maintaining professional composure and attitude can help diffuse disagreements and help everyone get back on track.

COMMITMENT- Management Accounting Character Traits

Learning a business from start to finish is a challenging task. Becoming comfortable in any role typically takes at least 8-12 months and then another year or two to continue building relationships, improving the position, and demonstrating a measurable impact in the organization.

Leaving a role without accomplishing much is not a good long-term strategy that will make you more marketable in the future. For that reason, it is essential to take time to find a great employer that fits your style and to whom you can commit for at least 2-3 years, ideally.

Plan to step into a role and only consider leaving once the role has been updated to modern standards and aligned with leadership’s expectations.

HARD WORK- Management Accounting Character Traits

No tasks are usually beyond a management accountant. While high visibility assignments come every now and then, much of the role takes place behind the scenes and involves a lot of hard work to build a solid foundation to expand.

The initial phase of many managerial accounting roles involves digging deep into the data and sticking with challenges until they are resolved, processes are improved, and issues/errors are weeded out.

While this work is not glamorous, it pays off in the long run as automation cannot be deployed on broken processes. Over time, automation improves the daily grind, but putting this technology into place requires focus, dedication, and persistence, i.e., hard work.

INITIATIVE- Management Accounting Character Traits

One of the most exciting aspects of management accounting is the opportunity to identify challenges and volunteer to take the lead or resolve issues. The variety of work in the role exposes professionals to different perspectives that allow them to see issues and problems in a new light.

Demonstrating initiative is a much-appreciated characteristic and is also a growth accelerant. Taking on initiatives will help newcomers expand beyond the accounting basics and begin to really master the trade.

PROFESSIONALISM- Management Accounting Character Traits

A professional is a trusted and skilled worker who is emotionally balanced, demonstrates excellent judgment, understands best practices, and continually learns new skills. A strong reputation and high work ethic and excellence note professionalism.

Professionalism is critical to management accounting. Because you will have access to confidential and sensitive information, you need to be trusted to never share or disclose this information outside of the organization.

When dealing with others, professionalism is critical because it dictates how to act, look, and behave in various situations. It is the guiding principle that can be applied everywhere to great effect to build your credibility and image among your colleagues.

One of the keys to professionalism is keeping your word. If you say you will do something:

  • Do it to the best of your ability,

  • On time, and

  • Exceed expectations.

This is one of the quickest and most reliable means of building trust with your manager and stakeholders.

PERSEVERANCE- Management Accounting Character Traits

Perseverance means continuing onwards with a course of action without regard to discouragement, opposition, or previous failure.

In management accounting, this characteristic comes in handy all the time. Whether a reporting tool has an unexpected failure, a process improvement initiative must take a step backward, or executives disagree with your assessment, you must not get easily discouraged.

Many learning opportunities come from missteps; the best professionals learn from these and adapt. Giving up and quitting will not get you far. Try your best, remain humble, and continuously strive to learn.

Learn from positive and negative experiences and apply feedback to keep growing in the right direction.

RESILIENCE AND MENTAL TOUGHNESS (GRIT)- Management Accounting Character Traits

Resilience is the mental ability to recover quickly from depression, illness, or misfortune.

In management accounting, resilience is another key characteristic because the work is often tied to leading change. Whether an initiative is small or large, there will always be challenges, pushback, and delays that can be discouraging if you let them.

Instead, resilient people look at challenges as opportunities with fresh eyes and do not deviate from their course (within reason). They dig in, move mountains, and produce results.

TEAMWORK- Management Accounting Character Traits

Management accounting is a team sport. This role is in the middle of the business and regularly interacts with every function. They must have a collaborative mindset to understand the needs of others to produce results.

Working as a team is a highly effective way to determine the optimal solution and build the support necessary to get everyone on board when dealing with change management.

When working with others, you can build your business knowledge and form crucial relationships that reveal the hidden and deeply valuable business insights found nowhere else.

FLEXIBILITY AND COMPROMISE- Management Accounting Character Traits

During any workweek, a management accountant will face shifting priorities. To avoid becoming overwhelmed, they must remain flexible and organized to identify the most important tasks and find other ways to delegate what cannot be accomplished.

Part of the job also establishes expectations over pace, work hours, and availability. If boundaries are not set and maintained, work will expand to fill the gap and wreak havoc on your personal life and peace of mind.

Although there is always much to do, remaining flexible and working with managers and subordinates to discuss and plan out the work is an excellent idea for staying highly effective over the long term.

EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE- Management Accounting Character Traits

In a management accounting role, there will be times when discussions turn heated, someone gets upset, or a misunderstanding occurs.

It’s part of our human nature. What matters is how management accountants react to these situations. Those with high levels of emotional intelligence will learn to bring a human touch to their approach and know how to diffuse situations before they blow up.

Emotional intelligence takes a long time to master and is a skill that grows through both study and practice.

Business stakeholders generally don’t want reports and data tables. They need someone who understands them and their needs and can adapt to explain the story behind the numbers humanly and compellingly.

Determine Your Interests & Fit- Management Accounting Character Traits

The next step towards a career in managerial accounting is determining if this path is the right fit for you.

Attributes of successful management accountants include:

  • Ability and eagerness to learn and continuously improve.

  • Able to work with ambiguity and apply information to accounting frameworks.

  • Interest in working with and learning from others.

  • Critical reasoning capabilities to assess inputs and outputs and identify where additional investigations are required.

  • Communication skills. Management accountants must explain complicated accounting practices in a common language to non-business folks. At the same time, they must be able to present to senior leaders and executives.

  • Technology aptitude. Microsoft Excel and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), budgeting, forecasting, and procurement systems are the most common tool. Management accountants must become highly knowledgeable experts in this space to ensure data integrity and access to this information.

In general, you will want to have a fascination with business.

If you like to read and learn about business topics and how they impact the world, this could be the right fit for you. Management accounting is tied to all business operations. Financial performance does not focus on only a small, isolated area of mastery.

While some may think you need to be a math whiz to fit into management accounting, that is more of a myth.

Yes, you will need to do basic arithmetic, but the more critical skill set is understanding accounting principles and applying a broad discipline to specific challenges.

Today, software and computer systems do complex math and calculations, and management accountants are essential in validating inputs and ensuring that processes are error-free and efficient in their calculations.

Aspiring management accountants might also look for personal characteristics that indicate a dedication to continually maintaining and developing their skills. Since a managerial accountant needs to analyze and advise, you must be dedicated to helping organizations grow and thrive.

Myths- Management Accounting Character Traits

One of the common myths about management accounting is an easy job with a relaxed schedule- This is very far from the truth.

Management accounting is a field where continuous development and learning are the norms. To survive in the field, you must come in with a broad knowledge base and have the interest and capacity to continue learning as you progress in your career.

Although a bachelor’s degree is the bare minimum, many management accountants will pursue MBAs and multiple certifications to develop their skill sets.

Although management accountants have a balanced work-life situation, professionals must be committed to developing a schedule to read regularly, network, study, and identify new solutions.

Why I chose Mgmt Accounting- Management Accounting Character Traits

I began studying accounting during my first year in college during the 2009 recession. At that time, businesses everywhere were laying off employees and shutting down.

But, I noticed the need for accountants never diminished. So, I changed majors and focused on studying accounting. Within four years, I graduated with a dual finance/accounting major and landed my first job in the prestigious DuPont finance rotational program in Wilmington, Delaware.

There I learned the basics, and over the next few years, I advanced into more senior roles where I could significantly impact organizations. In one instance, I was responsible for overhauling an entire costing department. Within two years, my team could satisfy all of the leadership’s needs and implement a business intelligence tool that automated 10 hrs of work a day.

Today, ten years in, I’ve continued to advance and currently serve as a director/controller for a biotech start-up.

I enjoy management accounting because it has offered me the flexibility, salary & personal growth, visibility to management, and ability to impact that I crave. In many accounting roles, the work is mundane and repetitive.

In management accounting, each day is different, the work is interesting, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of autonomy. I enjoy the comfortable pace of the work and the challenging analysis that I am trusted with.

As I consider my career over the next few years, I now have access to career paths for various leadership and executive roles.

For these reasons and the ones itemized early, management accounting is a strong career option for many. Management accounting is the perfect career choice for those passionate about numbers and have an eye on the future.

Updated: 5/11/2023

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