Professional communication can easily fall to the wayside when we make “friends” with our colleagues or start to indulge in normal day-to-day banter. We start to forget how important being professional and appropriate is to our communication with other business professionals. The following interview with Kelly Fields will clue you in on some tips on how to become professional communicators. Mrs. Fields position is Accounting Manager and Chief Financial Officer for Humboldt Utilities just outside Jackson, TN. Herein, Ms. Fields conveys her professional opinion as to what competencies make us better communicators.
What is your professional history (include your timeline and roles)?
“Almost 14 years in governmental accounting. Started as a staff accountant at a public accounting firm and currently serving as accounting manager/chief financial officer for a municipal utility.”
What writing advice do you have for professional communicators?
“Communication is one of the most important parts of any professional job. I’ve seen folks with strong technical skills get passed over because they didn’t have the corresponding communication skills.”
What is your one pet peeve when it comes to professional writing?
“Poorly written communications that leave the reader wondering what the writer intended to convey.”
What kind of business reports do you read and/or compose regularly?
“Regulatory reports, monthly financial statements, construction status reports and audit reports.”
What are your writing suggestions to make those types of reports successful?
“I convey a brief overall status of the financials/reports and communicate the highlights and hard spots of the same.”
What speaking advice do you have for professional communicators?
“Learn about body language and how to read it. Understand the audience to which you are speaking and communicate in a way that resonate with them.”
Name one thing you wish you had known about business communication before your professional career?
“The presentation, written or oral, has to be geared to the audience to be effective.”
After assessing the Burning Glass list of Baseline Skills (2016), which skills not in the top 5 would you move into the top 5…and why?
“Time management should be one of the top skills. We are all given the same twenty-four hours in a day. What we do with it is what sets us apart.”
What team skills do you feel young professionals need the most?
“Young professionals need time management and communication skills.”
When looking at her responses, first look at the brevity of her responses. When thinking about the best communicators, they typically can convey their message quickly and concisely. This skill is very important in a fast-paced environment, which is most businesses these days. Technology and information races in at an alarming rate in today’s business. It is imperative that we speak and write concisely, if we want to keep up with work demands. Which leads me directly into her response for “What team skill do you feel young professionals need the most?”. She responded by saying time management was a skill that needed to be more important. She stated that:
We are all given the same twenty-four hours in a day. What we do with it is what sets us apart.
In the fast-paced world, time management in our communication is vastly important in everything we do. Being concise, getting the message out clearly, and moving onto the next point, is very important. Conveying your message quickly shows that we have a grasp on what time management is. If we use that skill in our communication, we are likely to use it in other areas of our lives as well.
When asked her opinion on writing in a professional setting, she stated that “Communication is one of the most important parts of any professional job. I’ve seen folks with strong technical skills get passed over because they didn’t have the corresponding communication skills.” So basically, in her professional opinion it is hard to get jobs in the field of business and most any fields without proper all-around communication skills. Her field, and her background coming from accounting, you might think that it is all numbers. To Mrs. Fields, accounting is way more than that. Her being a Manager of accounting, she most likely must present and use those communication skills more often. But even as a more entry level accountant, you must communicate to move up in the field to become a manager or even higher up. Mrs. Fields had some more insight into this when asked about her speaking advice. She responded by talking about body language and how important it is to know how to use it, and how to read it from others. For example, if your posture is poor while presenting, the audience might assume that you didn’t prepare, not confident, or that you don’t care at all. Everyone has bad days but leave the poor posture at home when presenting to a professional audience. She dives deep in her response by saying “Understand the audience to which you are speaking and communicate in a way that resonate with them.” Sometimes this point may be hard to achieve especially when speaking to complete strangers. But honing your skills is the best way to learn to analyze your audience. Though it is rarely easy, we must practice to get good at reading our audience. When trying to evaluate and analyze our audience so that our presentations hit home, it great to know age demographic, body languages (like Mrs. Fields said), and even job demographic. With practice presenting, you will be able to see these characteristics as people walk through the door. Instead of finding out later that your information presented didn’t hit home with the business professionals because it was over their heads or not in their wheelhouse. Last, but not least, lets communicate shortly the importance of her response to what her communication pet peeves are. She responds:
Poorly written communications that leave the reader wondering what the writer intended to convey.
When getting down to brass tacks about communication, the key is that the purpose or message get across to your readers or listeners. If you leave all other skills at home when you come to present, don’t leave your message or purpose. The audience should always know what your purpose for speaking to them was. Don’t waste their time with a presentation that has no goal.
For more information on Mrs. Fields, as she said she was in governmental accounting for 14 years before she took her lead role she is in today. Provided, is a hyperlink to governmental accounting so that you may read further into what that entailed. She did this for the state of Tennessee before her job now. That job showed her the way as she dealt with large budgets, expenditures, and other large financial factors. As she said, “she was thrown to the wolves.” She told me her knowledge of body language came from her time as a staff accountant for a public accounting firm. She used it when speaking to customers. She said body language recognition was helpful in allowing her to use instincts and good judgement to communicate in difficult situations. Included is a hyperlink in her response to some good one-on-one body language tips. Use the tips in practicing for speaking in front of customers or co-workers alike. If you would like to know more about Humboldt Utilities, where Kelly is the Chief Financial Officer and Accounting Manager, go to https://humboldtutilities.com/. It is a customer oriented site, but has some brief history and about us pages. Mrs. Fields works more in the background, the meat of the company, the hard numbers. But don’t let that fool you, she still must communicate every day with professional people, and she has to do it well to stay where she is. Communication is at the forefront of everything going forward in business. Technology will continue to grow, and there will be another way to communicate right around the corner. But sticking to the basics will go a long way with any form of communication. Just remember your audience, body language, and your time management skills and you should be able to communicate on any platform.
Logan Frederick is a student at the University of Southern Indiana majoring in Business Management. For more information follow him on instagram: lofred123