How To Contribute To A Team When You Are Not The Expert

Accountants are increasingly taking on the role of Finance Business Partner.  It is fair to say that most accountants in big organisations in the public and private sector have been doing this role, at least in part for many years.

What I notice is that accountants often find it really difficult to contribute to teams or issues when they are not the experts.

In some ways this is understandable.  On the other hand when you are not the expert you can often see things that others can’t.

Non Executive Directors are a prime example of this.  They may well have a lot of business experience but don’t necessarily know the detail of a specific organisation or sector.

So if you are not an expert how can you contribute to a team?brainstorming-design-engine

Ask questions

Questions are often the thing that unlocks an issue or even helps others to better articulate things.

You want mostly to be asking questions that are open.  So you might ask things like:

  • What’s the context or background?
  • Why is this an issue right now?
  • What options do we have?
  • What’s the benefits of each option?
  • What are some of the downsides of each option?
  • How does this fit with..?
  • What evidence exists?

Listen intently

When you do this you start to build up some knowledge and insight.  Often just by listening intently you can spot an opportunity to build on an idea or suggestion that someone else has raised.

Sometimes through listening you will ask the question that others are avoiding, the so called elephant in the room.

Test your understanding

A simple let me check my understanding can help you make sure that you do understand and also help others to be sure that they have got their point of view across.  So you might say something like

Let me check I have got the issue clear in my mind.  As I understand it we are trying to……and we have …..options which are……Is that correct?

Ask directly how you can be most effective in the team

Blindingly obvious when you read this.  On the other hand have you ever done this?  You have been asked to be part of a team for a reason.  Get your ego out of the way and just ask how you can be most effective on the team.

Duncan Brodie helps accountants and professionals to build the skills and the career that they want. Learn more here.

About the Author Duncan Brodie

Since 2006 I’ve worked with in excess of 8,000 accountants and professionals in workshops, seminars and one to one helping them land their next jobs and become better leaders, presenters and business partners. Before that I spent 25 years in accountancy climbing the career ladder from Payments Clerk to FD. I’m a CIMA Fellow, Certified Professional Coach and Team Coach Facilitator.

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