What Does It Mean To Constructively Challenge As A Finance Business Partner

Finance business partnering roles are becoming more and more common.

If you are a finance business partner you have the opportunity to do a much broader role.

To influence and shape strategy.  To bring insights that help with decision making.  To contribute more to business success.

Then there is the other side of the role.  The critical friend.  The guardian of good governance.  The challenger.

In many ways this has always been part of the role of an accountant.

Of course as finance business partner it’s a bit different.  You are an integral part of the function that you work with. 

You have to build and maintain great relationships. 

Relationships built on mutual trust and respect.

Challenging, if not done in the right way can quickly destroy relationships.

Of course challenging is never about:

  • Showing how smart you are.
  • Being awkward or a pain in the butt.
  • Believing that you have all the answers.

For me constructively challenging is all about:

  • Offering a different perspective.
  • Helping those making the key decisions to think through the implications.
  • Helping those who may be seeking funding or some other form of resource to maximise their chances of success.

To do this well you have to ask plenty of good open questions.

Questions help you jumping to conclusions too quickly.  They also help open up and broaden the thinking of those that you partner with.

You also have to amp up your listening skills

Too often people at work listen just to respond or try to belittle another person’s point of view.

I’m sure we all have seen examples of this and maybe even fallen into the trap ourselves at times.

You have to be okay with those you are supporting not taking your advice.

It’s their call at the end of the day.  They take what they believe to be the best decision and are accountable for the outcomes.

And finally you have to exercise judgement.

Things happen in business.  At the same time there are different levels of risk and consequence.

A good finance business partner knows when to challenge and when not to challenge.

Something that only comes from experience.

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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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