I was chatting with a friend last week about what makes a great professional adviser. My friend, let’s call him Phil (as in Phil Dunphy – the geeky father character in the TV series Modern Family) is a senior executive in a multinational fashion retailing group. Phil’s expertise is in organisational development & learning and he has worked in fields as diverse as investment banking to food processing. Phil knows his stuff – trust me. By the way, just in case “Phil” is reading this … mate don’t worry – you’re much smarter and more handsome than the actor 🙂
Phil has been around long enough to know what makes a great professional adviser. He has had experience in working with all manner of professionals – accountants, lawyers, management consultants and organisational psychologists just to name a few.
In chatting with Phil about professional advisers he reminded me of a quality that is often overlooked in many disciplines including accounting. The quality is empathy. Before we go any further lets be clear on what empathy is.
According to the online Oxford Dictionary … empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Another definition I found which I like very much is empathy is the power of understanding and imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings. I think you’re getting the idea. But lets dig a little deeper.
A great way to fully understand the meaning of something is to look at its opposite. So what is the opposite of empathy? After searching high and low and thinking about it the best opposite I could come up with to empathy is indifference.
Indifference is defined as someone showing a lack of interest, concern, or sympathy.
Now for the big question … are you an accountant/adviser that shows empathy or are you one that displays indifference? I would like to think that you are someone who not only has the ability to understand and share the feelings of another but also imaginatively entering into another person’s feelings.
To help you understand what camp you fall into, over the next two posts I will share with you the profile of an empathetic adviser viz an indifferent adviser. Both are based on real people working in the accounting profession. After comparing the two, I’d love you to tell me which adviser type you think clients really want!
Until next time.