“I can’t hear myself think!” We’re all familiar with the phrase. Some have heard it shouted by exasperated school teachers; others heard their mothers say it on occasion, and some might have heard ourselves repeating it recently to our own children! It’s usually said in a classroom or home environment, followed by an appeal by the drained individual for some peace and quiet. But the phrase is just as applicable in the business world, and ‘not being able to hear yourself think’ has a very real impact on the effectiveness of business leaders and strategists. Unlike in other environments, though, the ‘noise’ intruding one a business leader’s effectiveness is not caused by raised voices or loud juvenile games. It’s often triggered by being over-burdened with tasks, fatigue brought on by working long hours, and the misdirected notion that you need to do everything yourself rather than outsourcing responsibilities to free up your own creative energy.
Distinguishing between effectiveness and efficiency
A business-owner contributor on Forbes points out that there’s a difference between effectiveness and efficiency. “If you complete each task on your to-do list with a high degree of efficiency but haven’t generated the results you want, you are not being effective,” he writes. “Are the tasks you are completing making your day as productive as possible? Many people spend their days being busy without first pausing to evaluate which tasks will give the highest return on their time and which tasks are nonessential. Peter Drucker said, ‘Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.’ Choose the right things — the things that reap the highest return on every hour — and delegate or eliminate the nonessentials.”
The things that will reap the highest return for your company are those things that require you to “hear yourself think”. They don’t involve responding to a long list of emails, or even overseeing important operational details. They involve you thinking big, figuring out what your company’s goals are and constantly re-evaluating and realigning those. If you don’t have the time to strategise because your head is filled with the ‘noise’ of calculating and tracking budgets, monitoring spend and chasing up on invoices, it’s time to consider the sage advice of delegation. It’s not that those responsibilities aren’t important – they are, in fact, essential. It’s just that they don’t have to be carried out by you. Enter the project accountant.
A body to give you head space
A project accountant is a finance professional with the experience and skill set to oversee a particular project. They can come in as a second pair of hands during a busy period, oversee a particular assignment from start to end, or can act as a “roving” financial assistant, lending skills and expertise wherever they are needed in the business. The mandate of a project accountant is to plan, monitor and control all of the financial aspects of their assignment. They’ll do the stressing when you’re overshooting budget, they’ll make the unpleasant phone calls when payments are coming in late and they’ll help you know which employees to clamp down on for overspending. In short, a project accountant is there to help you shoulder the important money-related aspects of your projects and give you more room and time to think.
Hackney Council in the UK, when looking for a project accountant described some of the role as follows: “As project accountant you will help us meet our statutory and internal financial responsibilities. You will provide strategic financial advice to our directorates and support a range of management processes. This is a broad role and one that will mean the individual getting involved in all aspects of Council responsibilities. The role needs a candidate that can quickly grasp the requirements of each project, articulate a plan and get individuals together to deliver.” A well-trained project accountant will fulfill all of these functions, and in so doing will support the strategic goals of the business.
If you need some help ‘hearing yourself think’, contact The Finance Team. We’ll connect you with our network qualified, experienced project accountants. One of them can provide assistance as and when needed, helping relieve some of the burdens of your position and allowing you the creative space to really think.