The Treasury Recruitment Company recently conducted a study and used the data to compile “The Treasury Skills Wheel”, a selection of skills that every treasury professional should master. Soft skills such as communication and relationship building feature heavily. Indeed, soft skills are increasingly being recognised as important in the workplace – especially as treasury has become much more integrated with core teams and functions of the business.
Laura White, Operations Director, The Treasury Recruitment Company, says: “As treasury has become more valued and recognised across businesses from an operational perspective, we have noticed a significant shift in the importance hiring managers are placing on certain soft skills when making hiring decisions. These are no longer viewed as ‘a nice to have’ but an essential requirement, often ranking at the very top of the ‘must have’ list of skills.”
White adds that effective communication and relationship-building skills are of particular importance, “as it is no longer just about treasurers talking to other treasurers or finance partners, but often about being able to articulate complex situations and problems to non-finance people, many of whom do not even have a base level understanding of the subject.”
A key skill that underpins all communication is the art of listening, but in practice this means something different to everyone. To some, it may simply mean the basic process of hearing what someone else is saying. To others – and many experts agree – hearing and listening are two separate things. It’s also important to understand the different types of listening that people can do.
Whatever your belief about it, listening is one of the most important skills any person – professional or not – can have, and yet research from ‘Business Communication: Strategies and Skills’ by R. C. Husman, J. M. Lahiff and J. M. Penrose (1988), has shown that the average person’s listening is at only 25% efficiency.
Julian Treasure, a sound and communication expert and founder of The Sound Agency, and Richard Mullender, an ex-Metropolitan police hostage negotiator, both rank listening at the top of the list of necessary traits for both managers and staff.
Mullender states that listening is the most important aspect of communication. “You’ll never understand someone by talking to them – you’ll only ever understand them by listening to them,” he says.
“It’s important to understand that listening and speaking are related to each other – it’s a circular relationship,” says Treasure. “It’s impossible to inspire people if you don’t understand them, and listening is always the doorway to understanding.” Treasure defines the four styles of leadership as “tell, sell, consult, join,” and notes that three out of the four require listening skills.
Leaders who listen
Key to any manager’s position, treasury or not, is the ability to influence and lead their team. “Listen, understand, influence,” says Mullender. “If you listen to a person, you can understand them. If you understand them, you can influence them.”
Sonia Clifton-Bligh, Director, Regional Treasury Services Centre Asia Pacific, Johnson & Johnson, notes that when an individual first steps into a leadership position there is a “tendency to believe you have to speak with confidence and authority, and be armed with all the answers.” As she has progressed in her career, however, she is “now more concerned with communicating to inspire, engage, encourage dialogue and idea generation.”
She believes that a leader’s objective should be to ensure that the team feels empowered, trusted, and respected, and that providing an open and inclusive communication style is integral to this.
“Listening is the primary warning sense for a reason,” comments Treasure, highlighting the importance of listening for threats, opportunities and ideas, as well as the role listening plays in the learning process. “It’s probably the most important skill to develop in order to be a good leader or a good worker – and yet we don’t teach or prioritise it, so most individuals and almost all organisations are very poor listeners,” he adds, citing The Organisational Listening Project’s findings that organisations that are better at listening have better work environments and results.