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Personalities of the Finance Function

By Brad Eisenhuth | Leadership, Career Management, Eisenhuth | 14 Mar 2018 |

This is a review of the quirky personality types you may see in your finance team. Like every business, the accounting and finance team in many businesses is full of different types of people. Now that a career in finance is seen as an avenue to open many other career doors, it attracts a broad range of characters. Gone are the days of the stereotypical accountant: reserved, conservative, short-sleeved shirt, calculator and biro in their pocket.

Let’s look into some of the personalities and see if you recognise any.

The full package leader

The rarest of all, this should be the first finance personality to explore. The Full Package has as even balance of charisma and the ability to execute. Getting things done isn’t a problem, but the full package puts thought into how delivery will not only allow the business to reach its goals, but how team members will be impacted. They understand the must-win battles for progress, appreciating that the battles require a healthy dose of resilience and mental toughness. The full package is well-connected in the organisation, empowers others and instills trust in the group. People are as important as numbers to this finance leader.

Positives: If you have reviewed the description, it could be argued that the positives are fairly obvious. What is even more positive is that these leaders do exist.

Negatives: Perhaps the only negative is that the Full Package is difficult to achieve for many, and even for those who have achieved it. Focus, dedication and a passion for what their work. Are they too perfect?


The over-sharer

Unlike their ancestor, the conservative accountant; the over-sharer in the finance department tells you more than you need to know. They have the ability to turn a one sentence statement into a full novel and use 500 words when 50 will do. Their energy and enthusiasm for communication is fantastic, but their execution may not always hit the mark. The over-sharer can sometimes be challenged with building relationships for this reason, but early in their career it is endearing.

Positive: The over-sharer’s enthusiasm brings a great deal of positivity to the finance department, which can be great for culture. They can be very effective under leadership that can help them tighten their story.

Negative: Often the over-sharer is not great at reading their audience and will forget to ask questions of stakeholders they serve. This can be a deep part of their personality and restrict their development, especially as a business partner to non-finance teams.

The power player

The power player has a tendency to leverage influential people in the business to their advantage and use this in work dealings. They can be found hiding behind other people’s decisions, managing upwards or passing the buck on issues that they should be accountable for. Their ability to gain trust in leadership can be very effective, but this has a tremendous downside when they forget their service to their team or business stakeholders.

Positive: Can be very effective at getting things approved or started through their connections, and often this can allow them to develop well as a leader if they also support their peers and team.

Negative: When not managed well, the power player tends to get confused between staying close to the ‘right’ people and actually doing what is best for the business. They can be very dangerous and difficult to deal with, especially in times of change. Can often present ‘style’ over ‘substance’ when it comes to work product and team contributions. Tends to delegate more than they deliver.

The under-the-radar machine

This person tends to deliver a huge amount of work, and typically does it with very little fuss. They are high-powered versions of their conservative accountant ancestor. Their ability to focus on what is in front of them is impressive, however this may mean no one knows what they are doing. A highly productive species, these team members really care about getting things done.

Positive: An asset to any team to keep things moving forward, or at least completed on time. These people tend to take on new tasks without a great deal of fuss and get excited by being busy. The work horse of the team who reliably and consistently delivers results whilst others may be jostling for power and networking.

Negative: Focussing so hard on delivery can mean these people lack the ability to connect with the business, especially when it needs to be done. Instead, when pressured they may simply focus on getting the job done, even when priorities may have changed. Their risk is that they stagnate at this level and never learn to influence or lead.


The generaliser

The generaliser always has an answer for something, but the recommendation tends not to add a great deal of value to anyone. They reflect on the past and often suggest that things stay the way they are. Adapting to change can be difficult, although their career experience would suggest that they could do anything. Sometimes in their opinion, they could lead the company, yet seem unable to improve upon much in their own job.

Positive: These people typically have an answer because they actually have experience. Tapping into their experience can be very effective, but it takes breaking their state of mind to shift them to thinking more deeply about solutions and problem solving.

Negative: Unfortunately, all that experience means they are the masters at recycling old ideas and keeping the status quo because “we’ve already tried that and it didn’t work”. Not only is their slow-to-adapt nature a risk, but their style can sometimes impact team culture when left unmanaged. “It’s all too hard” is the last thing you want in your team.

The relationship obsessed

The relationship obsessed is a fantastic asset to have in the finance department. They get to know almost everyone in the business and always seem to know what is going on. Some relationship builders have a tendency to overplay their hand and forget to do what they are there to do. As such, stretching into new areas can be difficult, especially when times get tough and the ‘doing’ needs to get done.

Positive: A fantastic person to have as the face of the finance function, creating a sense of comfort in others around them with their approachability and communication style. Assuming there is substance behind their communication, this can be very powerful.

Negative: The relationship builder that is unbalanced can have trouble focussing on the detail. They may have aspirations of leaving finance or evolving into a role that utilises their relationship building skills, but they need to be managed to get the right outputs, especially early in their career.

The assassin

This person is usually an observer, and like the under-the-radar machine, they may not make a lot of noise, but when they do, it is noticed. The assassin tends to enjoy picking targets and making a point. They can have their ‘favourite’ issues that they like to impress upon others, and in a senior position, can sometimes be hard to read. The assassin tends to be succinct, sharp tongued and can be very effective when needed. Equally they can be destructive when their interests are only self-serving.

Positive: The assassin can spot a problem from a distance and can usually cut through to the answer. This is very powerful when there are times of change or chaos. Their ability to focus on what matters can be very effective.

Negative: When the assassin is confused about what matters, or forgets about the need to have a relationship, all of their capabilities can create collateral damage. If they focus too much on the same target problem, others tend to lose interest in all of their good qualities.

The ‘yes’ person

No one seems to have a personal issue with this ‘nice’ person, but also, no one seems to say much exciting about him or her either. They will usually get the job done without a great deal of fuss, tend to focus on the positives, but also avoid getting caught up in any conflict or confusion. Business stakeholders like to work with them, but they too can be left asking for more. Sometimes they can let you down by saying ‘yes’ when what they really mean is ‘no’.

Positive: Can be a great personality to have in a team and someone who won’t break anything. With guidance, the ‘yes’ person can evolve into a very effective face of finance; working out ways to say, “yes, we can do that” to their internal customers, and actually getting it done. They often need to be coached to become more proactive and take on conflict occasionally.

Negative: The ‘yes’ person who is not on their game can really let you down. They will tell you everything you want to hear and show you all of the great things they are doing, without pointing out areas to watch out for. This can become a huge issue in projects, or when under tight deadlines.

The office swan

A beautiful creature, they are not always around, but when they are, they tend to have a positive impact. Sometimes they work part time, other times they are just living in meeting rooms that no one knows about. The swan can move through the office without a great deal of noise, and at times, that lack of noise can mean a lack of contribution to the team goals with everyone else breaking their backs to get things done. The office swan might not like to get dirty, but certainly looks the part.

Positive: The office swan in finance can be highly impactful and fill in the gaps. Their efficiency can be extremely valuable when harnessed, especially when their knowledge and alignment to the team is tight.

Negative: The swan can have a very negative impact on the team, especially when there is a great deal of grunt work to get through. His or her ability to walk out of the office when everyone is hurting can really rub the team up the wrong way. This is not to say they are ineffectual, simply that their communication with others may need to be managed.

There are plenty of personalities in most teams, and of course, this is just a selection of some you may recognise. Teams are made up of all types, but of course, some of these personalities may suit your team and business culture better than others. Can you recognise any of these personalities?


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