Stuck in Your Job? Close the 33% Gap Holding You Back

October 30, 2014

Want to move ahead in your career? You gotta close the 33% gap. Research shows that middle managers are stuck because they lack business, strategic, and financial acumen. Those three factors alone add up to 33% of the skillsets employers seek when they are promoting staff. Those who lack the 33% don’t move ahead. Especially women.

Leadership expert Susan Colantuono highlighted this in her TEDxBeaconStreet talk.

But what are business, strategic, and financial acumen? defines acumen as “the ability to make good judgments and make quick decisions.” Also according to the dictionary, the word is rooted in 16th Century Latin from the verb acuere or ‘sharpen.’  Therefore, business, strategic, and financial acumen is the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions as they relate to the business, strategic, and financial goals of your organization.

Acquiring such keenness and speed in finance hinges on the combination of many factors. These factors include on-the-job experience and continuous learning. While such learning may begin with a university degree such as an MBA, research shows that specialized training addressing specific training needs is more effective.  The ability to understand and decipher the interplay between numbers, people, process, and technology on a global dimension and scale is critical in today’s ever-changing global economy.

Financial acumen is complex. To create economic value for your organization, you must understand and manage multiple financial indicators around goals, products, stakeholders, platforms, resources, regulations, geographies, time zones, and markets effectively. Just reading the previous sentence is mind-boggling.

Sharpening these skills–while also inspiring and motivating your team and driving your vision forward–requires a two-pronged approach to leadership: Mastering the people skills and getting a solid grasp on your business, strategic, and financial acumen.  Let’s take a closer look at what each means:

1. Business acumen sharpens your ability to keep your house in order and work efficiently by managing costs and resources, focusing on process quality, standards, tools, and metrics, thus driving efficiency, shorter cycles, better managing resources, and understanding technology trends.

2. Strategic acumen includes the ability and skills to analyze local, regional, and global market and product trends, deciphering competitive intelligence, understanding the importance of governance, risk, and compliance, and building a sound corporate responsibility strategy and a broader sustainability strategy for the growth of your organization into the future.

3. Financial acumen includes strengthening core financial literacy concepts and metrics, streamlining processes such as budgeting, forecasting, and reporting, and recognizing the importance and interdependence of governance, risk, and compliance.

“There are two critical areas for you to concentrate on as a manager: The business side and the people side. Fine-tuning these skills makes you a credible leader and not just a good manager,” according to Suzan Zeidman, AMA Portfolio Manager for Communications and Management.

The underlying common thread in all these skills is a keen understanding of the numbers in your line of business.  Mastering the numbers enables you to make sound and quick decisions. Pursuing these skills, and more importantly seeking the cross-pollination among them, is an indispensable criterion for success both in your personal growth and that of your organization.

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Take the next step in your career by learning the basics of financial acumen.

About The Author

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.

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