PER: performance objective 4 - manage self

In the first of a series of articles offering advice on achieving the three personal effectiveness performance objectives, student accountant looks at ways to demonstrate your competence for performance objective four – manage self

In today’s pressurised, highly-demanding business environment, it’s more important than ever, as you work towards becoming a professional, that you can show your employer how self-sufficient you’re capable of being. What better reward for the support (financial, moral, time off, or otherwise) provided by an encouraging boss than a rounded professional who no longer needs constant supervision?

If you can be self-motivated when it comes to managing yourself – the quality of your work, your time, the resources you call on – as well as commanding the respect of colleagues by cultivating lasting, productive relationships, you’ll be well on your way to achieving performance objective 4 (PO4). You’ll also be expected to take the initiative with your own career, ready to identify learning needs and opportunities as you continue your professional development. So how should you plan to do this? Some simple strategies:

  • When the opportunity arises to take part in a special project team, why not volunteer – the chances are this will give you valuable exposure to less familiar or more senior colleagues, while acquiring and improving teamwork, project management, and communication skills.
  • Don’t be cynical about performance appraisals, even if others are – take them seriously and you’ll find you’re taken more seriously yourself; be confident about listing your achievements, honest in your assessment of where you could improve, and enthusiastic when suggesting ways in which you could add value.
  • Where there are chronic or recurring in-house problems – those that have been hanging around for a while, but that no-one’s found time to deal with yet, such as outdated procedures, unnecessary duplication of effort within the organisation, or manuals that have become obsolete, consider investing some thinking time in coming up with well-reasoned solutions, perhaps in collaboration with a colleague (which can create extra impetus to succeed). Be prepared to add to your short-term responsibilities if management likes what they hear – but you’ll benefit in the long run by having clearly demonstrated your initiative and resourcefulness.
  • Get involved – if your organisation has an intranet forum, newsletter, or dedicated social networking site, or if it stages fundraising events or corporate social responsibility initiatives, explore how you can take part or even help with organising – not only will you develop new skills, you’ll make new friends and perhaps even impress those with influence over promotions or pay reviews.
  • Watch for opportunities to prove your professionalism and commitment – for instance, by developing an instinct for identifying when it would be wise to stay late or work through your lunch hour; by taking intelligible messages when you recognise that the last thing your manager needs is disturbing; and of course by always trying to come up with solutions, not problems.
  • Depending on how much work experience you have, offer to act as a coach to junior trainees, or to allow them to shadow you in your role – ideal preparation if you plan to progress to management, and a way in which you can show you’re willing to punch above your weight within the team.
  • Keep a beady eye out for training and development opportunities; not just internally but via ACCA events, industry seminars, career and networking evenings. Where these might require time off or financial sponsorship from your employer, prepare a sound business case (don’t wait to be asked), demonstrating how the organisation and/or your team will benefit from the skills or knowledge you’d acquire by your attendance.
  • Where feasible – but without getting bogged down in meetings – make the effort to at least put faces to the names of colleagues you might otherwise only communicate with via impersonal e-mails; you don’t have to be liked by everyone you deal with – but it certainly helps to break the ice if you make the effort to take the lift an extra couple of floors to deliver a document or just to say hello.
  • Work hard to earn a reputation as a safe pair of hands – each time you’re asked to perform a task, ask yourself: have I done this as best I can? If not, where can I find out how to do better? Don’t be afraid of asking for help once you’ve exhausted all the possibilities you could reasonably be expected to think of yourself.

The next step is to answer the three unique challenge questions for this objective in the My Experience, accessed via myACCA:

  • What have you learned about how you work as an individual? (Consider, for instance, what you may have noticed about your time planning, your interaction with colleagues, your ability to solve problems, or your attention to detail).
  • How have you changed your behaviour or approach in the workplace as a result of what you have learned? (Think about what you now do differently and why, including where you – or others – have observed improvements in your productivity or quality of work).
  • How has this helped improve work outputs or business results in your area? (Look for both qualitative and quantitative differences).

Work with your workplace mentor when planning how to achieve this objective – you’ll need their sign-off on your activity and on your answers to the challenge questions. Finally, remember that all exam syllabuses test a range of personal effectiveness skills.

"If you can be self-motivated when it comes to managing yourself – the quality of your work, your time, the resources you call on – as well as commanding the respect of colleagues by cultivating lasting, productive relationships, you’ll be well on your way to achieving performance objective 4"