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The view from the President: A time to reflect

CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA

'CIMA has a clear duty to equip members — and students — for the future.'

I am approaching the midpoint of my year as CIMA president, and it's a good time to reflect and learn from those first few months.

Why reflect? The Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius said it is a way to learn. He said: "By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the bitterest."

I agree with this approach. Whether or not we have a formal leadership role, each of us can step back to evaluate our strengths, weaknesses, and behaviours. It is also useful to develop a habit of continually assessing and reviewing our assumptions. This links to the idea of a growth mindset that Carol Dweck, Ph.D., of Stanford University developed in the late 1980s. A growth mindset means being open to giving and receiving feedback and having a "zest for teaching and learning".

Having reflected, I can say that these first six months have been exciting and demanding in equal measure. I had prepared for the year and given thought to what could be my contribution to our Institute at this important stage in our history. I was always clear that members and students were to be my main focus but that there are critical stakeholders we also need to influence.

I have also learned lessons to take forward to the next six months. As someone who is fundamentally very hands-on and a shaper of businesses, I have learned to act more in a chairman's role. This has been a challenging transition — where I have had to unlearn and then relearn new skills.

As I have travelled to meet members and students in several countries, I continue to be humbled by individual stories of commitment and advocacy for our profession, and their part in transforming businesses and communities.

CIMA has a clear duty to equip members — and students — for the future. In many ways, this is most important for those mid-career — those who are not "digital natives". Their current skillset and knowledge will not last their careers, so it is crucial they develop their skills around empathy, emotional intelligence, and creativity. These skills are difficult to replicate in machine-learning technologies and are increasingly becoming finance professionals' core skills, which are used to advise and influence decision-makers.

As management accountants work more closely with machines — in a process of augmented intelligence — complex problem-solving also moves up the scale of importance. In the workplace of tomorrow, this — along with our ability to collaborate and partner — will distinguish us and increase our employability.

I have also reflected on the considerable power of relationships within our Institute and within our Association — between our two founding bodies, CIMA and the American Institute of CPAs. We have made considerable progress since the Association was created two years ago, but there is more to do. I am committed to enhancing that progress over the next six months.

In my next column in print, in February 2019, I will reflect on CIMA's centenary. It will be a huge privilege to be president in our centenary year. I look forward to meeting many of you as we celebrate and move forward into the next 100 years, where we will respect our heritage and embrace our future.

Finally, please get in touch at Steve.Swientozielskyj@ aicpa-cima.com if you would like to comment on any of these issues.