The view from the President: Shaping your message

CIMA President Steven Swientozielskyj, FCMA, CGMA

One of my strands of work during this year is to be an advocate — for CIMA, our profession, and our members and students.

One definition of an advocate is someone who gives public support or suggests an idea or way of doing something.

However, for me, advocacy has meaning beyond dictionary definitions. It has both a passive element — to mean what you say — and a passionate meaning — to say what you mean.

I am far from being alone as an advocate. Many of our members give public support and recommend our qualifications, credentials, and people, and I thank you for that.

Going public with a bold message straight off is not the best way to be an advocate; it requires preparation. I prepared for 18 months before becoming CIMA president — researching, consulting, and engaging with members, students, and others. I had the input of 10 to 15 key people and tested my messages with CIMA Council, our Institute’s other honorary officers, and the Association’s Management Accounting Board. This meant that I could, from day one, maximise my contribution.

Here are three steps towards getting the right message and argument to land with people you are trying to influence:

  • Envisage your outcomes: This is about making sure you understand what you are trying to achieve and goes beyond consideration of inputs, outputs, and efficiency.
  • Receive input from others: You may have a strong view of what the outcome should be, but taking a range of feedback from others in a process of collaboration rather than consent can often shift the outcome up a gear.
  • Review for fatal flaws and to add diamonds: Listening to others can reveal a flaw you have not noticed that could derail your message. In addition, others may add a diamond that can elevate your message and make it land more effectively.

By following these steps, you are well positioned to advocate. You need, of course, to understand what you are advocating. I start at a strategic level, deep-dive to the detail to verify a point, and then once the point is clarified, push strategically.

Within the Association we are building advocacy capability. Increasingly our voice is being heard across the world, and doors are being opened to us. This is a trend I have observed as I engage with businesses, regulators, and government officials in different countries. CIMA’s centenary in 2019 is a great opportunity to further this work, and I am looking forward to doing that in the coming months.

Finally, I also committed at the beginning of my year as president to champion our Future of Finance research, which will ensure that members and students are best prepared for the digital age. I have been privileged to present some of its findings to groups of members and students, including in India, Sri Lanka, and Canada. In Toronto, I also spoke at CIMA Canada’s conference on The Future of Work, which looked at how technology and the workplace are changing in radical ways. Change challenges us — we need to embrace it to take our careers beyond what we once thought possible.

If you would like to comment on any of these issues, please do get in touch at In my next column, in December, I will reflect on the first six months of my year and the lessons I have learned as CIMA president as we move forward into 2019.