Coaching Business Acumen – Developing Acumen in Your Team

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Business acumen is often talked about as an essential attribute, but what is it? The concept of business and financial acumen is tied up with a range of soft skills that are all trainable.

Working in the financial sector, it’s important that your team has business acumen skills. Trained right, they will be able to make sound decisions on behalf of your institution, protecting your reputation and bottom line.

To help you understand the concept of business acumen and how you can coach it into your team, we’re going to cover:

  • The definition of business acumen
  • Whether the skills for acumen can be taught
  • The methods you can use to train your team

So you’re ready to develop your team and increase their understanding of business.

What does business acumen look like?

Business acumen, at base, is about understanding how to make decisions within a business to achieve maximum outcomes. There are a lot of skills that go into having that ability.

Examples of business acumen skills include:

  • Financially literate – understanding calculations, ratios, and equations that are needed to analyse a business.
  • Knowledge of the organisation – knowing in general how businesses are structured and specifically how the business you work in is organised.
  • Self-awareness – be aware of your limitations and knowing when to ask for support or to defer judgement.
  • Awareness of stakeholders – taking into account everyone who will be affected by a decision.
  • Working with ambiguity – having the confidence to make a decision even when the full suite of information isn’t available.
  • Market knowledge – understanding the broader context that the business operates in, from competitors to regulators.

When a colleague is able to develop each of these skills, they should be confident in making a decision that’s in the best interests of your business and your profits.

Can business and financial acumen be taught?

In a word, yes. Some of the business and financial acumen skills we’ve outlined might be more natural to some people than others, but they can still be learned.

To clarify, there is a subtle difference between business and financial acumen:

  • Financial acumen is having the skills to make a decision to optimise financial outcomes such as increased profits or better returns on investment.
  • Business acumen includes financial acumen, plus understanding wider business implications on stakeholders like employees, customers, communities, and shareholders.

With a strong training programme, both of these skills in business can be taught.

How can I train my team to have business acumen?

As with most skills in life, when it comes to business acumen, practice makes perfect. To upskill your team to have well-rounded business acumen you need to implement a strong training regime that extends far beyond a few hours in a classroom.

Everyone has different ways of learning; it’s important that training regimes take that into account. Further, the idea of sitting in a classroom taking notes for hours in end will likely send your colleagues to sleep at the thought.

Rather, you need to implement experiential learning that is fun, interactive, relevant, and re-enforceable over the long term. At Excelerate, our simulation training programs cover each of these essential elements of training business acumen.

A typical simulation program could look like this:

  1. Your team attend an online or in-person training day dedicated to training business acumen.
  2. Attendees are split into teams of 4-7 people and login to the simulation platform.
  3. Information will be given by the expert coaches about elements of business acumen that will be looked at.
  4. On the platform, the teams will work together making decisions across a range of variables for their virtual bank in a competitive virtual marketplace.
  5. The process is repeated over 4-5 rounds over the day, with the winning team decided by a range of financial and business metrics that are customised based on your company’s specific requirements.
  6. Real-world case studies are reviewed between each round, reinforcing the learning outcomes and participants can reflect on real world activity within the banking sector.

It’s designed to gamify learning, build team work as well as business acumen, and offer long-term engagement for your team. View our simulation learning programs here.

Conclusion

Training business acumen requires a range of skills to be developed. Using a well-designed and balanced training program will embed these skills into your team and help them improve their business decision making skills.

Excelerate Consulting have an innovative and engaging simulation training platform supported by industry professionals. To train business acumen skills to your team, contact us to discuss our offering.  

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