The television channels are awash with programs which pit individuals or teams of individuals against each other completing tasks to show they have business nous. In fact, yesterday one of the judges used the term business savvy. A more common phrase would be business acumen, often seen as the holy grail for a business looking to improve its performance.
The first step to acquiring this skill or improving it, is to make sure you understand what people mean when they use the term. So, a business acumen definition is a good starting place. Bear in mind the way people use the phrase will vary and that the specific skills associated with it might vary between the levels within an organisation.
Once you understand the term hopefully, you can cast off the idea that to have business acumen you need to be a whizz with numbers or a qualified accountant. You don’t. The only thing that I believe is a prerequisite is curiosity and a desire to figure things out.
Years ago, running a business awareness programme for the Inland Revenue (now HMRC) one of the senior leaders told me she could tell who was going to be able to grasp the importance of business acumen and work to develop their skill. The people who read the business pages in the newspaper and who were interested in the commercial world.
So the second step is, get curious start reading some business pages check out a news service like the BBC or get a weekend paper. While you are at it don’t forget to keep abreast of what is happening in your own industry. Next time you see a report from your CEO or Board take a minute to read it, if only just the summary.
You can gain knowledge about business acumen from reading and watching videos or formal study if that’s your bag. However, to develop the skill you need to find an opportunity to practice your ideas. This is where you get to see the cause-effect relationship and how it works. If you are looking to progress within your work environment keep a look out for projects or meetings which, although outside your immediate job role, would expose you to new situations where you can experience new things. Take on responsibility for a new area or project not because you will be paid but because it will be a great learning experience.
As a parallel activity if you have not done any personality or psychometric tests think about finding out more about yourself. If you understand what business acumen is within your role and organisation, you have developed a knowledge base, and understand how to apply the skills you need to develop the self-awareness so you can implement your ideas. If your company offer specific psychometrics, then ask if you can use them if they don’t then look around for some free resources or ones you can pay for as an individual. In my career, I’ve done loads and without doubt the one that has helped me most, both in work and in my personal life, is the Strength Deployment Inventory I thought it was so good I got myself accredited so I could use it with clients. Also worth considering DISC – you can sign up and do this on your own and the Grandad of team assessments is Belbin Team Roles. You can do any of these or others and all of them will help you understand more about yourself and how you interact with people. Always a good investment.
My final thought is to review your influencing skills. We live in a complex world and no one can get things done entirely on their own so what is your influencing style, and can you adjust it when required.
Now go out and conquer the world!