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ACCOUNTING SPOTLIGHT – Big accounting firms have various employee training programs, but they all come back to one key emphasis Leadership skills

Ashley Goodall, who serves as the chief learning officer at Deloitte, says one key to leadership is simple: Leave your smartphone behind.-(PHOTO COURTESY OF DELOITTE)

Christopher Stout has heard all the old jokes about his profession — and what his job supposedly says about him.

He’s an accountant. You know, usually not the first person you seek out at a party.

Stout, however, doesn’t fit the stereotype.

When he clocks out at the end of a long day, he’s the kind of guy that strums a guitar and draws with charcoal.

“People think accounting is a solo thing with unapproachable people,” said Stout, an audit manager in KPMG’s office in the Short Hills section of Millburn.

So many of the big accounting firms are going out of their way to teach their employees to be approachable, be social — be, dare we say, the life of the party.

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Stout has applied soft skill training on a daily basis.

“Things come up every day where we’re faced with difficult conversations we might have to have with the companies we audit or within our team internally,” Stout said. “We try to provide those real-world situations in the training.”

These types of soft skills programs are common among accounting firms. Other big four firms PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Deloitte have implemented similar courses.

PwC, which has offices in Florham Park and Jersey City, has a slightly more individualistic approach to leadership training, using a program it calls Discovery.

“Discovery itself is a program that’s linked to a significant career milestone,” said Tom Evans, partner and chief learning officer. “It is designed to allow our new seniors to explore leadership in the context of self-leadership and how they can develop the skills and capability to make an effective choice.”

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