It’s been said that everything in life is temporary, so why are accountants so averse to change? In our profession, we still see firms cling to outdated technology, archaic traditions, and old-fashioned paradigms even though the writing is on the wall – a revolution is brewing.
We need to be prepared to deal with a massive wave of change. From the experience we provide our customers and how we build employee culture to our pricing strategies, service line-up, and introduction of private-equity money into firms, we must begin re-thinking and changing everything. And, if you are even more forward-thinking, we also must learn how to function as agents of positive change to transform our customers. So, how do we reverse our aversion to change? Here are my thoughts on where to begin.
1. Start by evaluating your aversion to change
To change your firm and your clients, you must first master how to change yourself. Start with small things on a personal level, like trying new food, eating at new restaurants, going to a new vacation spot, or doing an activity you have never done before. Keep doing new things every day. Push yourself towards the unfamiliar repeatedly until you are comfortable with your inexperience.
Then, take this same method and start doing new things at work – rearrange your office, listen to new podcasts, read different books, use a new program, run a sales call differently, or experiment with pricing. We have heard that practice makes perfect all our lives, and the same general rule applies to being an expert at handling and driving change.
2. Face your fears
The great thing about working as an accountant is that it’s not life or death if something doesn’t go exactly right. That’s true when we make changes to our systems, procedures, and people. If fear or anxiety creeps up, coach yourself mentally through why the change is beneficial, even if unpopular. For your team, remind them that change is intended to make things better than the status quo and that you can always change it back to the way it was before if it doesn’t work.
Expect your team to resist change and work hard to poke holes in the decision and plan, and assert yourself as the leader, decision-maker, and risk-taker that is needed to propel the firm forward.
3. Use Your Imagination
It’s terrible how jaded and “realistic” we are as adults and, especially, as accountants. When did we lose our ability to dream and use our imaginations? Set aside time periodically (weekly, monthly) to let your mind wander through the ins and outs of everything in your life. Envision your ideal business and personal life…. how do you see yourself? Is your office different? What are you doing that is making you smile? Where are you in the future? What does your firm look like? Who is with you?
When you are thinking about making a big change in significant business, imagine everyone’s positive response, the amazing results, and the compliments from clients – your ability to envision and believe in the change will make it more successful because you have already seen it in your mind.
4. Look back & reflect
Occasionally, look backward to contemplate the significance of your personal and professional growth that resulted from the changes initiated. Here are some things I like to think about a few times each year:
- What changes did I make in my personal life that have impacted my firm positively?
- How did my desire to change create value in my firm and for my clients?
- What could I have done differently to engage my team more in loving my decisions to change?
- What changes should I be thinking about in the future?
- Where do I need to improve so that I’m an effective leader?
Remember that it’s ok for things not to work. It’s ok to try and not work perfectly the first time. It’s NOT ok to be afraid of trying or letting a negative-thought death spiral derail you from giving something a fair chance or giving something another go.
There has been no shortage of uncertainty in the last couple of years, and that energy shift propelling us to DO more and BE more isn’t going away. As firm leaders and client advisors, we must retrain ourselves to welcome and thrive on change…. because change is the only thing that’s certain.