Getting Out of Your Own Way: Part 3

The art of communication while leading others

This is Part 3 of a three-part series. Here are the links to the other articles in this series.

Part 1: Exponential growth starts with defining your why and building your vision

Part 2: Empowering others so you can lead into the future

Getting out of your own way requires a vision, clearly defined roles, and communication.  It’s not just an email to your team or a lengthy staff meeting.  How you communicate to your team is just as important as what you communicate.

Clarity always wins

Uncertainty is the enemy of growth.  Teams that are poised for exponential growth all have clarity.  Each member of the team knows the plan, the path, and their role.  This only happens through clear and consistent communication.  Gone are the days of the leader being like the great Wizard of Oz: shrouded in secrecy, unreachable, unapproachable, and often unclear.  

A CPA firm is a business, and a business ready for (and experiencing) exponential growth needs everyone on the same page.  Tear down the curtain.  Be transparent and honest with your team.  Be realistic about where you are starting.  Be open about the need for change and the path to get there. 

Disrupt the resistors

Just as you created a clear vision with specific measurable steps to attain it, the right communication strategy will minimize resistance.  Lasting change doesn’t occur overnight, so be patient.  Be proactive, and communicate clearly and honestly to ignite a spark that will fuel the change process.  It would be foolish to expect 100% buy-in immediately, however, consistent communication throughout all levels of the organization can help allay fears and discomfort, bringing the team to a functional place.

Who are we now?

Without dedicated training, an organization that is evolving and moving through change can be left adrift. It’s not enough to say, “We don’t do/say/think that anymore.”  Your team needs a clear vision of who they are now.  

Provide your team brand training. It’s not just a new logo and catchy phrase.  It’s important for the person who is filling the JULIE™ role (aka your firm champion) to lead (or work with a brand messaging expert to lead) an effort to a.) build the consistent message behind your brand, and then b.) teach the team your ideal customers’ story and how serving those customers leads to the vision. 

By helping your team understand your clients’ story and how they fit in to carry out the vision to serve those clients, their work has meaning. And, by educating every person on the team to understand the firm’s ‘elevator pitch,’ you ensure a consistent message being delivered every time.

Get everyone on board

Prioritize action steps for shifting your culture from reactive to proactive. This starts with firm leadership- the owner/partners and the JULIE™ role.  The passion and vision you communicate will begin the culture shift from reactive to proactive

At the foundation of every proactive and positive firm culture are 2 things: mutual trust and respect.  Your team must trust you as leader while you reciprocate that trust and empower the team in their individual roles.  This relationship can be built and nurtured through simple, actionable steps. 

1. Processes and structure – Create, document and share all firm processes. 

2. Simplify – Work flows that are filled with complications or redundancies waste the time and valuable resources of your firm.  Automate where possible to free up space for team members to tackle new projects, solve problems, and think forward.

3. Give grace – There will be mistakes.  Empower your team to make them and learn from them. Imagine the growth that is possible when working in an environment where risks can be taken.

4. Define roles – Take the time to put the right people in the right roles, and hold everyone accountable.  

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel – Encourage your team to look for systems, processes, and knowledge that already exist and can be implemented in your firm.  

6. Protect your culture fiercely  – Sustaining a proactive culture takes dedication.  When the opportunity to hire a new employee arises, find a candidate who is a good fit with the core values of your firm.  Look beyond credentials to see how this person will compliment the team and contribute to your vision.

Build a TEAM culture

Transparency. Leaders must be open with what the vision is and what the plans are to get there.

Empowerment. If the leader is the smartest, most capable person on the team, they are doing something wrong. Allow each team member to grow in their roles. Let each person who has specific knowledge be the authority, and encourage the sharing of knowledge with others in the firm. 

Action. Map out a plan, communicate it, and hold yourself accountable to moving forward without allowing tax deadlines to become an excuse.

Make each other better. Encourage and empower each team member to be responsible for making everyone around them better professionally and personally. 

Summing it up

Communication is a critical factor for executing change. With good communication, you’ll build a proactive culture and strong team that will execute the change for you. And, when people understand their roles and are empowered to take reasonable risks, growth begins.

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