Tax & Accounting Blog

The Three Cs of Change

Accounting Firms July 13, 2016

There isn’t much in life that’s more constant than change. And it’s tough to find a better measure of our success or failure—in business and in life—than how we deal with change.

How do you lead your firm through change? How do you ensure that your clients benefit from the changes you make, but aren’t inconvenienced by them as you’re working through the bugs?

A good place to start is by taking a hard look at what I call the three Cs of change: Challenge, Courage and Communication. Keep these factors in mind whenever you undertake a change, and the likelihood that you’ll be successful increases exponentially. Let’s take a deeper look at the three Cs below.

Challenge

Change is challenging for everyone—granted, in different degrees—because it can bring up so many different emotions, insecurities and questions about trust. All of these feelings are valid and normal during times of change. And ignoring them won’t help the situation, so it’s important to have tools available to help everyone manage together.

The Speed of Trust is a great book to read and an excellent reference resource during times of change. This book is a cornerstone for my team; we refer to it in meetings when we’re going through changes to remind ourselves how much more quickly we move through problems and issues if we come from a place of trust.

As you lead your team through any change, you should make a conscious effort to encourage everyone to voice their concerns. Make it safe for them to be transparent, and to put their concerns on the table so they can be addressed.

Courage

Let’s face it: Change is scary. It takes courage to lead your staff through changes when you have almost as many fears as they do. But it’s your courage that plays a key role in navigating unknown territory, and gives your team the confidence that you’ll bring them through safely to the other side.

Explaining the “Why” of the change to your team is critical. It not only shows direction, it keeps misunderstandings and hearsay to a minimum. I believe if you start with the Why, and keep reiterating it, you’ll naturally move into the role of the leader your team needs.

Communication

During times of change, communication must be constant. You’ll need to encourage everyone to share their thoughts on a regular basis, all the while keeping in mind that different people share in different ways. One way does not fit all, and “loud” doesn’t necessarily equal the majority consensus; it’s just…well, loud.

One of your challenges will be to ensure that there are enough different avenues by which your team can share their concerns, but the effort will be worth it in the end because transparent and honest communication is vital to establishing and keeping trust during times of change.

And don’t worry about over-communicating; I promise you that’s never an issue. However, lack of communication is, especially when change is happening. Lack of communication allows your employees to make up their own stories, which are frequently worse than any reality.

Because change happens all the time I make it mandatory for my staff to read the book Crucial Conversations, which offers great tools your employees can use to keep communication open as they navigate change. I also offer live sessions to discuss the theories from the book, because I feel it’s important for us all to have a similar model to follow when it’s time for those difficult conversations.

Here at Thomson Reuters we have a process called Journey Mapping, which allows us to discuss problems as well as the current process around whatever challenge we’re facing, to see if something can be improved. The facilitator starts the session with the Why, repeats it to keep the team on track and at the end of the session challenges the group to see if we answered the Why. It takes a special skill to get up in front of the team and be the voice of change, and it also takes courage and a great communication plan to help ensure your success.

Current success is wonderful, but it can also be a threat to future successes if we don’t learn from and build upon it. The reality in today’s world is that we all need to keep changing so we can continue to grow and remain relevant to our employees, our customers and ourselves.

In my next article, I’ll talk about potential changes in your firm and how you need to consider the different generations of clients, employees and peers as you go through a change.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about some of the things you’ve done in your own firm to help ensure successful change. Feel free to share your experiences in the Comments below.