IN OUR OPINION, PERSPECTIVE #81 — April 15, 2019
(A Continuing Series for Leading CPA Firms)
“THE POWER OF PURPOSE”
(Want your partners and staff to emotionally buy into strategy and change – they need to understand the “WHY” – the Purpose. Once they do, they will follow you over and through the walls of resistance)
| “ People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”. |
— Simon Sinek
At most professional service firms (including small and mid-sized CPA firms), a huge obstacle to making significant strategic and operational change is getting only tacit support, if any, from the partners and staff. It’s no different in any organization from the family unit to the largest corporations on this planet. Much has been written about change management and the advice runs the gamut from simple approaches to very complex behavioral models. So, what is the answer, what is the “right” approach to getting everyone in your organization to emotionally support the changes that are needed to drive performance and to actually implement change successfully? Read on!
In Our Opinion, knowing what needs to change is a world apart from actually making the change and getting the results you want and need. In a previous perspective, we
discussed a change model that works – based on “POWER”. P is for Purpose or the big WHY and that is what we will focus on in this article.
The CHALLENGE that most firms encounter relating to driving organizational change is they operate under the false assumption that if others are included in helping design the change and then the change is explained to everyone, the change will happen as planned. Everyone will enthusiastically support the change and do all that they can to make it a success. How many of you have seen that work? What’s lacking is the understanding of the difference between intellectual buy-in and emotional buy-in.
P is for purpose and the big “WHY”. In his great book – “Start with Why” Simon Sinek masterfully links the importance of WHY with the need to inspire – inspire your partners and staff to change. If you inspire change versus direct or demand change, the result will be over the top. Think about these two scenarios where the Managing Partner is explaining to all the partners (and staff) the changes that are needed to drive growth:
Our focus and strategies that you will hear about are all about growth. We need to grow our top line to create more profitability so that we reward everyone, invest and stay ahead of our competition.
Our focus and strategies are on growing our firm so that this is a firm we can all be proud of, that clients want to be associated with and where our employees love coming to work. Our focus on growth and profit is so we can provide a great work environment, a great career path and top service to our clients.
If you were a partner or staff person sitting there listening to the Managing Partner, which call for change would you find inspiring and hopeful and something you want to be a part of – emotionally.
The Power of Purpose – the WHY is the emotional buy-in that has to be there if your partners and staff are going to enthusiastically follow you over the wall and into battle. Then what we do and how we do it (the strategies) just become the battle plan or road map.
So, the question is, does your firm have the “POWER” to move from Talk to ResultsÔ? Is the message clearly focused on the Big P, the Big WHY? Simple really, if it isn’t, the firm will continue to talk about change and ask or demand
cooperation from everyone while continuing to just stay on that treadmill expending energy but getting nowhere. Understanding change and emotionally buying into change are what moves you from Talk to ResultsÔ.
The Power of Purpose, the Power of WHY is so strong and will move everyone from a sideline observer to a committed enthusiast. Let’s share a personal story that so forcefully illustrates the Power of Purpose/WHY. In the Army, reservists receive basic training with bayonet drills – learning how to use the bayonet in combat. A training company was made up of 100 soldiers and there were a number of companies in every basic training cycle. When the drill sergeant was teaching us how to use the bayonet, many of us who were reservists, joked about it and did not take it seriously since we knew that we would be going home in six months. The drill sergeant stopped and, in some colorful language, asked everyone to sit. He then asked everyone who was not a reservist to stand. About 20 soldiers stood up. He told us to look around indicating that the rest of us may think this bayonet stuff was a joke, but it just might save the life of one of these 20 soldiers if and when they were deployed. WOW – did we understand the WHY! Our company won the award for the best training company in that cycle competing on numerous metrics of training success. We went from worst to first because we understood the WHY, the Purpose. We were emotionally involved.
Taking the time to ensure your messaging clearly starts with the WHY will always move your firm from Talk to ResultsÔ. All too often the expectation is that partners and staff will support change and do what needs to be done to successfully implement change just because the Managing Partner says to do it. Move from focusing your message solely on the what and how – to explaining the WHY and you will win the HEARTS and minds of your partners and staff.
Tony Zecca (CPA and retired CohnReznick partner and National Director of the Advisory Group) is a ESPOSITO CEO2CEO consultant who is brought into client assignments when needed. ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, LLC — a boutique advisory firm consulting to leading CPA and other professional services firms on strategy, succession planning and mergers, acquisitions and integration is actively led by Dom Esposito, CPA. Dom, voted as one of the most influential people in the profession for two consecutive years by Accounting Today, authored a book, published by www.CPATrendlines.com., entitled “8 Steps to Great” which is a primer for CEOs, managing
partners and other senior partners. In Our Opinion, is a continuing series of perspectives for leading CPA firms where Dom and his colleagues share insights, experiences and wisdom with firm leaders who want to “run with the big dogs” and develop their firms into sustainable brands. Dom welcomes questions and can be contacted at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.292.3277.