In the beginning, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You coded, you met with clients, you emptied the trash and phoned in the midnight pizza. Now you have others to do all that and it’s time for you to “be strategic.”
Whatever that means?
If you find yourself resisting “being strategic,” because it sounds like an excuse to slack off, you’re not alone. Every partner’s temptation is to deal with what’s directly in front, because it always seems more urgent and usually involves client fees. Unfortunately, if you do that, you put your practice at risk. While you concentrate on fighting fires, you’ll miss windfall opportunities, not to mention any signals that the road you’re on is leading off a cliff. (“Sacred Cows” thought activator)
This is a tough job, make no mistake. “We need strategic leaders!” is a pretty constant refrain at every practice, large and small. One reason the job is so tough: no one really understands what it entails. It’s hard to be a strategic leader if you don’t know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.
After 20 years within the practice and 5 years advising accountants, it is very clear the account industry need more, Adaptive strategic leaders — the kind who innovate and lead with a global thinking – other ways of doing. The following 6 skillsets will help form that within:
Most of the focus at most practices is on what’s directly ahead. The leaders lack “peripheral vision.” This can leave your practice vulnerable to rivals who detect and act on ambiguous signals. To anticipate well, you must:
- Look for game-changing information at the periphery of your industry
- Search beyond the current boundaries of your business
- Build wide external networks to help you scan the horizon better
“Sacred cows” appear in many ways and this is never more evident than within ones thinking style. Critical thinkers question everything. To master this skill you must force yourself to:
- Reframe problems to get to the bottom of things, in terms of root causes
- Challenge current beliefs and mindsets, including your own
- Uncover hypocrisy, manipulation, and bias in business decisions
Ambiguity is unsettling. Faced with it, the temptation is to reach for a quick fix. A good strategic leader holds steady, reviews information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. To get good at this, you have to:
- Seek patterns within numerous sources of data
- Encourage others to do the same
- Question prevailing assumptions and be prepared to test and fail until the right solution is found
Many accountants fall prey to “analysis paralysis.” You have to develop processes and enforce them, so that you arrive at a “good enough” position. To do that well, you have to:
- Carefully frame the decision to get to the crux of the matter
- Balance speed, rigor, quality and agility. Leave perfection to higher powers
- Take a stand even with incomplete information and amid diverse views
Total consensus is rare. A strategic leader must foster open dialogue, build trust and engage key stakeholders, especially when views diverge. To pull that off, you need to:
- Understand what drives other people’s agendas, including what remains hidden
- Bring tough issues to the surface, even when it’s uncomfortable
- Assess risk tolerance and follow through to build the necessary support
As your practice grows, honest feedback is harder and harder to come by. You have to do what you can to keep it coming. This is crucial because success and failure–especially failure–are valuable sources of organizational learning. Here’s what you need to do:
- Encourage and exemplify honest, rigorous debriefs to extract lessons
- Shift course quickly if you realise you’re off track
- Celebrate both success and (well-intentioned) failures that provide insight
How to mastery these?
Mastering this list may be a daunting task, so let’s break in down into the gaps. Discovering the gaps within your skill set will usually offer the greatest gains in development. Rate yourself (out of 10) on each of the above dot points, circle your 3 lowest scores and start creating an action list for each of these three points.
Reference Paul J.H Schoemaker book : Brilliant Mistakes