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Putting your team in the mental position to accelerate change

By Will Hill, MBA

I was speaking with a firm who was trying to drive change in their bookkeeping and accounting services area. The concepts were on point and the team was staffed well enough to execute. But then more urgent matters arose, and the project came to a standstill.
Team members were busy and work was getting done, so they began to question whether making the accounting service change were necessary; after all, leadership didn’t make it a priority. This resistance and lack of buy in from the team frustrated leadership and they let go of the idea, chalking it up as “not a fit for our firm.”
The problem is that many times in scenarios like these the change was the right one for the firm, the team and the clients — but not only has that change not come to pass, the next good idea is also already at risk.
So, what happened? Did the team sabotage the idea? Did the leadership just not stick with it?
Most of the time I do not believe that the team intentionally sabotages new ideas, but leadership alone cannot bring the ideas to life and see them flourish long term. Firm leaders who are excelling at putting change in place are exhibiting key behaviors that help them gain active support from the team, who then bring the ideas to fruition. Firms who are successful at this see their leaders engaging in these three key behaviors: communicating context, connecting to value and continued marketing.

Communicating context

This is the foundational element that needs to be used throughout the change process.
We operate best when we understand the context in which we operate, and this applies to when things are changing as well as business as usual. As a leader who wants to bring change to the firm, big or small, the context of that change must be communicated. Context should include the purpose, impact to customers and a high-level sharing of the project plan. This is not to say that everyone needs to know all the details, but there should be broad communication.

Connecting to value

Firms that have started offering advisory services are increasingly adept at conveying the value they bring to clients. However, there is still room for growth in helping employees understand how their evolving roles bring value to the firm and clients.
I would argue that this is the most critical leadership behavior when used in conjunction with good communication. It is simple to take the daily tasks that we do and equate that to the value we bring to the firm or clients. But it is not the tasks that are the value, they are simply the vehicle with which you can use to demonstrate your worth.
When team members do not see the value they bring to clients in the same way that leadership does, they begin to (even if only subconsciously) see the change coming as a risk to their job security or position. For example, if you are looking to implement a technology to automate data functions, you may have the person performing data entry take the lead on the project because they know the process and constraints best. But if you do not communicate with them how you see their value, this is interpreted as a threat to their way of work. It is no wonder they will find issues with it, stall it and — even if well intentioned — limit or kill the impact of this change. On the other hand, consider how the employee’s willingness to adopt the change will alter when you communicate the benefits they bring and how this change will allow them to bring even greater value to the organization.  

Continued marketing

Once one project reaches completion, there is a tendency to simply have a sigh of relief and get back to business. But, for the continued success of the current change and the commitment behind the next one, leadership must market the success and/or learnings of that change internally.
Leaders must view this marketing (I use the term a bit loosely) from two perspectives. First, in the absence of a message and information the audience will draw their own conclusions. Don’t let others make assumptions, lead the narrative with transparency. Secondly, it shows that leadership is not just interested in starting something different, but that you are vested in the success or failure of that change. When the next change starts, the team will know that you are committed — not just trying a flavor of the day.
You already know your team is vital to successful changes, put them in the place to drive it forward with confidence.
Will Hill, MBA, owner of Will Hill Consults LLC. You may reach him at or Learn more about Will Hill Consultants LLC at