Whenever the partners of an accounting firm are gathered together behind closed doors, often the rest of the accounting team wonders, “What are they talking about? What are they deciding? How is this going to affect me?”
And sometimes – if there is a bit more paranoia – they wonder if another reorganization is coming, or if layoffs are possible. In the absence of communication, people often go to the worse-case scenario and accounting firms are not immune. If the partners emerge from their meetings and offer no communication to the team, or communicate in a way that is vague or unclear, the feelings of doubt and fear will increase. Every void in communication will be filled with scary thoughts.
Although this is true at any point in a firm, it is especially true during a time of change. Change is unsettling in itself.
Emotions that have nothing to do with work can come to the surface, including past changes that didn’t go well (even at another firm) are brought to mind for many. While it is not your firm’s responsibility to manage all of that, the way in which you communicate changes can help to reduce anxiety, tension and nervousness that can greatly impact the quality and quantity of work your team produces during this transition.
How can you communicate with your team especially during a time of change?
- Make sure what you are communicating is simple. Simple messages are the clearest. Boil down the heart of your message into a short, memorable phrase. You can elaborate while explaining the change, but be sure to include a simple phrase that captures it all.
- Repeat your communication. Use the same phrase or the same wording over and over again. You might feel like a broken record, but it takes repetition to remember a message. Additionally, each member of the team will need a different amount of repetition before the message becomes ingrained in the culture of the firm.
- Be intentional. Plan out what you are going to communicate and when. Don’t wait until you “get around to it.” Make communicating with your team a top priority. Share what you can, when you can, with an idea of when the next step in the plan will be communicated. And if that changes, let them know.
- Include everyone at some level of the communication. Even if a change doesn’t necessarily involve a particular part of the team, including the whole team in at least some of the communication, and then meet with those it directly impacts to give them more details as you are able. That way everyone feels in the loop and no one is left in the dark wondering if there are things going on they don’t know about.
- Ask questions during your communications. Communication is a two-way street. Listen to check for understanding.
- Make the change sound exciting. You don’t have to introduce an idea with “I know you are all going to hate this, but we are going to…” You are setting your team up for failure! Instead, use exciting language. “We are making this change and it will be amazing for us and our clients because….”
- Use a variety of settings for communication. Meet with your team members one-on-one in addition to groups or departments. Use both oral and written communication, and again make sure it is clear, repeated and intentional.
Pass that excitement on by being intentional and thoughtful in your internal communication. If you need some guidance in leading your firm through change, an outside point of view can be so helpful! Contact Carla Caldwell for a consulting appointment.