Are You Owning It

By Gary Thompson, Andersen Alumnus and currently a Managing Director at Thompson Consulting

I look at planning for and owning the future as something that is combat driven. Let me explain.

Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, one in the infantry on the frontline and the other as a codebreaker in generally safe spaces. Both were trained for those specific jobs, and they had their respective responsibilities they owned. The infantry didn’t do well without intelligence information, and the codebreakers couldn’t do their job safely without frontline protection.

They had to take their responsibilities personally and own them – and accounting professionals on all levels must do the same as we face our own “war” on talent, finding the right clients, and growing our firms. We all have our own responsibilities to support the greater good, and we all must believe our individual leadership is imperative to our firms’ success.

What does “owning it” mean?

Leadership: What if it’s up to you? Whether you asked for the call, established yourself as a candidate, someone recommended you, or you simply were out of the room and drew the short straw, you can now have a significant impact on your firm. Opportunities to demonstrate leadership are everywhere, but it matters less about why you received the call and more about what you do in leading – and how.

Embracing your firm’s mission, vision, and values: Don’t just list them on your website or internal documents. Owning the future means you demonstrate alignment with these critical elements of a firm. People hear what you say, but they embrace what you do. Consistently advocating for and living out the firm mission, vision, and values shows others you are owning the future of your firm.

Decisiveness on the intersection of culture and performance: It’s unique to your firm, requires no external justification but is impactful to your overall strategy. Leaders set the tone and carry the mantle of culture in their actions and words – they drive culture from the top down.

Clarity: Make sure your firm’s strategy is understandable and understood; don’t just assume it is! Firm leadership tends to be afraid to make decisions. However, not deciding actually sends the message you’re not clear about the firm’s future and what you want from your team.

Alignment: When we are clear on where we are going and what our strategy is to get there, we can then work together to set goals that align with the firm’s overall strategy and provide the tools for everyone to succeed.

Vision: Seeing beyond our present circumstances and gaining assistance where our vision of the future may be limited.

We typically look at firm leaders as having responsibility, but everyone shares ownership. It’s easy to come out of a partner retreat with strategic imperatives and say the CEO or managing partner will take it from there but be cautious with that approach.

While holding yourself – and others – accountable, you are most focused on being the best you can be – performing at your highest individual level. You can’t wait for or just watch others; you need to be actively engaged in achieving success.

Whether you’re on the executive committee, a production-oriented client service technician, or in operations support, all of those individuals have centers of influence that are looking to us to get our view of the future. Everyone at every level has influence, people who listen to and look to you for guidance, advice, and support. They want to know what you’re thinking about the future and what responsibility you own.

So how can you “own it?”

• Set smart goals: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-based

• Be results and action-oriented (admire solutions, not problems)

• Manage expectations

• Provide motivation

While these may sound like easy tasks, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each person must create a strategy that accounts for their unique situation.

The good news? While your issues may be unique because of your specific responsibilities and your firm’s strategy, the overarching challenges are relatively common among all firms and professionals, no matter the size or experience level. And there are benefits to learning to own it alongside someone who can help – as an accountability partner, a strategic thinker, or even a sounding board.

How can I help you own it? Feel free to reach out to me