While I don’t believe there is a ‘silver bullet’ to growth, I do believe there are certain things that significantly impact growth within an accounting firm. One of those destructive ingredients is failure – and more importantly, the attitude around failure.

As an accountant, you are taught to find mistakes and correct them. Detail-oriented, precise and exacting are just a few of the adjectives that probably describe you.  David Hassel recently contributed a great article on this topic for Entrepreneur. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“When people think of success, they are usually talking about hefty profits and minimized costs. Certainly financial growth is a desired outcome. But one definition of success is much more modest. It literally means a result or outcome. Thus, if success is not necessarily a positive, then it stands to reason that failure is not necessarily a negative. What’s key is to address failures, learn from them and move on to what comes next without completely demoralizing your team.”

If you talk to any successful individuals, they have all failed at some point in time. In fact, many tech companies ingrain this into their culture. Tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft can’t succeed without a substantial number of failures.

Yet, as accountants we don’t instill this into our culture. I believe that true growth requires a culture that embraces and encourages failure. When people know its okay to fail, they will have the courage to try. It’s only when they feel like they will be reprimanded that they don’t try.  Building a culture where this is acceptable isn’t easy. Here’s how to get started:

Seek To Understand. When mistakes are made, try first to understand why the mistake was made. Many times the mistake is due to lack of communication or the information available at the time. By asking (and listening) how the person came to make their decision, or why they delivered what they did, you can then work to correct it from there. Listening first will also aid you in controlling your reaction and feedback so that it will be a more positive, helpful experience.

Reward Failed Attempts.  If a toddler was taught that falling while attempting to learn how to walk or run was a bad thing, then the toddler might not ever learn how to walk or run. When people have the courage to try something, then reward their attempts – regardless of whether the result matches your desired outcome (or not).

Learn and Move Forward. Ensure that you learn from your failures. Always ask yourself what you would do differently the next time around – then move forward and try again. Each time you try it’s another attempt at achieving the desired outcome. As long as you aren’t repeating the same mistakes over and over again, you will succeed. This is where true learning takes place.

Expecting failure shouldn’t be an option, but a requirement for any organization.  As you embrace failure, you’ll find a more engaged and motivated team…and an organization that is willing grow.


About the author

Ranked twice by Accounting Today as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People, Sarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting is an accounting marketing growth advisor. She helps Accounting firms identify and implement strategies to help them grow their firms and distinguish themselves in the marketplace. Connect with Sarah to learn more at 773-208-7170, sjohnson@inovautus.comor www.linkedin.com/in/sjjohnson

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