Forget about getting your team on the bus

2nd September, 2011


…it’s a dragon boat they should board

The problem with getting your team on the bus is that once they are there they don’t need to do anything. The bus driver drives the bus and they sit there passively until they want to get off. That’s not the paradigm we want. What we want is the team actively participating in moving the firm in the right direction. Like a dragon boat – unless everyone is applying their full energy to their role the boat won’t get to where it needs to go in the time needed.

Part 1 is that everyone needs to know their role. So often I find in accounting firms people’s roles, responsibilities, authorities and reporting lines are not clearly defined. In order for people to perform they need to clear know what is expected of them and need to be empowered to act so that partners and managers don’t become bottlenecks in making progress. All too often I find in firms that delegation upwards occurs as people as seeking answers from partners or managers. This is partially as result of an unwillingness of partners & managers to let go but it also about confidence. Partners and managers need to feel confident that team members are able to make the right decisions.

One way to develop confidence is to ensure that no-one in the firm can ask a question of someone else without proposing the answer to the issue. This simple technique can be very effective. If the team member’s solution is incorrect they will be more likely to remember the correct answer in the future as they have considered the issue in more depth. Therefore training is enhanced. If the team member is correct, this builds partner/manager confidence that the team member has the knowledge and skill and therefore greater responsibility can be delegated to them.

Part 2 is that the firm needs to have a clearly communicated plan. In many firms there is no clear plan or if there is it hasn’t been communicated effectively with team members. It is impossible for team members to be energetically putting their oars in the water if they don’t know where the boat is heading. Involving the team in the development of the plan is very effective in building their confidence and commitment to the plan.

For many firms I have conducted team member retreats which have involved the development of these plans. Partners are often very surprised about the level of energy and passion the team members display in wanting to be part of taking the firm forward with enthusiasm.

Part 3 is to find team members with a keen interest in a particular area, be it IT, process, marketing, quality control etc and to harness that enthusiasm by giving them responsibility to drive that part of the firm forward.

Imagine your firm now as a dragon boat full of team members passionately digging their oars in every day to be first across the line. Anything can be achieved with that level of passion and commitment.


| Director – FMRC Smithink