Each year, our team provides consulting services to hundreds of top-performing accounting firms. The thing about being a consultant, as many CPA firms are learning, is that while you can provide insight and advice to help your client solve a problem, you can’t make decisions for them or force them into action. We can help build consensus and commitment and provide ongoing accountability, but it’s ultimately up to the client to decide whether and how to implement the plan of action we’ve recommended.
Most of the time, the difference between success and failure of a project comes down to mindset. In the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, author Carol S. Dweck explains how mindset impacts growth and change.
Fixed mindset vs. growth mindset
Your mindset is a spectrum. One side of the spectrum is a fixed mindset, while the other side is a growth mindset.
- Fixed mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that abilities, intelligence and talents are all traits we’re born with. They often obstruct their development through their belief in innate talent and their fear of failure. They see failure as a disaster.
- Growth mindset. People with a growth mindset believe their talents and abilities are developed through effort, teaching and practice. They believe anyone can improve and be smarter if they work at it. They’re open to new ideas and learning and see failures as opportunities.
Our mindset shapes whether we can learn and change and grow. The good news is that anyone can adopt a growth mindset, think differently and become more open to innovation and growth.
James Anderson, a Certified Growth Mindset Trainer, identified several misunderstandings about mindsets. Before we jump into how to adopt a growth mindset, it’s essential to address at least two of those misunderstandings.
First, your mindset is not an innate part of who you are. You weren’t born with either a fixed or growth mindset – you developed it through your experiences, especially the role models you had as a child and the messages you received from others.
Second, growth vs. fixed isn’t an either/or proposition. No one has a completely fixed or growth mindset. It’s more accurate to talk about the degree to which a person holds a growth or fixed mindset about abilities. We all have a mixed mindset to varying degrees.
Six steps to adopting a growth mindset
It’s possible to develop a growth mindset, and in the accounting profession today, we believe it’s not just a good idea, but vital to long-term success. Here’s how you go about moving toward the growth end of the mindset spectrum.
1. Focus on learning
Seek out the best sources of information from within and outside the profession and focus on learning from the best. Read books, industry publications and quality blogs. Listen to podcasts and attend conferences.
There is a lot of information out there, so work on developing the skill of identifying the best and avoiding the rest.
2. Choose the right role models
Take inspiration from thought leaders and innovators in the profession. Follow them on social media and attend the same events. Try to model their way of thinking and adapt their mindset in a way that fits you.
3. Challenge your current beliefs
One of the most critical steps in changing your mindset is acknowledging that you have a fixed mindset – at least in some areas. Look at your current belief system and identify where you have self-limiting beliefs. Acknowledging this isn’t shameful – it’s human.
Shine a light on the roadblocks you’re putting up for yourself and work on turning them around.
4. Set a vision and define goals
Creating a vision and setting goals can help provide the motivation you need to move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. What do you want to achieve in the next year? Five years? Ten years? Get a clear picture of where you want to be and then break your vision down into goals that will help you reach it.
5. See failures as opportunities
People with a growth mindset know that failure is a necessary stop on the road to success. When faced with failure, they see it as an opportunity to change tactics or apply extra effort to improve results.
6. Be authentic
A growth mindset demands authenticity in how you think and act. Know who you are and what you’re all about. You don’t have to put on a perfect front to others. Don’t be afraid to be yourself and let your values be known to others. When you are open and honest in your interactions with others, people know where they stand with you and trust you.
To innovate and think differently, accountants need to adjust their mindsets. But realize that a growth mindset isn’t the only ingredient for success – it’s just the first step. You also need to do the work of transforming yourself and your firm to become future-ready. Having a growth mindset doesn’t guarantee success – it just opens the door to getting there. It’s a process that involves mindset, goals and action that leads to results.
Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He serves as the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Advisor Circle and the CIO Circle. He also acts as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country. Accounting Today called him a “thought leader who can help accountants create next-generation firms.”
See inside February 2020
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