A few months ago at HORNE’s State of the Firm, we discovered together that most of us are swimming, wading, tiptoeing or running through the swamp of despair since we took a new direction in response to the transformation we see around us. We reviewed this insightful graphic, “The Emotional Journey of Creating Anything Great,” and each of us identified where we were on our journey. It was not pretty, big change never is.
I’m not sure how much experience you have in a swamp but my experience is that it’s not a place we want to spend a lot of time. It might be a good feeling to know you are not in the swamp alone, but it’s not a great place to take a break or try to meet new friends. You can run into some really negative creatures in the swamp of despair. Let’s just say if we are in the swamp, it’s best for us to find the fastest way out. Spending too much time in the swamp can be bad for us and our journey.
The fastest way forward is to stay focused on our purpose and vision, and to look forward to that peak of achievement where our teams will stand together and share so many proud moments and celebrations. Yes, there’s always pain in growing and seeking our full potential. It’s always worth it. It helps me to reflect on the pain we were having before we started this new direction. The pain of being an average firm and not being distinctive. The pain of client churn due to average service, the pain of high team member turnover, the pain from lack of passion around our purpose and the pain of knowing we were not seeking our full potential.
It’s so easy to forget our old pains of the status quo (the discontentment, risks and actual pain of where we were) when we incur different pains from a new direction. But we have also avoided severe pains by changing our direction before we were forced to. And with recruitment and retention of talent as the number one issue facing firms today, it’s comforting to see that talent does respond to improvements in our culture. Professional surveys are showing that many firms are quickly approaching and exceeding 20% turnover. We can’t provide exceptional client service or innovate with a severe amount of turnover. It’s also troubling that many stars leave our profession from the perception of not being challenged or having opportunities to fast track their careers.
It’s imperative for all of our firms or any organization to be intentional about creating incredible energy, sharing that positive energy, and building a strong sense of belonging. We must continue to #beEvenBetter, including the giving and receiving of feedback. Fast track stars and pay them like the stars they are. Career tracks with clarity around results rather than seniority. Empowerment of team members to integrate their professional and personal lives with flexibility. It also means not lowering expectations for results while we change how, when and where we work.
Let’s steer clear of the omission bias where we forget our past pains. Let’s embrace our current pain and execute our strategies to capture the new opportunities coming from this transformation.
When we do all these things, we will surely find ourselves on the other side of the swamp and very quickly at that peak of achievement. Be sure to stop and light some fireworks to celebrate achievement along the way. Those fireworks and celebrations help each of us to see the way forward in moments of despair. Today, let’s make decisions that bring focused results—seizing our future and capturing new opportunities.