HomeHRAccountants be brave, be honest with your Clients and your staff

Accountants be brave, be honest with your Clients and your staff

Yes, I did have a pool!

Simon Chaplin, aka Socks Up Simon, explains why it is paramount you tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth

As we all know, the course of business (and true love) never did run smooth. I’d like to share a story with you now about something that happened over 15 years ago, but which still impacts my life almost every day. It’s a story where the not-so-good turned good.

Let’s start at the beginning. I hadn’t been running my accountancy practice long and as I felt very wet behind the ears I’d teamed up with a coach to help me develop my skills as a business leader. One of the best things I ever did, by the way.

During one of the sessions together we started working on the practice’s core values and over a period of months we established what they were. The mission became to ‘inspire, challenge and support our customers and their teams to be the best they want to be’. The values are ‘help each other’, ‘share relevant knowledge’, ‘seek enjoyable balance’, ‘be brave’ and ‘be honest’.

Sharing values

As the months went on I shared those values with the team. We played games with them to ingrain them in the culture and spent a considerable amount of time making sure they stacked up.

I felt everyone in the practice was living and making decisions by the values every day.

Then it happened…

I was moving from a modest three-bedroom house to a large four-bedroom house with a big garden and I’d shared this with the team in general conversation. At the end of one of our team meetings (we all came together as a team at 12.30 each Wednesday to update each other) one of the team members asked me if the new house had a swimming pool.

In a panic I said no. Which wasn’t true! It did have. Then I left the room.

I didn’t give it a second thought until I started driving home that night. Why had I lied? Did the team know I’d lied? Why did they care whether I had a swimming pool? Question after question was going through my head.

Of course, I’d panicked and lied because of my own insecurities around the house, my growth and, most importantly (at the time), what other people thought of me. I’d breached my own values; there was only one thing I could do and I needed to take action fast.

The next morning, I called everyone back into the boardroom and confessed. I shared that I did have a swimming pool at the new house and that I had breached at least two of the values: I hadn’t been brave or honest with the team.

Now, you might be thinking it was none of their business anyway and I can accept that train of thought, but for me, sharing builds trust and vulnerability, and that trust needs to work both ways.

At the end of the very short meeting most team members said very little. There was a kind of silent reflection. Over the coming weeks, though, things changed. Nothing tangible, but my relationship with the team improved and our commitment to the values, as a practice, transformed. It was as though people needed evidence that I really did mean it

How does all that affect my every day life? Well, when I am speaking to a team member (or anyone else as a matter of fact) about something, I often ask myself, “Is this a swimming pool moment?” In other words, am I being totally honest, frank and clear – something I am not always good at. If the answer is “no”, then I need to up my game.

A friend and fellow coach of mine, Nigel Risner, talks in his presentations about ‘Telling The Total Truth Faster’. His words often ring in my ears!

So, here’s my challenge to you…

As you read this article, did you think of something, a situation or relationship, where you have not been true to yourself? If so, go and put that something right. Tell the person The Total Truth Faster. I’d love to hear the outcome.

  • Simon Chaplin, aka Socks Up Simon, inspires, challenges and supports accountants and their teams, as well as running his own accountancy practice, GreenStones. If you’d like to share a story with Simon or find out more about how he helps accountants, feel free to email him on simon@socksupsimon.com.

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