5 ways to develop a practice growth mindset

'A fixed mindset might be holding back your career.

Shifting into a practice growth mindset is a long-term investment in your career. Here are some simple ways to change the way you think.

Do you shudder at the thought of tackling new systems, or assuming a different role with clients? A fixed mindset – the common belief that your talent in these or other areas is largely innate rather than learned – might be holding back your career progression and sustainability in the accounting industry.

In the 2018 Good Bad Ugly of the Australian Accounting Profession report, practice management software company Business Fitness notes that they are seeing firms adopt new tools, but they struggle to reap the benefits because of “human behaviour lag”. 

Business Fitness attributes this to a lack of investment in training, a mismatch between new and old technology, and a “negative mindset towards the urgency for change at all levels in the firm”.

It’s a common problem, says Kane Munro CPA, director at Accountancy Online.

“Many accountants stick their head in the sand with regard to recent industry changes,” he says, pointing to automation and artificial intelligence as significant disruptors to traditional practice.

“People with a fixed mindset, who have only ever done compliance-based work, might ignore the changes and hope they’ll go away.”

A growth mindset, on the other hand, can fuel your readiness to extend your skills and embrace new developments. Here are five ways to make it happen – for yourself and your team.

Set learning and process goals

When launching into a fresh domain, set learning and process goals, says Peter Heslin, an associate professor of management and Scientia Education Fellow at UNSW Sydney, who is a leading international scholar on mindsets in the workplace.

“When the task is complicated and novel, having only outcome goals can make performance worse by creating distraction and stress,” he says.

To set a learning goal, use the form: “I need to learn how to … by …”. Fill in the blanks by stating a specific career challenge you want to master and a deadline to achieve it.

This statement of intent lays the platform for setting your process goals: such as reading one AI-related case study a day, testing three different financial data visualisation programs, or meeting a mentor – who has the skills you aspire to grow – once a week for the next month to discuss your plans and progress.

Use mantras and reframing

It’s easy to become frustrated when a challenge seems insurmountable, but in such situations remember that errors can enable learning, Heslin says.

“Use relevant error management mantras, such as ‘errors are a natural part of the learning process’ or ‘errors reveal what you are still able to learn’,” he suggests.

Rather than dwelling on what has gone wrong, think about what you can change, Heslin continues.

“View setbacks as indicating a need for more effort or better strategies, rather than inadequate talent or concluding that you’re just not cut out for the task at hand,” he says.

Make appointments for learning

Munro says accountants should assign themselves some time to nurture their curiosity. This might take the form of webinars or internet research, or attending industry events to keep across the latest developments and learn from peers.

“I try to set aside time each week to look at developments in the market with regard to technology in our profession, or just changes that may affect us or our clients,” he says.

The easiest way is to make diary appointments for yourself, just as you would a client call or team meeting. If you lead a team, make sure others can see you honour these learning and development times, so they’ll do the same!

Actively praise effort

When delivered correctly, praise can be an effective motivator for yourself and for your team, says strategist, business coach and author, Megan Dalla-Camina. The key, she explains, is to direct your feedback towards effort and initiative, rather than the end results. 

“Praise the journey – the learning and personal growth that you’re witnessing in people,” she says.

For instance, if a team member is investigating process automation for the practice, you might give them the opportunity to present and workshop their initial findings with the broader team and management, or praise their persistence as they uncover and compare different options.

Model transparency

You’re not the only one who can gain insight from your mistakes. When you share your experiences with your team – and not just your successes – you enable a culture of growth, Dalla-Camina says.

“Show others that it’s safe to experiment, to go for growth and have things not work out,” she advises. “Our willingness to be vulnerable and go for courage over comfort is an important factor that fuels a growth mindset.”

Ready to put a growth mindset into action? Learn how QuickBooks can help you run a profitable practice by calling the team on 1800 618 521 today.

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October 2021
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