May 25, 2023

Episode 80: Alexandra Bond Burnett, Leadership Brand Strategist

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The Story

One of the challenges or, arguably, one of the opportunities facing your firm, facing the profession, is the march of technology.

But more importantly, as the technology takes over more of the technical work of accountancy and bookkeeping, there’s a real need to invest more time, more energy, more money, even, in the development of human skills, the skills that help you work better together as a team and that enable you to work better with your clients.

And with that in mind, it made sense to invite Alexandra Bond Burnett onto the Humanise The Numbers podcast, so that we could tap into Alexandra’s experience, knowledge and insight from her work at drama school, in the finance world and as a coach, trainer and speaker for professional service firms. We discuss what it means to look at precision in a different way and the challenges that brings to accountants who want to get everything right in a world of ambiguity with regard to people and client skills.

If you want to improve your firm’s capabilities, knowledge, insight and the human skills that enable you to build a better, stronger team and enable you to build better relationships with clients so that they stay with you longer and are more loyal, who refer you to others, who are happy to pay decent fees and who actually want to buy more from you, why not join this podcast with Alexandra.

Please also scroll down this episode page to find the contact information for Alexandra and additional, downloadable resources mentioned in this podcast.

The Solution:

Let’s look at improv as a tool. I actually get them on stage and doing stuff, but they have to learn to say… 'YES AND'.

You present an idea and you're working towards a theme that they agree on, the agenda, if you like. We call it the story, so it's a stage and it's a structure, and they agree that we've brainstormed what the themes are and what the story could be, a bit like an agenda for a meeting, and you have a plan of where it has to end up by the end.

And then I say, “now you're going to run this through, but if anyone presents an idea, you can't ignore it, you can't shoot it down, you can't say anything. You have to say 'YES AND'."

The first rule of improv is you have to accept it. You have to accept the gift that is given to you, which is the idea, even if they're saying something absolutely idiotic, you've got to turn that into something and work with it.

So, if they say, “Look at that purple cow behind you”, you have to say something like, “Oh, maybe you ate something funny at lunch because I haven't got my purple cow glasses on today.”

You have to acknowledge it, take it, and not dismiss it, you work with it or you turn it into something better. And then the next person does that and the next person does that until you've fulfilled the agenda.

It works really well as an exercise because it teaches you to let go of yourself and what you're in it for. Am I being heard enough? Am I being seen to be right enough? And then you work towards the greater good.

Somethings it's the simplest things. For example, my husband got me golf clubs as a gift and then golf lessons. I was Sussex National for my lesson with a great PGA player and I knew how much the session was costing because I had the gift voucher, and she was watching me swing and watching me do a few other things and then she did one thing, she took my hand and made me make a tiny movement.

And I was sceptical that this small movement could make any difference, but then I hit the ball yards and yards.

And I think that, so often we think it has to be this ginormous thing, but actually it's the teeny tiny little movements that lead to the greatest things.

So even 'YES AND' can make the biggest difference.





Connect with Alexandra

Connect with Paul

Resources relating to this podcast:

Alex and Paul cover a wide range of subjects on this podcast, one of which is the importance of the growth mindset. Paul mentions Carol Dweck’s research on the effects that a positive mindset can have in your firm. Alex believes that real learning comes from being at the edge of your comfort zone, but that you don't have to have the sink-or-swim approach to achieve something. She talks about the steps in between and the importance of taking these one at a time and how, when you achieve that step and take the next, you will see the opportunities in front of you and are more likely to fulfill your goals.

Click the button below to understand more about the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset and the importance of responding to the challenges and issues that occur in your firm with a growth mindset.

Alex discusses a book called Think Again by Adam Grant. She explains the idea of people being Politicians, Preachers or Prosecutors, and the role of the Scientist, and why it is vital in your firm to be able to explore different hypotheses, using trial and error, where there is no right or wrong. When teams do this, it’s exciting to see what they can come up with together and how one person’s idea can grow because of the magic of people exploring their own or others' ideas.

Click the button below to buy and read the book.

Paul mentions a recent podcast recording with Margaret Heffernan, where they discussed the importance of social capital and bringing people together, both in a social and work setting, and how, when teams interact well, the results end up being greater than the sum of their parts.

Click the button below to access that podcast.

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