Accountancy reform ‘both a threat and an opportunity’

STRATEGIC LEADERSHIP expert Costas Markides electrified the ICAS conference with his enthusiastic delivery and incongruous intro – a video of passersby stepping over a man dying in the street.

He was hammering home humans’ deep-set aversion to putting their head above the parapet, arguing this makes accountants resistant to change and fearful of reform proposals coming out of Brussels.

Markides argued persuasively that change must be seen both as a threat and an opportunity. A threat because it mobilises people, imbuing a sense of urgency and purpose; an opportunity because this is the only way to grow and benefit from change.

In order to produce change, he said firms must tweak the professional environment to make positive behaviours easier and negative ones more difficult.

This means helping staff conform to change-favourable norms, “because people like conformity”. Delegates were treated to another illustrative video, this time of workers in a lift subconsciously copying the ridiculous behaviour of another passenger.

Firms should “assign an individual to be the change agent”, he said, concluding: “Do not assume that somebody else will do it. If you don’t do it, nobody else will.”

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