At Illumin8


January 25, 2022

Farewell Mav

Excitement and fear - The two contradicting but so often coupled emotions that come with a significant change. That was me 19 months ago.

Some background:

Excitement and fear - The two contradicting but so often coupled emotions that come with a significant change. That was me 19 months ago.

For context, I’d just spent the last 11 years working with the only other accounting firm I’d worked for in my career. I was in a tiny bubble, cruising along and in control, too afraid to learn the answer to some difficult questions; “What if I’m not that great an accountant?”, “What if all these great things I’ve done aren’t all that amazing somewhere else?” - I’ll get to the answers later.  

If you’re reading this, you probably have at least a vague idea of what Illumin8 is like. From the outside looking in, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all a gimmick. I can assure you it’s not. That loud and colourful identity emanating from the Illumin8 brand is no less than a commercial manifestation of the people it represents. The underlying mantra – be real – and ultimately, that’s what drew me in.  

So, here I am, comfy and cosy for 11 years in a relatively traditional accounting environment. I’m about to step into a role surrounded by super-skilled folks with prominent vibrant personalities. I will have to prove myself from scratch.

Oh, and did I mention I live near the city, and it’s almost an hour drive away? Cool.  

Was it as scary as I thought?

Yeah, nah. Nope. It would seem there was a strong correlation between the amount someone intimidated me and how much I learned from them - and I don’t just mean tax law. I could talk about this all day, but I’ll focus on two things.

Exhibit 1: Empathy and Emotional Intelligence make for a good leader.

In the first little while, I held onto my comfort blanket – figuratively, of course. Holding onto the things I knew and not properly willing to let them go and fully embrace a new way of doing things. Perhaps some notion that if I held onto them, I’d feel more capable because I understood the familiar. Eventually, I had a very real talk with my direct report, and she gave it to me straight. “Enough of this shit Maverick, time to let that comfort blanket go.” (See? Real. Not always sunshine and lollipops.)

Of course, she delivered it with finesse, understanding, and support. That kind of support was ongoing, even up to now. The result? A lot of trust and more confidence in what I was doing.

I’ll try and be like that if I find myself in a leadership role again one day.  

Exhibit 2: YOU are not the Genius Bar. WE are the Genius Bar.  

Surrounding yourself with people who are super clever can make you feel like you know nothing. By the same token, however, this also meant a hefty resource of people to learn new things from. Where once upon a time I’d be left to my own devices to come up with a solution, I now had an opportunity to do this collaboratively with different approaches and thought processes. This perhaps was the most incredible perk of them all.  

To present an idea and have someone help you enhance it rather than poo-poo it – I’m super grateful for that.

Let’s wrap this up...

In the end, the answers to my questions were neither the fairy tale nor the self-deprecating opposite. I’m a good accountant, maybe even great? But good is fine with me. I’m confident enough to say that now. And the extra contributions I can make? They can be amazing, but I know even better now that they will be so much more when collaborating with people who genuinely challenge you.  

All of this seems elementary, perhaps something you could read on one of those inspirational quotes like “Teamwork makes the dreamwork” I mean, we’re supposed to know this, right? And sure, I may have known it, but I hadn’t truly learned it until working with this team.  

This is my journey so far, and I’m glad I’ve taken it. The next step? Even more excitement and a whole new level of fear. What will drive me are the (slightly tweaked) words of Jon Acuff...

Be brave enough to be shit at something new.  

Thanks, team. I’ll miss you all (and the chicken shop), sincerely.

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