[IMGCAP(1)]I had the opportunity to learn how to shoot a semi-automatic AR-15 over Memorial Day weekend. I was definitely out of my comfort zone.

I had shot a pistol once, but in comparison (well, I guess there is no comparison) the AR-15 is a really big and really scary gun. My friend who had accompanied me to the firing range is a retired Army Ranger (a professional firearms trainer). He asked if I wanted to try shooting the rifle. My apprehension was evident.

Immediately my friend acknowledged my fear and justified it—telling me that it was okay to be afraid, and understandable. He then carefully showed me how to hold the gun, where to place my finger, and how to brace myself. I stepped back, fired. BAM! It was loud and jolting, but I was smiling. I had done it.

What does all this have to do with operating an accounting firm, you ask? It’s a simple link: fear. Like shooting the AR-15 for the first time, there are several “first times” for our staff. Also like shooting the rifle, new tasks equate to unknown territory, and that can be very scary for some employees.

Think about it. When we train a new employee or present current staff members with a new task, how often do we acknowledge their fear? Do we even ask them if they want to take on a new task, or do we just assume because they don’t express any apprehension that they want new responsibilities?

When I was at the shooting range, my fear was real and evident. When my friend acknowledged that fear, a feeling of trust overtook me and it changed the relationship in a very positive way. In the military, the entire organization is built on trust. Leaders lead with confidence, and the troops follow without question. Otherwise, it simply would not work. T

he same is true in our firms. We work so hard to become the client’s trusted advisor, but does our staff trust us to lead? I think in most cases, the answer is no. I believe that building trust is most often an afterthought, and that is a problem.

I made a resolution this year to work harder at identifying and acknowledging when my employees are feeling uncomfortable or apprehensive about a task or situation and work to alleviate that fear to build the trust required for my troops to follow me without question. Creating an environment of trust will help your firm move forward, further enhancing the culture and building loyalty among staff. For me, that’s better and more exciting than the feeling I get when firing the big gun!

Jody L. Padar, CPA, MST, is a Certified Public Accountant experienced with Complex Federal & State Income Tax Compliance for Business & Individuals. Jody is an adjunct professor at Oakton Community College, where she teaches Taxation and QuickBooks Courses. She is part of Intuit Trainer Writer Network and speaks nationally on various Technologies and Taxation. She can be reached at www.newvisioncpagroup.com.