September 17, 2015 by Antoinette Coluni

A little disruption goes a long way

3 innovative strategies for engaging (and keeping) talent

Like many in the rapidly evolving financial service industry, my firm has faced a key challenge in the past few years: keeping talent. Why? Not only is there growing competition for talent in our “human economy”, but young professionals are increasingly driven to establish themselves as specialists in their field.

Over the past few years we’ve learned that keeping our professionals engaged means providing them with the opportunity to explore and achieve their full potential (bonus: we also then increase the value we provide to clients). Sounds obvious, right? But to actually achieve this, you have to establish a culture that supports consistent, innovative disruption.

Here are three key management strategies that have helped us turn this challenge into a growth opportunity:  

Real-talk: engagement  

My responsibility as a leader is not to unilaterally choose a new direction for my team. It’s to encourage a steady stream of two-way communication between staff at every level, in order to achieve consensus. Some people view collaborative leadership as “too nice,” but actually it is strategic.

Business management legend and former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch explains, “We know where most of the creativity, the innovation, the stuff that drives productivity lies - in the minds of those closest to the work.”

My team is closest to the nitty-gritty, every day work. I need those insights. It’s not easy to create an office culture where anyone will speak up, unafraid and unaffected by hierarchy. But if you can achieve it, you’ll tap into a well of potentially limitless resources.

Not so top-down 


Collaboration is more than just sharing information. The insights from my team not only inspire decision-making, they establish trust. Our professionals trust that their involvement is integral to the growth of our business, and I can draw on their unique skill sets and expertise to develop creative business solutions. 

Management researcher, Brian Uzzi, describes this collaborative management style as “multi-vocal leadership.” I can’t become proficient in every financial service speciality, but I can learn the language and context of those services by tapping into the skill, experiences and even mentality of my expert team members. In turn I can make more efficient leadership decisions that maximize value for both our firm and our clients. 

Disrupt the status quo

We took the insights and ideas that emerged from increased team collaboration at our firm and expanded the services we offer. As a challenger brand (we’re mid-market financial service experts, always seeking to push the envelope), diversifying our business offerings both attracts clientele looking for specialty services and entrepreneurially minded talent who seek professional fulfillment.

Now, our clients can turn to us for an expanded suite of services that meet not only their traditional accounting needs, but specialty audit, tax and advisory demands as well.

Diversification creates an added layer of value – a “sticky” factor – making us indispensible to our clients as well as incentivizing our professionals to expand their specialty portfolio.

Disruption is inevitable. No matter what your industry, it will change, as will your client’s demands. So embrace it. 

Antoinette Coluni, CPA, CA, joined Collins Barrow Montréal S.E.N.C.R.L./LLP in 1984, and has been managing partner since 2013. When she’s not building value for clients, Antoinette is an active member of the Montreal-Italian community, engaging in philanthropic work and raising her two young daughters. For her daily breakfast of champions she keeps it simple: black espresso and oatmeal.

If you would like to connect with Antoinette to learn more about her collaborative leadership philosophy please contact her at or on LinkedIn.

* Leadership Series blog posts are the result of a collaborative effort between managing partners and the National Marketing Team. 

Meet the Author

Antoinette Coluni Antoinette Coluni
Montréal, Québec
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