How to Create Alignment in Yourself and Your Accounting Firm

Gusto Editors

Do you know how to define yourself and identify your needs?

You can grow both personally and professionally by consciously practicing self-reflection, and you can create alignment in your organization by establishing professional goals that are also beneficial for your firm. 

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, presented a webinar about creating alignment within yourself and your organization. We hosted the webinar, “Letting Go of the Urge to Control the Uncontrollable,” and you can watch the entire presentation here.  

In this article, we share critical insights from executive coach and inactive CPA, Amber Setter. She discussed several helpful topics, including adopting a creative stance, defining yourself, uncovering your needs, creating alignment in your organization, and more. 

Reprogramming your brain to exit a reactive state

Amber discussed how people can overcome a reactive stance and take on a creative stance regarding work, collaboration, and leadership. Fear and unexamined beliefs drive reactive stances while courage and purpose drive creative stances. Accountants and other professionals typically don’t consciously take a reactive stance—our reactive stance occurs because of our unexamined emotions. Amber noted that people can work more effectively by taking a creative stance:

“A person can come from [two places]. [There’s the] ineffective, knee-jerk reaction. ‘My anxiety’s out of control,’ … or maybe there’s some unconscious stuff that’s driving it up. [The other stance is] more effective. I’m creat[ing my life]. … This type of mindset is very different. … This type of person says, ‘I feel powerful. I am powerful. I can create the life that I want. I am responsible for the design of my career path and my interior space.’”

Amber Setter

When we take a creative stance rooted in purpose and confidence, we can create the life we want. We can’t control everything, but we can focus on what’s within our control to shape our personal and professional lives. 

Young businessman talking to co-worker.

One common issue people struggle with that often keeps them in a reactive stance is anxiety. Amber discussed a critical breathing tool we can use to overcome anxiety:

“We often believe that when we have anxiety, it’s in our mind, … but what really happens is we start carrying it in our body. … When you get into this reactive [stance], … do deep belly breathing. You put one hand on your chest and one on your belly so that you can feel if you’re getting way down into your belly through your deep breath. By going through that exercise, maybe counting to five [or] counting to ten. It can really calm you down, so you can move from the reactive into the creative.”

Amber Setter

In addition to breathing exercises, you can look internally to uncover what will help you overcome your fears. Amber used the example of reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this applies to any difficult situation in which you may find yourself. In 2020, Amber looked internally to uncover what made her feel safe during the crisis:

“I look[ed] within. ‘What do I need to do to feel safe during COVID? … What works for me? What doesn’t work for me?’ … What worked best for me was choosing to have [my daughter] go to school. That didn’t work for everyone. In contrast, we had some friends … [who] didn’t want to have their kids go to school. … I didn’t judge their choices.”

Amber Setter

Even though people react differently during times of crisis, we can focus on our own actions rather than judge other people. Amber also noted that we shouldn’t worry about what others think of our actions:

“Really looking inside [leads] you [to] become responsible for your own choices, and you learn to let go of so much worry of what other people are going to say … about you because that’s just a waste of energy. … Look within and operate from [a] creative stance. ‘I’m not responsible for how others feel.’ [That] doesn’t mean you’re a jerk—you just accept that you make your choices, and you can’t control how they’re going to react.”

Amber Setter

When operating from a place of creativity, it’s critical to look internally, evaluate your emotions, and avoid worrying about what others think of you.

How to define yourself and what success means to you 

A woman giving a presentation in front of her colleagues.

An invaluable effect of taking a creative stance in your life is defining yourself and success. Amber observed that you can define yourself by adopting a compassionate and honest outlook: 

“Learn how to engage with honesty and compassion … with others, with your colleagues, and with yourself. You [can] operate from a stance that you’re here to show up fully, that your opinions matter, and you’re here to show up authentically. You learn how to define success for yourself whether that’s in the workplace or at home. … You learn how to define yourself, [and] no one else defines you.”

Amber Setter

Amber also touched on adult development theory in defining yourself and your success. The adult development theory has three stages: the socialized mind, the self-authoring mind, and the self-transforming mind. 

The socialized mind comes from the reactive stance and involves others controlling you. You define yourself through other people’s input, and you conform to what others want. The self-authoring mind, on the other hand, looks internally:

“Self-authoring is where I look within, and I say what’s going to work for me. I’m going to take some information. … I’m going to digest it and then say, ‘What works for me? What will help me feel safe and secure when the external world is feeling volatile?’”

Amber Setter

The final level of adult development theory is the self-transforming mind. In this stage, you can grow and transform internally from challenging circumstances that may be outside of your control. You’re able to define yourself because of your internal growth and self-reflection.

Answering the question “What do I want?”

It’s important to recognize that you are your own expert when it comes to defining yourself and uncovering what you want. You can look internally to determine what you need, and you can create the life you want based on your needs: 

“You’re the expert of your needs. … [The] creative [stance] is, ‘I own my needs, my needs are worthy, and I [can] learn how to vocalize them.’”

Amber Setter

People often struggle with determining what they need because they have reactionary automatic ways of being. Amber shared that it took her a long time to uncover what she needed because of reactive ways of thinking that she developed as a child:

“I lived in an environment that was chaotic as a child, so I was already kind of looking all the time and discerning, ‘Is the world safe? Is it not safe?’ and that meant I didn’t look at my own needs. I also had caregivers that were too busy dealing with their own stuff to really take care of me in that way, so that created this automatic way of being that’s gotten in my way.”

Amber Setter

Amber developed unconscious automatic ways of being because of her tumultuous childhood, and as a result, she had difficulty asking herself what she needed and wanted. Amber recommended that people contemplate their own upbringings to uncover whether they learned to address their needs.

Finally, Amber shared a series of questions and statements to help you uncover your needs and determine what you want. The questions were:

“What does today’s version of me need?”

“When I am judging someone else’s choice, what is really going on inside of me?”

“What opportunities are right here in front of me?”

“Where would I like to take my life?”

“If I had a magic wand, I would…”

“If I wasn’t scared, I would…”

“Who do I want to become?”

Business people having a meeting in an open office.

You can also utilize these questions to grow within your company. You can determine your trajectory for growth and collaborate with your organization to have aligned goals:

“[You can] go to your organization and say, ‘This is how I see myself growing,’ and then ask, ‘What do you need for me and my performance, and how can we go in on this together?’ … Think about [how] you have these needs. How do you create alignment in your organization?”

Amber Setter

Amber used her personal experiences as an example. She approached her company with her needs and was able to grow her organization:

“I reflected, and I said, ‘What’s the stuff I really like to do? I like going to the campuses, I love being at the side meetings, [and] I love talking to students. Well, maybe I could be a recruiter at this company,’ and then I went to the [accounting] partner in charge. … I went and made a list of all of these things I would do in that role, and then [the partner in charge] said, ‘Oh okay, that would be helpful … to the organization.’”

Amber Setter

You can work to create alignment with your needs and your organization’s goals so that both you and your accounting firm can grow.

Learn more about creating alignment in yourself and your organization

Accountants and other professionals can take a reactive or creative stance in their work. While the reactive stance is rooted in fear and unexamined beliefs, the creative stance involves purpose and integrity. Taking a creative stance is also critical for defining yourself, your success, and uncovering what you need. People often struggle with automatic ways of being because of their past experiences, but you can look internally to discover your wants and needs. You can also work with your accounting firm to align your needs and your organization’s goals. 

If you want to learn more from her insights, read Part One and Part Two of this webinar article series. You can also watch her entire presentation here.

Looking for more ways to advance your accounting career? Consider partnering with Gusto. When you become a Gusto partner, you get exclusive access to tools and resources to support your clients into the future. Streamline payroll and benefits, and start advising your clients in valuable new ways. Join Gusto’s Partner Program today.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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