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Practicing Consciousness in Accounting

Gusto Editors  
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If you work in the accounting industry, you might be puzzled at the notion of being a “conscious advisor.” What place do esoteric concepts like “consciousness” have in your firm? Does it mean that you’re self-conscious? If not, what does consciousness mean?

Gusto is committed to supporting every aspect of your business. From your tech systems to your budget to the way you can grow into the most effective, potent leader in the field. So we’re thrilled to partner with CPA Academy to bring you an out-of-the-box presentation with experts in the coaching and accounting fields.

Our webinar “Practicing Consciousness in Accounting” featured essential insights from Amber Setter and Neil Edwards. You can watch the full webinar here. Amber and Neil put their coaching expertise to work, demonstrating how ideals such as consciousness can be put into practice in an accounting firm and giving compelling reasons why.

Amber Setter helps individuals and groups cultivate consciousness that expands what is possible in their personal and professional lives. A natural intuitive, she brings insight and compassion to all of her offerings. She is a certified, non-practicing CPA who worked as an accounting recruiter before pursuing her coaching business.

Neil Edwards is a coach, wellness advocate, and athlete specializing in helping people overcome limiting mindsets. He is skilled in solving complex issues within relationships, including those that occur in organizations and teams. He trains other coaches and leaders to bridge awareness with action. 

What is consciousness, and why does it matter in accounting?

First of all, being conscious can’t really be a bad thing. It’s the ability to know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It also gives you the space to consider other possibilities, such as how another person might do things and why, or how you might do the same things differently and why. At a basic level, it’s about awareness.

“Consciousness is much more than an esoteric buzzword. It’s really about your ability to see your own self and your clients in a deeper, more meaningful way.”

– Amber Setter

Amber and Neil also set the record straight about their industries. As coaches, their aim is always to partner with clients to help them enact change in their lives. As coaches who also work with organizations, teams, and leaders, they are particularly effective at instigating change in people’s professional lives. Their roles may seem esoteric, but they are in fact creating change in very concrete, practical ways across organizations.

Female employee speaking with male colleagues in a warehouse setting

“The International Coach Federation defines coaching as: ‘Partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that maximizes their personal and professional attention potential’. A professional coach operates from the stance that the client is the expert on their life, and this makes sense. After all, each of you on the webcast today—you’re the expert on your life, right? You know your hopes, you know your dreams, you know your fears and what’s keeping you up at night better than anyone else on the planet. You know what it looks like for you to thrive, and that might be very different than what it looks like for your colleague to thrive or for your client to thrive.”

– Amber Setter

While Amber shared her perspective, Neil explained how the coaching profession applies to organizations.

“Similarly to Amber, I really work on mindset and transformation and helping people to become the best version of themselves, but also to perform better at work. … Because I’m an organization and systems coach, I also work at an organizational level too, to affect change across cultures.”

– Neil Edwards

Both Amber and Neil stressed how conscious coaching can create positive change within individuals and organizations, creating ripple effects within industries and changing them for the better.

Why explore consciousness in accounting now?

Amber and Neil spoke about consciousness at an important time of change and unmatched growth potential—during the Covid-19 Pandemic. It’s within this context that they presented their important ideas. The pandemic forced most organizations in most industries to transform how they work, whether they were ready or not. This was chaotic and uncomfortable, but according to Amber, it was also a huge opportunity. 

“So COVID-19 has really forced us to explore and create new realities. I saw a comment come in that said, ‘Normal isn’t going to be what we used to think of it.’ This is very, very true, right? We get to design a new reality and yet sometimes accountants might not be as practiced at creative expression. Because the work of an accountant lives in the space of this concrete reality, this consensus. There’s measurable facts, reasonableness, and expertise, and that might feel safer and more valuable than exploring the unknown. But if we’re going to thrive in our new world, we must learn how to explore the unknown and look at different levels of reality.”

– Amber Setter

With offices working remotely, instability within industries and organizations, and countless other changes, there’s never been a better time to rethink how to move forward. But this means that, in some ways, organizations need to reinvent the wheel. To do that, it’s necessary to reflect. 

“The deep inquiry is what grows people. Powerful questions really strengthen strategic thinking and their problem-solving muscles, and that’s really what we need in these unprecedented times.”

– Amber Setter

Bridging the gap between tradition and innovation, structure and change, requires balance. There are many different possibilities right now, and there’s no set answer or direction. Coaching, mindfulness, and other alternative approaches are exactly what’s needed, according to both Amber and Neil.

The simple practice to go from surviving to thriving

As accountants, you’re used to working with facts, figures, and the concrete physical world. You’ve been trained to hunt for inconsistencies, errors, patterns, and anything out of place. You’re well trained in linear and logical thinking. That’s what makes you good at your job.

But as we’ve seen, the old ways of being need a refresh. The old ways of thinking and doing don’t work in our new reality. According to Amber and Neil, accountants need new tools for thinking in creative, nonlinear ways in order to thrive—not just survive. 

Man walking across hallow with a view down a hallway

Neil and Amber made it clear—the big difference between linear, analytical thinking and nonlinear, creative thinking is the approach to the unknown. An analytical approach to the unknown would likely involve following trains of logical thought to arrive at a conclusion—to make the unknown known. The unknown is not necessarily welcome in analytical thinking. We need concrete, defined answers. That’s how we work and how we survive.

The creative, nonlinear approach would be to embrace the unknown. The answers are generated from the unknown. They are dreamed up, not pursued. They are envisioned and then created. 

“The unknown is really the space of pure potential. It’s the place where all possibilities exist. … We can be curious and new things can emerge for us, and in that magical space, you’re able to uncover potentially greater value to deliver new possibilities for overcoming the complex challenges you face. And this might give you a real nice moment to just slow down and connect or reconnect to your purpose.” 

– Amber Setter

Amber and Neil’s exciting presentation definitely puts a new spin on the future of accounting. They shared a unique perspective fusing metaphysical or at least psychological topics with the practical world of accounting. Amber shared her plans for the webinar:

“We’re then going to have you explore the dreams you have for your life and your work. … Then, we’re going to have you think about just where you are today versus where you want to be in this new world and then design some actions to get there. … That’s a big part of coaching, too—where am I today?”

– Amber Setter

Amber shared that not only would they talk through a real-life experience of designing a world in which you’re thriving, but that they’d also provide the framework and coaching questions that you can use with your team or your clients She also gave a quick disclaimer about the process:

“If you go with those frameworks and you’re operating … like a traditional accountant, like, ‘I’m an expert, and I have all the answers,’ or, ‘I’m a professional skeptic, and I’m going to poke holes in everything.’ Your coaching approach might fall a little bit flat.”  

– Amber Setter

In other words, for you to engage with this process—either as a conscious leader or as someone being led—you’ll have to take off your accounting hat for a moment. Keep an open mind, and get comfortable not being the expert. That will be a game-changer.

What goals do you have for your firm? What would thriving look like during the ups and downs of the busy season, unfilled positions, or any other challenge? How can you, your team, and your clients adapt to changes in positive ways?

Learn more about becoming a conscious advisor

Out-of-the-box consciousness could seem out of place in an accounting firm, but it makes more sense than most might think. There is more potential than there ever has been before to rethink how we do business. It’s a time that’s ripe with possibility, both good and bad. 

To create new, positive ways of doing things, organizations and individuals need to be open to being conscious. This simply means developing awareness—not doing things on autopilot, and knowing the why behind what you’re doing. 

It’s also important to get more comfortable with creativity, which comes from the unknown. With no path to follow through unknown territory, learning how to create new paths and ways forward requires new ways of approaching the unknowable.

Gusto is committed to helping you drive the change you need to thrive, not just survive. Be sure to check out, “Understanding Three Levels of Reality to Become a Conscious Advisor” and “Following Your Dreams to Advance Your Accounting Career.” It’s based on the same insightful webinar from these coaching experts!

Joining Gusto Partners can help make transitions go more smoothly for your firm as we simplify doing business. By joining, you’ll receive a free payroll subscription for your firm.

As a Gusto partner, you’ll also get tools to help you expand your accounting practice and offer your clients new insights, plus a free payroll subscription for your own accounting firm. Sign up today! 

Updated: March 30, 2022

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors

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