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Reflecting on a Busy Tax Season as an Accountant

Gusto Editors  
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Do you want to know how to be even more successful in your career, nourished in your personal life, and effectively manage both? Then it’s essential to take time to reflect on the busiest seasons of your career. By taking time for personal reflection, you can learn to celebrate wins, identify areas of improvement, and increase personal accountability for your life experience. 

Gusto is committed to empowering you to create the professional experience you deserve, so we’re thrilled to bring you expert insights from an experienced coach that you and your team can use. We partnered with CPA Academy to bring you a webinar by coach Amber Setter: “Reflecting on a Busy Tax Season as an Accountant.” The coaching expert dove into how to gain personal power through awareness.

Amber Setter is a consciousness coach who helps individuals and groups cultivate awareness to expand what’s possible in their professional and personal 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. 

Applying coaching techniques to improve your experience

Why should you, an accountant, use coaching techniques to reflect on your career? How do coaching techniques differ from simple reflection and analysis? 

Amber explained that professional coaching relies on a didactic approach. Reflection on hard work involves an exploratory dialogue. By asking questions instead of simply feeding you answers, a coach draws information out of you and encourages you to develop your own ideas. You can apply this to yourself and your colleagues by simply asking yourself and others open-ended questions.

As a knowledge worker, you may be used to using checklists and other tools to assess performance. You may rely on research and analysis based on someone else’s metrics of success. Coaching requires you to define success. This means you aren’t just assessing how productive you were or how much value you brought, but how excited or fatigued you were throughout.

In addition to encouraging personal responsibility, open-ended questions keep you more engaged and focused on solutions. Amber explained:

“The brain actually offloads when somebody’s receiving advice, so if you’re just telling your clients, ‘You have to do X, Y, Z,’ they’re going to offload. Their brain gets a little lazy, so asking questions [such as] ‘Here are your financial results. Now, what do you want to do with this? How might you want to grow your business? What do you want to do with your legacy? How do you want to spend or save your money?’ [This is different from] ‘Well, there’s five different strategies you could do.’”

 Amber Setter

Above all, a coach acknowledges that all answers come from within. If you don’t know what success means to you, coaching will help you begin to form your answer. By applying coaching techniques to periods of intense pressure on the job, you can start to shift your life experience to what you want. 

Celebrating wins and the power of gratitude

Perfectionistic tendencies are common in the accounting profession. After all, people are relying on you to guide them through life-altering decisions, or to help them with highly complex challenges. Your brain may be primed to look for errors and inconsistencies, which allows you to do excellent work for your clients. 

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“I’ve noticed in my work coaching people … [that] you want the work to be perfect. … What happens when you’re in that mindset [is that] it’s like your mind’s wheel is turning on ‘Let me find all the problems. Where’s the problem?’ … and so it really is an exercise to look at what is working well.”

– Amber Setter

When you forget to switch your perfectionist tendencies off,  your mental or emotional health can suffer. It can also affect your personal life because if you are constantly looking for problems at work, chances are you are demonstrating those same behaviors at home as well. Bringing a skeptical attitude to your personal relationships is not always the most beneficial approach, according to Amber.

To combat this, you’ll want to start your reflections by asking yourself: “What went well?” List five things that went well during the period you are reflecting on. It could be that you strengthened client relationships, took great care of your physical health, or balanced work with your romantic relationship. You’re looking at how well your work fits into your total life experience and not just how well you did at work. 

Training your brain to look for victories helps you cultivate gratitude and positivity, two of the fastest routes to a happier and healthier you.

Insight plus actions equals results

One of the most important reasons to reflect is to identify areas needing growth. Ask yourself what didn’t go well. Try to look at what you’d like to improve based on what you want in your life. This is different from looking at what metrics could be better based on management evaluations. By identifying what you want to improve, you’re solidifying your values. 

Did you neglect to take care of your health? How so? Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep, took on too many responsibilities, or ate junk food at your desk. What would you like to see change during the next busy season? How would you like to feel?

Maybe you wish you’d communicated more clearly with management. Did you assume  a burden better placed elsewhere? Were you properly recognized for all that you did?

Amber explained that while accounting has always been a demanding profession, American corporate culture as a whole has been getting increasingly more difficult. Burnout is prevalent. Complex challenges coupled with enormous pressure have made work a place where mental health issues can easily take root.

Asking yourself what didn’t go well is only the first step of a two-step process. Reflection only goes so far—we have to commit to change if we want different results. We’re creatures of habit and no matter how much we may want to change, we won’t unless we take action. According to Amber, that’s the magic of coaching—insight plus action. 

For each area of change you’re looking at, consider where you are versus where you want to be. How can you get to that place you wish you were? What steps do you need to take, including the first steps? Maybe you need to cut out some other commitments. Maybe you need to cut out a bad habit that drains your time and energy. Remember, if you always repeat the same actions, you will always get the same result.

Getting to the root of your blocks

Amber shared a number of other coaching questions designed to help clients reflect. Among them, she asked, “what would you most like to change about yourself, “as well as, “what part of your work are you most committed to improving?”

Many answers will probably look familiar to you. Maybe you want to make more money. Perhaps you want to have more time for your kids. You might realize that you aren’t charging enough or that you aren’t setting good boundaries with your time. Beneath all of these challenges are deeper issues.

“One of the things that I’ve realized in coaching people for several years is that what sounds initially like, ‘Oh, I’m not earning what I want, or this client doesn’t want to pay me and I’m having a real challenge with that,’ or whatever comes up, there is this worthiness [issue], so there’s really this deep inner work that needs to be done.”

Amber Setter

In other words, in identifying that you aren’t charging enough for your work, you might need to face feelings of unworthiness. It’s this root cause that might inhibit a person from asking for more money. Other examples of deeper issues might include fears of communication, a fear of asking for what one wants, or having imposter syndrome. 

The great thing about examining these root issues is that they connect to many other aspects of your life. By resolving one type of conflict, you may find that you resolve several others. In doing so, you are actually on your way to creating a more fulfilling life in a more sustainable way. Instead of continuously focusing on one external thing after another, you are working instead on deeper layers that make up the bedrock of your experience. You’re resolving challenges that would otherwise pop up again in some form or another. Amber explained:

“Initially, people come to coaching like, ‘I want to get a new job. I want a better work-life balance. I want to grow my book of business.’ It’s usually an external thing, but to get to the external thing, we [must]  work on the internal/  e’re working on how [to] have a more healthy attitude or what does today’s version of you need? … Usually what happens is we have a dream,  … and we do everything we’re supposed to do to get that dream, and then we get there, and we’re like, ‘Ah, but I’m miserable now. What should I do?’”

– Amber Setter
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Amber’s wisdom shows that personal and professional development go hand in hand. While we may find it easy to compartmentalize them, they are, in fact, deeply linked. By choosing to apply coaching techniques to your professional fulfillment, you’re on your way to having a happier, healthier career and personal life. 

On that note, Amber’s last question was, “What brings you joy, and how can you have more of that?” It’s not what you usually think of when it comes to an accounting development strategy, right? However, high rates of stress, depression, burnout, and emotional fatigue indicate that joy is no longer optional. Without joy and relaxation, our work lives are harder, our health is more fragile, and our quality of life suffers.

Learn more about reflecting on a busy tax season as an accountant

The tax busy season is just one of many challenging circumstances that accountants face on a regular basis. The question isn’t so much when is the tax busy season for accountants, but how to navigate anything that arises in a positive way. This requires personal reflection to shift disempowering behaviors and align with what you want more of in your personal and professional life.

Professional coaching is based on personal reflection and finding the answers within. By applying coaching questions to your own experience, you can gain insight into what you value and whether your experience is in alignment with what you want. 

When reflecting on the busy season, start off by identifying your victories. This will put you in a positive frame of mind, which is essential for personal growth work. Remember that insight without action does not lead to results. Consider also that every challenge you have has a deeper root. By reflecting on these roots, you will gain more control over your life experience and craft a life experience that can bring you lasting joy instead of temporary satisfaction.

Gusto’s mission is to create a world that empowers a better life. We understand that professional aptitude and personal fulfillment go hand in hand. Don’t forget to check out our next article based on the same webinar, “Reflecting on a Busy Tax Season as an Accounting Firm.”

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