Tips for Giving and Receiving Feedback in Your Accounting Firm

Gusto Editors

Do you know how to receive and use feedback effectively?

When you and your accounting team give and receive feedback, you can help one another improve each others’ work performances, develop your careers, and expand your firm. In addition to giving and receiving feedback, you need to actively incorporate colleagues’ advice into your work performance to enhance your accounting abilities and help your firm meet its goals.

Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, delivered an informative webinar about giving and receiving feedback and incorporating it into your accounting firm. We presented the webinar titled “Feedback: Give It, Get It, Use It,” and you can watch the entire presentation here.  

In this article, you’ll learn about effective feedback strategies from former CPA and current consultant to CPA firms, Kristen Rampe. We’ll share informative highlights from the webinar, including the benefits of delivering and obtaining feedback, what questions you should ask to receive feedback, and incorporating feedback into your accounting work. 

The benefits of giving and receiving feedback

Giving and receiving feedback can help you grow professionally and personally. When you use constructive criticism, you can learn about your strengths and what areas need improvement. You can also discover more about your colleagues when you receive feedback:

“You’re able to [gain understanding about how you’re perceived] more when you get feedback from those who you are reporting to or peers that you’re working with. … You’re also able to … understand what’s important to your co-workers … and be able to produce better quality work.”

Kristen Rampe

Getting feedback enables you to learn more about your team’s values and goals so that you can produce better work that strengthens your firm.

Every accounting firm has different procedures when it comes to giving feedback. You may not receive constructive criticism as often as you like, but there are ways in which you can seek more feedback from managers and co-workers. First, you can simply ask for feedback:

“In many cases, just asking, … ‘Hey, I would love to get some feedback on this because I want to grow. I want to develop, [and] I want to improve.’ That question … opens up the person who you’re asking to give you feedback. They really feel like they’ve got more permission [when you ask them for feedback].”

Kristen Rampe

In addition to asking for feedback, you need to listen actively to the guidance that you receive from colleagues so that you can apply it to improve your work performance:

“When someone starts giving you information and feedback, [make] sure that you’re … listening and hearing what they’re saying and hearing what they’re not saying. Sometimes there can be kind of a message within the message or someone’s bouncing around a topic because it’s uncomfortable.”

Kristen Rampe
Man and female shaking hands across a table

Although your colleague may not explicitly criticize you in a particular area, they can give you subtle indicators that certain areas of work performance need improvement. Additionally, you should confirm your colleague’s advice and ask questions about your work performance in the future:

“This can be sort of paraphrasing back to them what you heard, or if you’re outlining what you might do going forward, just checking with them to say like, ‘Hey, is this the type of thing that would address the specific behavior that you were talking about that you thought that I should modify?'”

Kristen Rampe

Applying constructive feedback and checking in with the person who gave you advice are crucial steps in using criticism to grow. When you seek and apply feedback, you’ll be able to strengthen the weaker areas in your work performance and improve your behavior to expand your firm and better serve your clients. 

Asking questions when seeking feedback

If people in your organization do not regularly give feedback, you can ask colleagues questions to receive feedback and improve your work performance. The first question you can ask deals with improving your weaker performance areas: 

“[Say,] ‘I’d like to improve my skills in,’ [and] you name the area that you want to improve your skills on. ‘What advice do you have on how I can do that?’ So this is a great open-ended question that really allows the … person you’re asking to take a moment and think about, ‘What information could I give them that could help them improve?’ and it shows your receptivity to receiving that input and that development.”

Kristen Rampe

When you ask your manager or colleague about specific ways to improve your weaker areas, you show that you’re receptive to their criticism. 

You can also ask what’s holding you back from performing better in the workplace. When you ask others about your limitations or weaknesses, you’ll learn about areas in which you need to improve: 

“This [question] shows that drive to work hard, do better, change, [and] get in line with the things that the organization is trying to do. And it helps you identify potential blind spots. But sometimes we don’t realize that even though maybe we’re doing really well in a lot of areas, there are a couple of little things that if we tweaked them, could help us really propel our careers even faster.”

Kristen Rampe

Asking others about what’s holding you back from having a better work performance will help you improve your weak areas and enhance areas in which you’re already competent. 

Additionally, you can ask a colleague or manager about how you can help them reach their goals or your firm’s goals: 

“‘What can I do to help you reach your goals for this project or this year?’ This one is a … giving question. So you’re looking not necessarily for feedback on your own performance, but you’re looking for ways that you can help the team. … You’re asking this question to reach overall goals … that [are] important to your group.”

Kristen Rampe

When seeking constructive criticism, you can learn about what you need to do to strengthen your team and expand your firm. Seeking feedback isn’t only about improving your work performance—it’s also about finding ways to strengthen your firm and help your team. 

Obtaining usable criticism from teammates and managers can be challenging, but when you ask specific questions about your performance and ways to help upgrade your firm, you’ll receive valuable information that you can implement into your work.  

Putting feedback into practice

Once you receive feedback from your co-workers and managers regarding your work performance and improving your firm, you can take action based on their responses. When you incorporate constructive criticism into your work, you can enhance your work performance while also showing members of your firm that you value their feedback. 

The first step you can take in incorporating criticism into your work is setting specific goals: 

“[Asking yourself,]’ Okay, what am I going to do with this [feedback]? When am I going to do it? And how am I going to do it?”‘ will help you keep track … of the assignment you’re giving yourself based on that feedback. … You’re more likely to get more feedback [and] continue to perpetuate positive things in your career if you can set a goal with the feedback that you’ve been given.”

Kristen Rampe
Colleagues sitting beside each other exchanging feedback

After you set specific goals and incorporate constructive feedback into your work, you can check back in with the person who gave you advice to make sure that you’re on the right track to accomplishing what they suggested: 

“Then you want to check back in with that person … and say, ‘Hey, you know what? You mentioned that you asked me to do this. These are some of the things that I’ve done as a result, and I just wanted to share them with you and check in and see [if] this is what you were looking for. ‘ … You took the time to receive the feedback, you took the time to take action on the feedback, and now you’re closing the loop [by checking in with them].”

Kristen Rampe

When you take the time to check back in with the person who gave you feedback, they’ll see that you took their advice seriously. You used their criticism, and you also re-opened the dialogue to make sure that you incorporated their information correctly. When you consult with someone after they’ve given you constructive criticism, they’ll be more inclined to provide you with future feedback and help you develop your career moving forward. 

The final step you should take when using constructive criticism is celebrating your successes. When you recognize that you’ve improved and celebrated your small victories, you can build momentum and continue enhancing your skills. 

Constructive criticism plays a critical role in helping your team and your work performance, and you need to effectively incorporate your colleagues’ feedback to expand your firm and advance your career

Learn more about giving and receiving feedback

Feedback is essential for improving your work performance and growing your firm. You can receive feedback by asking co-workers and managers for specific critiques regarding different areas of your work. You can also continue receiving feedback from them by incorporating their information into your work and checking back in with them. When you and your team members give and receive constructive criticism effectively, you’ll be able to improve each other’s work performances and move forward with your firm’s goals.  

If you want to learn more about how you can give and receive constructive criticism to enhance your career and strengthen your firm, read Part One and Part Two of this webinar article series. You can also watch the full webinar here

Are you having difficulty expanding your firm and meeting the needs of your clients? Gusto offers invaluable tools for accountants that can help you strengthen your ability to serve clients while also growing your firm. We offer health insurance and 401(k) integration, HR experts, and we also file and send local, state, and federal payroll taxes automatically for businesses with fewer than 100 employees. With Gusto, you’ll have all the tools you need for developing your firm and serving your clients. 

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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