Feedback Loop: Improving Skills in the Accounting Field

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| Courtney Price

As an accountant, the ability to provide and absorb constructive feedback is crucial to personal and professional growth. Engaging in effective feedback exchanges enhances your skills, strengthens team dynamics, and fosters a culture of continuous improvement within your firm.

In the session Communication Skills for Accountants, Alain Wolf explored essential strategies for giving great feedback and receiving negative feedback constructively.

Giving Great Feedback

Providing feedback is more than merely pointing out what went right or wrong; it's about fostering a supportive environment where continuous improvement is encouraged. Here are key strategies for delivering impactful feedback:

  1. Start on a Positive Note

Begin your feedback session by acknowledging something the recipient did well. This approach creates a positive atmosphere and makes the person more receptive to the subsequent critique. For instance, praise their diligent work on a recent project before transitioning into areas needing improvement.

Example: "I really appreciated your thorough analysis on the recent financial report. Your attention to detail was impressive."

  1. Avoid Negative Language

Refrain from using negative language such as "what you did wrong was..." Instead, use constructive phrases like "what you can improve is..." This phrasing helps the recipient process the feedback without feeling disheartened or defensive.

Example: Instead of saying, "Your error calculations were incorrect," opt for, "You might want to double-check the error calculations to ensure accuracy."

  1. Be Precise

Ambiguous feedback can leave the recipient confused and unmotivated. Provide specific examples of what needs improvement and actionable steps they can take.

Example: Rather than saying, "Your reports are often late," specify, "I've noticed the last three reports have been submitted past the deadline due to delays in gathering all required data."

  1. Focus on Future Improvements

Guide the feedback towards future growth by discussing how the recipient can enhance their performance. This forward-looking approach motivates them to take proactive steps in their development.

Example: "For future reports, perhaps setting intermediate deadlines for data collection might help ensure timely submissions."

  1. Solicit Recipient's Perspective

Engage the recipient in a dialogue by asking for their thoughts on the feedback. This interaction can provide valuable insights into underlying issues and contribute to a mutually respected solution.

Example: "What are your thoughts on this feedback? How do you think we can address these issues together?"

  1. End on a Positive Note

Conclude the feedback session with additional positive reinforcement. This practice helps prevent the recipient from leaving the discussion feeling solely criticised.

Example: "Despite the areas for improvement, your commitment to the team's success shines through, and I’m confident you’ll excel with these adjustments."

Receiving and Digesting Negative Feedback

Receiving negative feedback can be challenging. However, it's essential to approach it with an open mind and a willingness to grow. Here's how to manage negative feedback effectively:

  1. Assess the Qualifications of the Feedback Giver

Consider whether the person providing the feedback is qualified. Their credibility and familiarity with your work context matter. Constructive feedback from knowledgeable sources, like a supervisor who understands your role, carries more weight.

Example: If your manager, who has closely monitored your performance, suggests areas of improvement, their input is likely well-founded.

  1. Evaluate the Feedback's Relevance and Desirability

Determine if the feedback is relevant to your role and goals. Ask yourself if it's something you want and need to improve. This reflection ensures that you focus on areas that align with your professional development.

Example: If the feedback pertains to enhancing your presentation skills and you aim to move into a client-facing role, it's likely relevant and desirable.

  1. Seek Specificity

If the feedback seems vague, ask for specific examples to understand better what needs changing. This specificity can provide clear direction for your improvement efforts.

Example: If told to "work harder," you might ask, "Can you specify the areas where you feel my efforts could be more robust?"

  1. Process and Reflect Before Reacting

Take time to reflect on the feedback before reacting emotionally. Reflecting allows you to consider the feedback objectively and to plan constructive responses.

Example: Rather than immediately defending your actions, indicate you will consider the feedback with a response like, "Thank you for your input; I will reflect on this and see how I can improve."

  1. Maintain a Growth Mindset

Understand that feedback, even when negative, is a tool for growth. Approach it with the mindset of a sculpture, tweaking your skills and behaviours to become a better professional.

Example: View feedback as a stepping stone, recognising that making these changes will refine your competencies and enhance your career prospects.

  1. Close on a Positive Interaction

After considering the feedback, thank the person and express your commitment to improvement. Ending on a positive note demonstrates professionalism and a willingness to grow.

Example: "I appreciate you taking the time to provide this feedback. I'll work on these areas and strive to improve my contributions."

In the accounting field, the ability to give and receive feedback with grace and professionalism is vital. By initiating feedback with positivity, specificity, and a focus on future improvements, and by receiving feedback with an open mind and strategic reflection, accountants can foster a culture of continuous growth and excellence. Remember, feedback is not a judgment; it's a pathway to becoming a trusted and competent professional.

For the full session, please click here. Alain Wolf covers the following topics during this course:

  • Enhance your ability to convey competence and confidence in your communication.
  • Strengthen your written communication skills for greater clarity and impact.
  • Cultivate mastery in nonverbal communication to project confidence, competence, and authority.
  • Perfect the art of engaging in small talk to build rapport and connections effectively.
  • Develop proficiency in both giving constructive feedback and receiving feedback graciously for professional growth.

The contents of this article are meant as a guide only and are not a substitute for professional advice. The author/s accept no responsibility for any action taken, or refrained from, as a result of the material contained in this document. Specific advice should be obtained before acting or refraining from acting, in connection with the matters dealt with in this article.

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About the Author

Courtney Price is a content creator for CPDStore. Courtney joined us during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been involved in the ever-evolving world of accounting ever since. Her passion for reading and writing, coupled with her degree in copywriting from Vega School has allowed her to channel her creativity and expertise into crafting engaging and informative content.