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Benefiting My Career Journey with Meaningful Feedback

Nov 8, 2019

The workplace is moving into a generation where consistent feedback is a must. When we have discussions around feedback, it seems black and white. Feedback is given when asked, via this medium, on this frequent of a basis, etc. When put into practice, however, who really feels 100% satisfied in the feedback they’re receiving?

While my employer does a phenomenal job emphasizing the importance of feedback and encourages it constantly, the reality of human nature is that with feedback comes an emotional response.

Alexandria LandIn a profession where we are consistently working in teams, there is always a risk in giving meaningful feedback. You know, the “critical” feedback.

I suppose not all meaningful feedback is critical, but the first ingredient to meaningful feedback is that it highlights where you need to grow. This feels significantly more impactful to your growth than being told for the fifth time that you have “great communication skills.”

The other ingredient to beneficial feedback is its relevance. It only benefits me so much to receive feedback about a technical issue that applies to one or two clients in a specific field. Whereas, when I receive feedback regarding a facet of my leadership ability, this not only applies to my specific audit client, or my current employer, but my career as whole. This feedback is transferrable to many areas of my professional career.

Now that I’ve shared a bit about the pain points I’ve experienced in the realm of feedback, I’d love to share how the INCPAS Insight Toolkit helped to address these areas and provide me with the most useful feedback as it relates to my professional career.

A quick overview of what the Insight Toolkit is and how it works: The Insight Toolkit is an online feedback tool that they have tailored to accounting students and professionals. They have done the work of identifying what non-technical skills are most valuable to our profession and developed specific questions around them to ultimately help each person receive important feedback in their career.

The tool begins with a self-assessment, then the same questions are asked of a variety of peers who rate you on the same criteria. The end product is a well-packaged, 360-degree assessment of how you measure up in each area — and specifically what you should work on to improve your overall competencies.

I have had the pleasure of interacting with the Insight Toolkit in two different settings: college and career. One of the beautiful aspects of this assessment is that it’s versatile.

The non-technical skills for a college student attending Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and an accounting professional are going to differ.

The skills I was assessed on while attending IWU in 2016 included Critical Thinking, Communication Skills, Leadership, Cultural Empathy, Relationship Building and Entrepreneurial Mindset. These skills were actually tailored to the values of the school.

"Not only could I see the high-level gap between where I assessed myself and where my raters assessed me on the overall skill sets, I also had a question-by-question breakdown giving me specific details of how I could improve in each area, or what I already do well."

The assessment I completed for my professional growth in 2019 included Critical Thinking & Problem Solving, Communication, Leadership, Synthesizing Intelligence into Insight, Integration & Collaboration, and Anticipating & Serving Evolving Needs. While some of these may sound very similar, the specific questions that I and my raters were asked were very specific to my stage of life. For instance, while in college, one of the criteria on Leadership I was rated on read, “I model leadership and am respected, trusted and sought out by others.” Now that I am working in Public Accounting, this has evolved to “I am consistently referred to by other members of my network as a trusted professional with a high level of knowledge, skills and behaviors that could bring value to clients and/or the CPA profession.”

Seeing the difference in each of the assessments proved to me even more so that the feedback I received was not general — it was pertinent to the goals I am/was pursuing and my success in each of these areas mattered to my development.

After receiving the 40-page Feedback report(s), I was immediately confronted with greater self-awareness. Not only could I see the high-level gap between where I assessed myself and where my raters assessed me on the overall skill sets, I also had a question-by-question breakdown giving me specific details of how I could improve in each area, or what I already do well.

The way I digested each Feedback Report was surprisingly different. In college, my raters were required to leave comments about their number-scoring in each skill before they could continue the assessment. I relied heavily on these specific examples that my raters described through their eyes to identify my strengths and weaknesses. I tended to look past the numbers I was scored and instead focused on my experiences I had failed/succeeded in — not according to my opinion, but what someone from the outside had seen. I immediately became self-conscious about the weaknesses my raters identified – which was great, because now when I find myself in similar situations I have more of an awareness of my habits and can improve in real-time. By relying on the comments and not the overall rating, I again felt myself learning from feedback that was overly specific. Most of my raters referenced my experience on mission trips to assess my Cultural Empathy, but it’s not a day-to-day occurrence that I am travelling to another country and can rely on that feedback. Recognizing this shortfall, I found my most recent assessment to be even more helpful to my growth.

The assessment my raters and I most recently completed did not require comments; therefore, I had to glean feedback from the number scores I was given in each skill. This proved to be a bit daunting at first. The reports are long and thorough. It was a task just to sit down and read it all. It was another to try to digest what I was reading.

"From now on, any opportunity I get to include others and demonstrate patience — with clients, colleagues, friends, strangers, you name it — I'll capitalize on that opportunity to better myself."

I started with the overall skills and identified how closely I assessed myself versus how my raters perceive me. To be fair, this wasn’t all that helpful. It is very common for others to think higher of you than you do yourself, as it’s the tendency to be overly self-critical. If I had left the assessment there, I’d be feeling high and mighty. However, I am glad I kept reading because the real benefit, and hard truths, came when I began sifting through the results of individual questions.

One of the eye-openers was seeing I had a self-perception that I am absolutely phenomenal (5.0 stars out of 5.0) at “bring[ing] the ‘unheard’ voice into the discussion and show[ing] patience with others who find difficulty in articulating their message,” whereas others see a lot of room for growth. My peers and mentors gave me an average rating of 3.6 out of 5.0.

From now on, any opportunity I get to include others and demonstrate patience — with clients, colleagues, friends, strangers, you name it — I’ll capitalize on that opportunity to better myself.

That is what’s so great about meaningful feedback! It motivates you to grow in more than one area of your life. By completing the Insight Tool, I am confident I have received honest feedback that has the potential to make a significant difference in my success at reaching my goals.

To make the most of this tool, I plan on revisiting this assessment routinely in the future and am excited to always have a sounding board for what I am doing right and areas in which I can continue to improve. It also gives me an opportunity to have continuous meaningful, challenging feedback which allows me to make a difference in my inspired career.

Start now with the Insight Toolkit free self-assessment.

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Alexandria Land
About the Author
Alexandria Land is a recent graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion (2018), and is kickstarting her accounting career at CliftonLarsonAllen, LLP. She is a soon-to-be licensed CPA and her favorite part of working in public accounting is the diversity she encounters on a daily basis. Alex enjoys being involved, particularly with the INCPAS attending Young Pros events, Lunch and Learns, and diving in as a new member of the Young Professionals Leadership Academy (YPLA).