Your Brain’s Role In Navigating Year-End Reviews
Today we’re going to discuss something we’re all pretty familiar with – the annual year-end reviews for accountants.
Once the holidays pass, it’s that time of the year again, where performance evaluations take center stage. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting your accounting career, the year-end review is like the grand finale of your work-year performance.
But here’s the thing – I’m not just going to be talking about the review itself; I’m going to be diving into how important it is to understand your accountant brain when it comes to year-end reviews, feedback, and criticism.
If you’re about to receive your year-end review, there’s probably some anticipation, a bit of nervousness, and maybe even some excitement. It’s the time when your efforts, achievements, and maybe a hiccup or two, take the spotlight.
Before you go in for your review, it’s important to understand that your brain is the ultimate feedback filter. Your brain is like a mental sorting hat, deciding what’s a fact, what’s just someone’s opinion, and how it all fits into your existing thoughts about your work.
The key is understanding the difference between a fact and your brain’s interpretation of a fact. This will make a huge difference in how you see yourself and your work.
If you’re not aware of how your brain works, you may misinterpret feedback for criticism. The truth is that knowing if someone is genuinely trying to help or not can change how you take in what they’re saying.
But here’s the catch – your brain has this memory game going on. It likes to stick with what it already knows, even if there’s new information. In other words, if you believe you’re awesome at your job, your brain might hold onto feedback that agrees with that and ignore the rest.
On the other hand, if you’re dealing with self-doubt or imposter syndrome, your brain will interpret feedback as criticism, hold onto anything that adds to your feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, and ignore the rest.
So why should you care about your brain’s role this year? Because understanding how your brain handles year end reviews isn’t just about getting through it. It’s about empowering yourself with insights that can shape how you grow in your career.
Knowing how your accountant brain works can make a real difference.
Get ready for some practical tips, a few “aha” moments, and a clearer path through the year-end review maze.
The Impact of Year-End Feedback for Accountants
Year-end reviews are a shared experience for many accountants. It’s that time when supervisors and employees come together to discuss the past year’s experience.
While we often have the fact of year-end reviews in common, the emotions and expectations that are involved are unique to each accountant. For most, it’s typically a mix of anticipation, fear, nerves, and perhaps a hint of curiosity.
Questions like, “How did I perform this year? What feedback am I going to get?” are natural. It’s like being on a stage with the spotlight on you – it can be a significant moment.
So why does the ritual of year-end reviews matter so much? Because it can become a stepping stone in your career path.
The feedback you receive during this annual review isn’t merely about applauding successes or highlighting areas for improvement; it can become a roadmap for your professional development.
Understanding how your contributions are perceived can open doors to growth, such as climbing the corporate ladder or embracing new challenges.
Whether you’re navigating achievements or challenges, remember, it’s all part of the process. But if you’re worried, I’ve got you. I’m going to be explaining the helpful way to navigate year-end reviews so that it sets you up for success next year.
Your Brain as the Feedback Filter
As I shared before, it turns out that your brain plays a crucial role in how you process feedback, especially during those year-end reviews.
Your brain isn’t just a storage box for facts and figures; it’s a filter when it comes to feedback. It decides what’s a solid fact, like saying you completed 75% of your tasks accurately, and what’s more of a personal opinion, like someone saying you’re not as proactive as you need to be.
In order to understand your brain better, imagine it as a super-smart organizer at a huge library. When you hear feedback, it’s like it’s sorting through a ton of books.
Some books are straight-up facts – things everyone would agree on. For example, if your boss says, “You met all your deadlines,” that’s a fact.
But then, there are opinion books. These are more about how someone feels. If they say, “You have a unique way of tackling challenges,” that’s their opinion.
Now, here’s the tricky part – your brain doesn’t start fresh with every piece of feedback. It brings along what it already believes.
For example, if you feel you believe you did a good job this year, your brain might grab onto feedback that agrees with that and ignore the rest. It’s like having a favorite flavor of ice cream, and you keep reaching for that one.
But if you believe you didn’t do a good job this year, your brain will grab onto feedback that agrees with that. It’s like your brain has its own library filing system, making sense of the feedback bookshelf.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because understanding this filtering process is like having a backstage pass to your thoughts during reviews. It can give you a front row seat to your brain’s role in processing feedback before, during, and after those crucial year-end reviews.
Your Brain’s Role In Deciphering Feedback Versus Criticism
Think about your daily routine – going to a restaurant, ordering things from Amazon, or checking out that new movie. Everywhere you turn, someone’s asking for feedback.
It’s like the background music of our lives. We listen to other people’s experiences to decide what to do.
For example, picture planning a vacation. Before I pack my bags, I check Trip Advisor. It’s like a storybook where travelers share their adventures and warnings.
I read through, absorbing their highs and lows to plan a trip that’s exciting and safe. Even for a simple night out, Open Table reviews become my guide, helping me pick restaurants that people like.
So if we’re so used to giving and reading feedback, why do we dread year-end reviews so much? We’re swimming in opinions every day, yet when it comes to personal or work feedback, things get tricky.
One reason is that everyday feedback, like rating a product, doesn’t create an emotional reaction the same way personal or work feedback does. It’s like giving your thoughts on a movie versus being the main actor on the big screen – the emotions are different.
Here’s the thing: Our brains, smart as they are, have a habit. They like things they already know.
When we get personal or work feedback, our brain might automatically filter it through what we already believe about ourselves. This creates a bit of confusion, making it hard to separate useful information from what we already think.
The second thing you need to understand is that your brain has a negativity bias. It’s the tendency of our brains to pay more attention to and give more weight to negative information compared to positive information.
For example, if you get ten compliments and one criticism, your brain might focus more on that one criticism. It’s like having a mental magnifying glass that zooms in on the negative things because, in the ancient days, paying extra attention to potential dangers was crucial for survival.
The third thing you need to understand is cognitive dissonance. This is when you hold two conflicting beliefs or attitudes at the same time.
Since our brains like consistency, when we’re taking in information from a year-end review, it can create a mental tug of war.
For example, you love chocolate, but you’re on a diet and know you shouldn’t eat it. That conflict between wanting something and knowing it’s not good for your goal creates cognitive dissonance.
Your brain doesn’t like this discomfort, so it might try to change one of those beliefs to make them align.
Here’s the interesting part—negativity bias can enhance cognitive dissonance. In other words, because our brains pay more attention to negative things, it can make conflicting beliefs or attitudes feel even more uncomfortable.
In the context of feedback or criticism, negativity bias might make us focus more on the negative aspects, even if there are positives. This can then fuel cognitive dissonance – the discomfort of hearing something negative might clash with our existing belief about ourselves, triggering a mental battle.
Thankfully, being aware of these brain quirks can help. When you notice yourself zooming in on the negative or feeling uncomfortable with conflicting thoughts, take a step back.
Ask yourself if there are positive aspects you might be overlooking and try to find a way to bring balance. It’s like giving your brain a little nudge to see the bigger picture.
Becoming a Smarter Accountant: How To Navigate Year-End Reviews
Now let’s talk strategies for making those year-end reviews less of an issue. Here’s your step-by-step guide:
Step 1: Embrace the Positives:
Remember, negativity bias might make you focus on the negatives. Counteract this by deliberately seeking out the positives. Did your manager praise your attention to detail? Did a colleague appreciate your teamwork? Write these down – create a positivity list.
Example: “My manager mentioned I’ve been consistently thorough in financial reports. That’s a win!”
Step 2: Reflect on Growth Areas:
Identify areas where you can improve without letting cognitive dissonance cloud your judgment. Be honest with yourself. Are there aspects you struggled with? Use clear, specific examples to pinpoint areas for growth.
Example: “I noticed my time management slipped a bit during the tax season crunch. I can work on organizing tasks more efficiently.”
Step 3: Proactive Communication:
Don’t let surprises sneak up on you. If there’s something you’re unsure about, ask beforehand. Are you curious about specific aspects of your performance? Reach out to your manager. Clarify expectations and demonstrate your commitment to improvement.
Example: “I’m eager to understand your expectations for my role better. Any specific areas you’d like me to focus on during the review?”
Step 4: Own Your Narrative:
During the review, share your perspective. If there’s a project where you excelled or a challenge you overcame, speak up. This isn’t about boasting but making sure your efforts are acknowledged.
Example: “I faced a steep learning curve on the new software, but I worked extra hours to grasp it, and now it’s become a strong suit.”
Step 5: Feedback as a Stepping Stone:
View feedback as a ladder to climb, not a weight to carry. Whether positive or constructive, every piece of feedback propels you forward. Take what helps you grow and leave behind what doesn’t serve your improvement journey.
Example: “Even though the feedback on client communication was tough, it’s a chance to enhance my client management skills.”
Step 6: Continuous Improvement Mindset:
Remember, it’s not about perfection; it’s about progress. Use the feedback as a roadmap for continuous improvement. Set actionable goals based on the insights gained during the review.
Example: “I aim to enhance my efficiency in handling client questions. I’ll start by implementing a system to prioritize and respond promptly.”
I’ve worked with many clients on year-end-reviews, but one of my clients stands out the most. She’s a manager at a credit union and has to do a yearly self-review, give that to her manager, and then they discuss where they agree or disagree.
During one of our coaching sessions she was sharing all the negative things she thought her manager was going to say about her. I’ll be honest – I was really surprised because I knew what a great job she had done throughout the year, but her negative biased brain wasn’t seeing it.
I asked her to tell me the top 3 negative things she believed her manager was going to say. Then I had her flip them to the opposite. For example, if she thought her manager was going to say she wasn’t an effective leader this year, we turned it to the opposite – I was an effective leader this year.
Then I asked her to give me 3 examples of how she was an effective leader. At first she was resistant, but once she got started, she actually gave me 10 examples.
We went down the list of each of the negative things she thought her manager was going to say about her and were able to prove the opposite was truer. Of course there were areas that needed improvement, but if she let he negatively biased brain dictate her evaluation of herself, she would have missed her incredible growth and contribution to the company.
The funny thing is once she shared her self-review with her boss, he agreed with every positive thing she outlined. He even agreed with where she said she needed improvement, but he emphasized that she was doing an incredible job.
The truth is that navigating year-end reviews is like steering a ship – you need a clear direction. By focusing on the positives, reflecting on growth areas, communicating proactively, owning your narrative, and seeing feedback as a tool for improvement, you’ll not only survive but thrive in the year-end feedback narrative.
Well, that’s what I have for you. Thank you for joining me as I shared how to navigate year-end reviews. I hope you’ve gained valuable insights and practical tips.
If you are struggling with any aspect of being an accountant, you can simply go to www.thesmarteraccountant.com/calendar and book a free session with me.
I’ll explain The Smarter Accountant 6-week Program and how you can apply it to whatever you’re struggling with.
So make sure you check back each week as I help you go from being a stressed accountant to a Smarter Accountant.
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