Addressing a career concern

By Sandra Wiley

In a recent coaching conversation, a rising star told me about her frustration over the opinion of supervisors that her performance was poor. We discussed how to turn her challenges into an opportunity.

Identify, listen, and learn from a mentor. I was her outside mentor, but she needed an advocate in the firm who could provide informed feedback about her performance. You need someone who can give an honest assessment of how management views your performance, to identify chances for career growth. 

Create quiet time to think. To think about strategic solutions, you need to stop and reflect. This rising star rarely had time to contemplate what was happening in her life and, therefore, did not notice the conversations and actions of others around her. Her motto was head down—do the work. Unfortunately, when you do that all the time, you can miss warning signs about what is happening in your organization and in your career. 

Get curious about others. This was hard for my mentee to understand at first. She wanted to make the "problem" all about her. Unless she examined what made others in the organization concerned, unhappy, or frustrated, she could not connect those issues to her performance and actions. She needed to learn to be curious about others in the firm, particularly the leaders, and build strong relationships. Transparency and trust don't just happen; they are an outcome of ongoing communication and understanding.

Connect with people who know more than you do. Strategic thinking comes from increasing your knowledge. Growing your network of interesting people is essential to future success. It is a step out of the comfort zone at times, but it is imperative that you find people who have the skills that you need to improve upon. Connect with them to learn what they do and how they do it. If you align yourself with people who don't teach, push, and challenge you, finding new connections might be in order.

Develop action items. My rising star developed four action items. She planned to ask a partner she knew well to be her mentor, which would give her the opportunity to ask what she should keep doing, what she should stop doing, and what she should start doing to get her career back on track. She committed to setting aside 15 minutes each morning to write down three things she was grateful for, three things she had done well the previous day, and three things she intended to accomplish that day. She made it a goal to eat lunch with a different manager every other week to help strengthen relationships with her peer group. And she committed to expanding her network by joining a book club with other professionals.

Editor's note: This checklist is excerpted from the article "Strategically Thinking Through a Career Concern," CPA Insider, Oct. 20, 2016.

—By Sandra Wiley, president of Boomer Consulting in Manhattan, Kan., and a speaker on topics such as team building, talent development, and performance improvement. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Neil Amato, a JofA senior editor, at or 919-402-2187.

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