It's the end of May and you will be thinking about the end of financial year. Add to that, you're still managing your workforce (do you need to make any more difficult decisions about redundancies or reduction in work hours), running forecast scenarios and working remotely. As schools return, and offices start to open their doors, things appear to be returning to normal. But they're not really. This year-end will be far from normal.
It's crunch time No doubt you have the following clearly articulated on a spreadsheet: • When all reconciliations will be completed and reviewed and by whom • The date when the books are 'CLOSED' and results are ‘FINAL’ • The date the auditors arrive • The audit committee date • Subsequent events review date But this year-end is different. Going concern is a real issue for more businesses than ever, forecasts are under more scrutiny, assumptions in valuation models need to be more robust. We need to make sense of the numbers in an environment where the future is very uncertain. Meaning really matters.
Things are different for your teams. If you ever needed your team to fire on all cylinders, now is the time. It’s your role to activate this. But again, how will you get the best out of them when they themselves are dealing with the personal impact of this strange world? Under 'normal' circumstances, year-end is a really intense period of time: • Our people work long hours • We work long hours • We are constantly challenged by others (reviewers, auditors and executives) • Things inevitably go wrong for the first time • We roll into another month-end before the year-end is completed, thus simultaneously closing 2 sets of books We're in a pressure cooker scenario. Many of our teams are still working remotely and therefore are dealing with this pressure by themselves in the discomfort of their dining room table. Neuroscience shows that when put under extreme pressure, our cognitive ability reduces as does our ability to be creative and collaborative. These are not ideal conditions for what might be argued as the most critical time of year. Never before have we wanted to be in the war room, in the office, deep in the trenches with our colleagues. How do we know what our teams need from us right now? How do we know how they will respond to these common year-end challenges when they're faced with extremely uncommon circumstances? How do we recreate these conditions and support our teams, when we can't be together?
As a leader, this is your chance to shine. Don't undermine the great work you've done all year creating a high performing team by ignoring all of those valuable systems you have set up to do so. Use your curiosity to create better ways to get through year-end successfully. Learn their needs, motivators and preferences now while you still have time. The week before the Audit Committee papers are due is too late. Yes, there are going to be long hours, but think out of the box. What are the creative ways that you can shortcut issue resolution for the less significant items in the financial report? How can you get the key people in the virtual room to resolve the areas of judgment so they don't have a long tail that inevitably causes stress and last minute changes? What support can you provide your teams to ensure they implement as you expect and need?
Ask yourself the following:
What does this year-end mean to you?
What framework are you going to use to respond to those curly questions and issues that inevitably will pop-up, so that you can stay true to your leadership style?
What support are you going to provide your team to ensure they stay on track, on time and deliver quality.
Capture your responses on a post-it - electronic or physical - so that they can be front of mind every morning (and evening) of year-end. Knowing the answers to these 3 questions now - before the heat is really on - will make sure you have every chance to succeed. Stick them on your laptop or monitor - nobody can see them, so be courageous.
Think about what you need to plan for now, to make these happen over the coming weeks.
How are you going to amplify your leadership and support your team through crunch time? Love to hear your thoughts.