Why CFOs Need to Let Go At Year-End

09/25/2023 06:56:21 +0000

It's that time of year.

You and every other Australian CFO are about to go into what I call; the CFO's Grand Final.

Now, it's no secret that there are lots of challenges to face at the year's end, you're probably staring down the barrel of several.

I know I still wear the war wounds of many from back in my day.

What sort of challenges am I talking about?

  • You don't have enough time
  • You can't get a hold of the people when you need to get those final decisions
  • The systems are producing reports that aren't giving us the numbers people expect
  • Expectations - all the expectations from all of the people
  • Dreaded auditors

There are lots of things that can go wrong, but if we are really honest with ourselves - are any of these surprises?

Here's the thing, things will always go wrong

Ok, it's hard truth time - are you ready?

I'm guessing if you're reading this, you've done enough year-ends to know how it goes, it's not your first rodeo.

Sure, there'll be roadblocks that pop up, but I want you to ask yourself; are these real challenges, or are you just using them as excuses because you're a little too attached?

Before you get defensive, hear me out.

CFOs can't do their job well when year-end feels a little bit too personal and all-consuming

I have come to believe in my experience as a CFO coach and mentor that CFOs are the ultimate service professional, and I'll tell you why.

Of all the CFOs that I work with, they always say to me;

Do you know it's not really the money that motivates me, I'm genuinely motivated by helping people.

Time and time again I find this to be the case. All the profiling diagnostics that we use with our CFOs back this up. This is why I think the real issue happening at year-end - or any crunch time for that matter - is, CFOs get too attached in the name of service.

When under pressure, we default - and cling to - our subconscious preferences. Because of this, we can get attached to our beliefs, past experiences, people, and expected outcomes, just to name a few.

It all becomes a little too personal, all-consuming and we can hold on a bit to tight. And this perspective can get in the way.

We need to become a little bit more detached

Controversial take, but I honestly think that when we care too much - when we get too attached - it can get in the way of the clarity, confidence and expertise in delivery that we know is possible and absolutely needed when the pressure is on.

As you can see from the above model, I believe commitment is different - and better - than caring and this is why it's represented on the horizontal axis as the counter to 'careless'.

We use 'The Empathy ExpanderTM' with our CFOs to ensure they inject the optimum amount of 'care factor' into their work. You might have even heard me say 'being in service is not the same as being a servant' and it's this distinction that I think is important. When we care too much that is when we fall into the trap of being a 'Chief Fixing Officer' which prevents us from being the strategic partner we want to be.

Being detached allows us to bring differing perspectives to our decision making process and this is integral to remaining objective in our Controllership role.

Let me briefly explain the model:

Detached + Careless = Unrestrained

We all know what happens when 'reckless' is steering the boat - and there's simply no space for that sort of approach in the role of a CFO.

Attached + Committed = Narrow Minded

With the best of intentions, this is where we might start to take things a little bit too personally, where we let our biases start to cloud our judgments. The outcome? Micro-management and reactive decision-making, often dressed up as 'rolling up my sleeves to help our team meet the deadline'.

Attached + Careless = Dogmatic

Being attached and careless is also far from where we want to be. This is the space where it's easy to hang our hats on beliefs and statements that aren't relevant or useful to the outcomes we're responsible for delivering right now.

Detached + Committed = The sweet spot

Do you see that space between detached and committed?

This is where I think we should all aim to be. Here we can remain pragmatic to the outcome and truly committed to the organisation and the people within it. This is where real impact happens, where effective leadership can grow.

This is why I say that CFOs need to care a little less. It's not the same as being careless - quite the opposite in fact.

In what situations do you feel the most challenging during your year-end process?
How might this be an indication you're a bit too attached?
Where could a little detachment help elevate your executive presence?

Love to hear your thoughts...

Author: Alena Bennett

Alena works with leaders and their teams to connect technical and leadership skills so they can deliver to deadline without killing their people.
She is a mentor, trainer, facilitator and coach. Contact her today on [email protected]
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 ⓒ 2023




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