9 Steps Towards Simplicity for CFOs

09/16/2023 06:56:21 +0000

This week I want to talk about simplicity. It's a real buzzword right now, organising, minimalism and conscious consumption content is everywhere. From the New York Times bestseller list to Netflix to our social feeds. It's not a coincidence, right now it feels like there's a collective overwhelm that can only be cured by pairing back. But how can this be applied to leadership coaching and the role of a CFO?

I say this all the time, but I think the biggest problem that CFOs face is that they try to be all things to all people, they do too much. CFOs are service professionals, they don't like to say no to anyone. But this sort of thinking can lead to performance decline, burnout and failure on all fronts.

And this is why simplicity is so important.

Client story

I recently had a conversation with a CFO in her leadership coaching session, it was all about underperformance in a particular team within the organisation. Her question was, what can we do differently to elevate their performance?

My question was, how many out of the team of eight aren't performing?


So I asked, what would be the outcome if you fired them all today?

She was obviously concerned with the perception in the market, but from a financial perspective, her answer was, "Not a whole lot."

Managing underperformers is a huge challenge facing CFOs, but it can also be an opportunity to redefine who you are as a team, and further, as an organisation, who you want to serve and how you show up in the market.

Sure, big shake-ups can be a cause for concern for customers, both internal and external. But, in my experience, customers see getting rid of dead wood as positive. Especially if they end up with a more streamlined, higher quality service.

And it's not just underperforming employees; every day I see numerous systems and beliefs that could be decluttered from the organisations I work with.

Essentialism and simplicity - Why CFOs could benefit from embracing these concepts

Have you read Greg McKeowen's Essentialism?

His theory is about how using a systematic, disciplined approach towards determining where our highest point of contribution lies - can make the execution of our roles effortless and impactful.

And I couldn't agree more.

Simplicity is an underrated currency within organisations, but the impact is resounding. With simplicity comes productivity, speed and impact.

Think about a time when someone's asked a question so simple, yet packed such a punch, that it's knocked the breath out of everyone in the room?

In that instance, there's focus and commitment.

The 3 phases to simplicity

When I do this work in my CFO coaching sessions, we take a phased approach:

Phase 1 is about making simplicity a priority.
Phase 2 is about finding clarity.
Phase 3 is about developing and following a methodology that works for you.

Within those phases, we identify the steps and bespoke sequence of success for each of my CFOs so that they can contribute to their organisations in the most valuable and profound ways.

We select from the following 9 steps:

#1 Choice The first thing a CFO of the future needs to do is make a choice to adopt and more simple, but better approach. For this, you need courage, confidence and the right team around you. It's a choice to level up. After that, everything else is just minutia.

#2 Metrics There's a lot of information out there, it's easy to get bogged down in the details if you're not discerning. However, choosing the right metrics of productivity to focus on will produce a step change in results.

#3 Ideate Imagine how much more value you could add with space to ideate. In order to stay committed to simplicity, you need to commit to creating space for yourself (and your team) to step off the hampster wheel and truly move forward.

#4 Perception CFOs need to be intentional about how they want to be perceived, so they can show up in a way to inspire confidence in others. Getting really clear on how you want to be perceived by your key stakeholders is a critical starting point because that sets your benchmark from a 'quality' perpective.

#5 Measure Once you're focussing on the details that are the most valuable to your organisation's goals, accurately and systematically measuring progress becomes much more efficient.

#6 Educate Sharing ideas in a way that gets buy-in and validation saves everyone's time and productivity.

#7 Preparation The only way to show up in the way you want to be perceived is with great preparation. Preparedness and confidence go hand in hand. Pairing back your focus to the areas where you can make the most impact, can and will inspire confidence in others.

#8 Monitor To monitor is the process of accountability. It's the follow-up, the follow through and the way we can best show up for our team and organisation.

#9 Facilitate Create a cycle of continuous value-add across the business with clear and simple processes, communication and goals. Simplicity is a culture win for all involved.

If you skip any of the steps above, you inherently make anything you do more complex. Which slows you down, reduces quality and most importantly, dilutes your positioning and therefore effectiveness.

What would simplicity allow for you?

I can't make simplicity a priority for you - as the steps suggest, that's a choice you need to make. But when you're on the other side of this choice, believe it or not, clarity can be found quickly.Which means you can get focused on the thing that's going to shift the dial and have you positioned in the way you deserve.

It's that (excuse the pun) simple!

What is the first thing you could declutter in your role?
Do you believe your organisation could benefit from adopting a more simplistic, streamlined approach?
Are there metrics you're currently analysing that aren't serving your organisation?

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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