In late 2022 I was lucky enough to sit down with New York Times bestseller Daniel H Pink and chat about his book - When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.
We were discussing temporal landmarks - an intangible line in the sand that provides an opportunity for pause, celebration, reflection and in my opinion, most importantly, intention. The beauty of a temporal landmark is that any date that is meaningful to you can be one. It just needs to be a moment in time that you commit 'tomorrow will be different'.
The conversation focused on how to get the most out of the fresh start of the New Year (probably the most commonly observed temporal landmark) - but knowing the annual timing of my clients, for the role of a CFO, these tips would come in handy about six months later for us, or more realistically - when reporting season is over.
Why 'now' is the right time for CFOs
This is when CFOs and other financial professionals are presented with a unique opportunity to hit the reset button and refocus on growth, innovation and good habits.
Post-reporting season, CFOs have the opportunity to start afresh. Bad habits and practices that have been building throughout the year, have no doubt been emphasised recently - and are just crying to be reset.
And now we are here, it's time for you to take the opportunity to commit to a fresh start so, let's delve into the five tips Pink shared that can empower CFOs to transform their approach and achieve success in the year ahead.
I have previously written about my learnings from Pink - you can read it here.
We all know what the hamster wheel feels like, stuck in a loop of never-ending and repetitive tasks that drain your energy and divert attention from what truly matters. This is mindset that we have all been stuck in, but it's not unbreakable.
Pink suggests one way to break this cycle is to create a list of things you aim to stop doing - a to-don't list. This simple act of decluttering your priorities creates space for more impactful endeavours. By eliminating tasks that hinder your progress, you'll have the mental and physical bandwidth to focus on high-value activities that serve the goals of the organisation, and yourself, better.
#2 Compile a user manual for yourself
Clear communication is the cornerstone of success for any CFO. If you have followed my work, you'll know that I believe CFOs of the future are the most service-oriented professionals I have ever met. It's the role of the CFO; we want to help, we need to connect, and we strive to be aware of and take part in many aspects of the organisations we serve. But balancing the staggering workload is one of the biggest challenges facing the CFOs.
So, we need to make sure that these interactions we have are meaningful and efficient. Pink recommends developing a concise user manual that succinctly describes your working style, preferences, and expectations. This one-pager can serve as a guiding document for your team, colleagues, and collaborators. It streamlines interactions, minimises misunderstandings, and boosts productivity. By aligning everyone on the same page, you can foster a more collaborative and efficient work environment. Which I believe is one of the main roles of a change making CFO.
#3 Conduct a premortem
One of the reasons I'm so passionate about CFO coaching is that I believe we have one of the most challenging jobs in the C-Suite. Navigating these challenges requires foresight and adaptability. Instead of simply predicting success, Pink recommends taking a proactive approach by conducting a premortem. This exercise involves envisioning a scenario in which your project or initiative fails and identifying the reasons behind it.
By preemptively addressing potential pitfalls, you can make strategic adjustments to your plan and minimise the risk of failure.
This process also encourages a growth mindset that values problem-solving and resilience.
Engagement and buy-in are crucial factors in a CFO's success. When seeking input from colleagues or team members, Pink suggests asking for advice rather than feedback. People are often more motivated to contribute their insights and solutions. This approach not only leads to more constructive interactions but also empowers your team to actively participate in decision-making processes. A sense of ownership and contribution can significantly boost morale and cooperation. And really, people just love to give advice, so you're going to get a really engaged interaction.
#5 Embrace the stoic test
The financial realm is filled with challenges and uncertainties. To navigate these obstacles with grace, Pink suggests adopting the Stoic Test mindset. How? Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, consider them as tests of your resilience and problem-solving skills. This perspective shift reframes challenges as opportunities for growth and self-improvement. By cultivating resilience, CFOs can tackle challenges head-on, learn from experiences, and continually evolve their strategies.
If you've worked with me or heard me speak at a corporate event, you know I'm a big fan of Pink's work. The conversation I had with him was a career highlight and the lessons he shared are timeless. Simply pick your temporal landmark and commit to doing this differently...and better.
By implementing these five transformative tips, CFOs can truly embrace a fresh start that the end of reporting season brings. And we all love that feeling of turning over a new leaf!
What is the first thing you would put on your to-don't list?
How will you take steps to align your team in the new financial year?
Do you think it's the role of the CFO to lead by example?
Love to hear your thoughts...