Why CFOs need to reframe their thinking around team leadership

02/16/2024 13:30:00 +0800
One of the patterns I've observed in the CFO community since we've returned from the summer break is the desire to 'refresh and reset' with their finance teams. This seems to be for a few key reasons:
•  Many CFOs have spent a significant portion of 2023 reviewing their team structure and recruiting 'the right' roles. They now feel like they have 'their team' and now it's time to get them going.

•  With the benefit of recent reflection and the space of a holiday, some CFOs have realised that in order to have greater impact with their CEO, Board and peers, they need to let go and delegate more to their teams.

•  Already on the journey to elevate their finance teams, it's now time to take the next step.

Last week I had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking at the NSW CFO Symposium about what it means to build, lead and retain the finance team of the future. Given that I've just written a whole book about it, I thought 'That's a big topic to cover off in 30 minutes!' But with the recognition of the diverse range of CFOs in the room, with their own nuanced team leadership needs and a full workload, I knew I had to approach this presentation differently to be useful.

Wonderful to be back in the room with our CFO community!
When we work with our brilliant CFOs, our focus is providing them with a proven pathway to elevate their impact so they can more effectively guide their organisations to success.

We hold the alignment sessions with their CEOs, who tell us directly what the business needs from their CFO, and more specifically what they themselves personally need from their right hand. From there, our job is to provide our CFOs with the tools, frameworks and support to help them achieve those outcomes more effectively, more efficiently and with greater ease.

Which is why during last week's presentation, I wanted to remind the CFOs in the room one of the dilemmas they face when it comes to team leadership.

You might recall the 4 Quadrants of CFO Leadership that I cover in my book CFO of the future. This quadrant model serves to provide a framework that encompasses the holistic remit for CFOs: from their compliance to commercial responsibilities to embracing both the technical and non-technical skills.

"The Line" for CFOs

The line along the horizontal axis creates a critical distinction:

•  Above the line sits the strategic leadership quadrant, which is all about how CFOs add value in their organisations, and the change leadership quadrant, which is how CFOs lead with greater impact.

•  Below the line sits the 2 quadrants, Controllership, which is all about a CFOs traditional BAU responsibilities to maintain the integrity of their organisation, and team leadership, which is about how they can use their teams to create leverage (because after all, CFOs can't do it all themselves!).

Which is why the golden ratio we measure for CFOs and their teams is the Above the line: Below the line ratio (ATL:BTL). This ratio tells us quickly where they are spending their time and effort, and over time we can track this ratio to ensure it is moving in the right direction.

When we meet with CEO, where do you think they want the CFO's focus to be? In which quadrant(s) do you think those needs sit?

That's right. Always in the quadrants 'above the line'.

But it's important to remember that the 4 quadrants of CFO leadership is what we refer to as an 'inclusive' model. That is, all quadrants are relevant, none are bad. So CFOs will always need to operate below the line at certain times.

The team leadership dilemma for CFOs

Which is where the dilemma of team leadership comes in.

When it comes to leveling up and delivering the ever-growing list of needs of the organisation and the expectations of the CEO and Board, it's always about 'add, add, add' and 'more, more, more'. Which means more effective team leadership simply must be the solution.

But here's the thing about team leadership: it sits below the line.

The team leadership dilemma for CFOs

That means that whilst it's an important part of the CFO role, it's not the part that will influence how a CFO's performance is measured. To put it more bluntly, team leadership for CFOs is taken for granted....much like BAU, it's just expected to happen.

Think about it this way: the only time the annual reporting process gets any level of scrutiny or attention by key executives, other than the CFO, is when something's not right. Similarly, the only time a CFO's team leadership really gets attention is when there's a problem.

Getting real about team leadership for CFOs

So when I got up on stage last week, I didn't want to pretend that team leadership was the be-all and end-all for the room. I think that would have been a disservice to the brilliant minds and souls in the room.

I wanted to invite them to be really discerning about what they heard from me, so they could walk away focused on not answering the question 'what more can I do about team leadership' but answering the better question which is 'how do I do team leadership better and easier to achieve our business objectives'.

Those who were there will know I set them a challenge...and from the feedback I know some of them took me up in that challenge, so they're well on the way!

What does your CEO need from you this year?
How will you approach the team leadership dilemma?
How can you make the way you lead your team better and easier?

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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