What conversation do you need to have now?
We’re staring down the barrel of year-end. Traditionally it’s the busiest time of year, and to add to that, we are now facing crunch time through COVID-19. Our Victorian colleagues have just gone back into lockdown, which means that they are again shifting their plans to get the team working efficiently and accurately from their remote environments. What assumptions do you hold about this situation? I’m hearing a lot of people say, ‘this is going to slow us down, my team is going to be more inefficient’, and I’d say there are elements of truth in that statement. But, if you were to break that down into your year-end component parts, what would that tell you? Consider the preparation of your Audit Committee paper. What is that process, and who contributes to it? It likely has an owner, who compiles the information from the relevant parts of your finance team and then it’s someone’s role to make it consistent and compelling for your Audit committee. What, and more importantly, who is impacted by the ‘different’ work situation we find ourselves in? Taking a leaf out of Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Habit #2), if we were to start with the end in mind and design the process backwards, how would we create it in this context? So that the Audit Committee still receives a high quality document that gives them what they need to exercise their duties and that reflects the accuracy of your financial report?
What can you do to get the best result? The important part in this question is the last bit: the best result. Have you and your peers, your boss, come together and redefined what ’the best result’ is today? It is different to ‘best result’ this time last year and like anything, clarity is the key to unlocking the performance you need. We are seeing lots of activity by the government and our regulators working with businesses to help them through this difficult time: we are seeing concessions and allowances we never considered possible. What concessions do you need to give yourself and your team in order to get through this year-end? (Hint: the concept of materiality was designed for a reason: how have you applied the materiality concept to your financial reporting process? Is it time to revisit this?) What are you afraid might happen? I know you’re a high performer and you pride yourself on your work ethic and the quality of your delivery. Your long term career success depends on it. And whilst we may all say ‘we’re in a pandemic’, many of us are still holding ourselves to the same standards and goals that we set in January. This might be for many reasons: it might be because we think that we should be able to handle this crisis, even as tough as it is; it might be because we are worried that if we loosen our reigns, we might fall behind; it might even be that we’re worried that if we don’t deliver at our usual standard, our reputation and therefore future opportunities, will be permanently and irreversibly tarnished. It might even be that you simply haven’t considered shifting the goalposts. A client recently told me she’s never been busier than now in her whole career. That her business is facing more challenges than ever, and her team are starting to show signs of stress and fatigue. we are in unprecedented times. We don’t have a roadmap for success in this situation. We need to take a different approach to crunch time if we are going to continue to be successful. As a leader in finance, what conversation do you need to have now? Who can you ask a question to move this situation along?