3 Questions CFOs Should Be Asking Themselves Right Now

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

It's crunch time.


No, it's not year-end or budget time, but it is that time of year where it feels like there is an increasing amount of work that needs to happen before the Christmas break.

How are you feeling?

There's a lot of execution happening: 'just deliver before you go away' – and as a result, less strategic planning. The speed is fast and deadlines are tight. Lots of 'heads down' and less 'eyes up'.

In the rush to Christmas we can often fall into the trap of falling 'below the line'. That is, spending most of your day on non-value add activities. When I refer to above and below the line, I'm referring to the line that separates the commercial attributes of a CFO: delivering strategic value and leading with impact ('above the line') and a CFO's 'below the line' compliance responsibilities of controllership (integrity) and team leadership (which is about leverage).

The above the line:below the line (ATL:BTL) ratio is critical in ensuring CFOs and their leadership teams are operating 'at level'. It's one we measure with our clients on a regular basis to help them stay focused and don't get distracted and trapped in the weeds. We believe ATL:BTL is a key measure for those CFOs and Finance Leadership Teams who want to be perceived as strategic and commercial partners for their businesses.

I'd like to share with you today 3 key questions that will help you stay 'above the line' in the run to Christmas. To catch your attention and bring your focus back to the strategic level, so that even if you're in the detail, you're comfortable that you're eyes are still 'up' and you're not missing any strategic opportunity for your business.

Question 1: How well received by your Board and CEO are your most challenging insights?

Breaking this down, are you regularly challenging your Board and CEO, are you comfortable having difficult conversations with your them and when you do so, does it lands with them? That is, we're not perceived as 'bad news Barry' when we deliver those hard truths, rather we're sought after – our stakeholders come to us to be challenged, to make their ideas better.

If we want to ensure we're staying strategic, you need to bring that edge to your key stakeholders - not for the sake of being problematic or petty, but to be provocative and drive visionary decision-making. This requires deep insight, perfect timing and respectful empathy. Only then will we establish the necessary rousing relationships with our people.

Question 2: How often are you sought out for hidden insights that will measurably improve your stakeholders' performance?

To answer this question, you need to be 100% confident you and your team deliver insight, not just information. Every. Single. Time. When this isn't the case, this is when we see shadow commercial and finance roles popping up in the business units, performing analysis that should otherwise be done by finance. This is what happens when your ATL:BTL ratio is out of balance for too long.

Think about the activities that are currently occupying your days. Do they have strategic value? For stakeholders to value your work, you must have an impeccable personal brand and reputation so that they want to come to you for your respected insight.

Question 3: How often does the value you create cut through the noise?

It's really noisy this time of year with everyone vying for attention and impact and caught up in the busy-ness of business. Cut-through takes intentional thought and effort in delivery. To be a valued business partner, you must be a catalyst for performance improvement so you need to create cut through every time. This is what it means to have impactful communication.

Courageous Influence: a key lever of performance for CFOs in 2023

I hope you've found those questions useful, but it's what happens when you have the combination of impactful communication, respected insight and rousing relationships accelerating your performance together. That's when you have the ability to demonstrate courageous influence. Where your role is not just about delivering content to your stakeholders each month, but rather it's about your valued contribution to your business.

I think this courageous influence is one of the key attributes CFOs need to be bringing into 2023. It's going to be another year of challenge, and Boards, and CEOs don't need wallflowers – they need proven CFOs to be courageous, inspired and creative. It will only be then that CFOs and their businesses open themselves up to success without limits.


How well received by your Board and CEO are your most challenging insights?
How often are you sought out for hidden insights that will measurably improve your stakeholders' performance?
How often does the value you create cut through the noise?

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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