An Invitation to Take a Flashlight

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

This week I was a speaker at the CPA's Virtual Congress event. As the flagship event for the membership body, it is always a magnificent event, but this year was like no other. Having been put in a position to pivot online like most other events this year, the CPA focussed its attention on making the event as useful and meaningful for as many CPAs as possible around the world. In doing so, it drew in world class names like Dr Ben Bernanke, Carla Harris, Seth Godin and many more. When I turned the pages of the Speakers Biography document and saw Amal Clooney's bio follow mine, my jaw dropped to the floor.

Fangirling aside, this was a big week. Because having the privilege of sharing the stage alongside these giants meant one thing: they had chosen to shine a spotlight on the value of leaders in finance in organisations, in communities and in the world.

This is what we need to celebrate and this week, I'd like to share with you a few key highlights shared by 2 of these brilliant speakers as well as some insights shared by some of the 1,800 participants that attended my session live on the first day. I will continue to share highlights over the coming months, but today I am starting with Seth Godin and Dr Ben Bernanke.

Seth Godin on "how to be creative when I'm not a creative"

Knowing that creativity is a positive attribute for accountants (despite the fact we might shudder inside at the thought of 'creative accounting') looking to find innovative ways to support the business, Seth Godin defined creativity as "A series of failures with good intents until you find something that works". He used the analogy of a locksmith that I thought was brilliant given that he was addressing almost 4,000 high achieving perfectionists during the session. When a locksmith is picking a lock, he tries one of many master keys in his toolbox until he gets the right one. He doesn't think that every time he tries a new one that doesn't that he's failed, he just knows he needs to go back into his toolbox and try again.

As this pertains to the value of a leadership toolbox, I love this. This is why it's so important that we intentionally and over time increase the tools in our leadership toolbox, because this makes us more resourceful when problem solving at work. When we are forming judgements and dealing with uncertainty, the ability to have a full toolbox to draw on is invaluable. So here is a reflective question for you:

The clanger in Seth's speech was that he went on to point out that accountants know this: that for heavens sake, they call it a 'trial' balance! That we inherently know what it means to make an assertion, and to consider the alternatives, and to listen and adapt if we need to provide a different path forward.

Put this to work:

How full is your toolbox?
How resourceful will this allow you to be as you approach 2021?
Do you have a growth mindset when it comes to your decision making process, or does a fixed mindset get in the way of your ability to be creative and grow?

Dr Ben Bernanke on the #1 key to the economy making a full recovery

I love the simplicity of Dr Bernanke's response here. He emphatically stated a number of times that the #1 key to a full economic recovery was public health. That this was the #1 thing that would make people feel safe to go to the movies, to shop at the malls, and to fly in the skies again.

Everyone can understand this. Which means everyone can act.

As the author of the book that has "Results Beyond the Numbers" as the subtitle of her book, this spoke volumes to me. Because his view is that if you focus on results that are not purely the bottom line numbers, your bottom line will grow.

I'm doing a lot of work at the moment with my clients around identifying the key lead metrics that we are going to measure in 2021 that will drive team and organisation success. These lead metrics include an assessment of the quality of our conversations, the number of meetings we have in our stakeholders' diaries, and so on, but the point is they are the lead indicators of performance. They are not the typical lag performance indicators of turnover, NPAT or EBITDA.

Put this to work:

Do you know the #1 key to growth in your organisation?
Are you measuring the right metrics?
What rhythms have you set up to ensure your team are accountable to those metrics?

"It feels risky to be creative, but it is riskier not to be" - Seth Godin

Insights from my session

My session was Give your finance team "The Edge": When Purpose meets Power and its focus was the how to unlock discretionary performance to give your team the edge, when your resources are constrained and your remit is growing.

One of the comments made by a participant, was "Thank you so much for an inspiring view on this topic; it certain has brought to the surface issues currently being felt in regards to being "seen" as a department, and has underpinned the direction that the solution needs to stem. It is difficult when the leaders of the department appear to not be 'seen'. Such an informative and insightful discussion in a condensed amount of time. Wonderful!" This comment spoke volumes to me about the brand of finance functions and the feeling that finance team members are eager to lift the profile of the team, but have the perception that they are not able to because their leader does not possess the executive presence needed to get a seat at the table.

Your finance team are walking talking advocates of your brand. If there are members in your team that share sentiments like the above, that is telling you that there is performance potential being left untapped. That you are not extracting their best and they feel somewhat limited in their ability to give their best. It goes without saying that you need your team firing on all cylinders.

Put this to work:

How is your finance team "seen" across the business?
What opportunity does your team have to shape your team's brand?
How would your life be made easier if you had a dynamic team?

Call to Action

As I mentioned at the beginning, the beauty of having such big names involved in this event was that it really shone a spotlight on the possibilities for leaders in finance.

We know that despite all the great ideas and inspiration that comes along with events like these, it's the implementation that is the hardest part. It's fair, because these are big problems to solve, and opportunities to optimise, and implementation doesn't happen overnight.

However, one thing I invite you to do, Alena, is continue the conversation. Take a flashlight and talk to your teams about:

  • the problems
  • the opportunities
  • the possibilities

Who knows where you might land?

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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