I recently received some lovely feedback from a client of mine, Dan, a CFO in the hospitality industry: "Alena's superpower was that she knew more about me than I did! She has a remarkable ability to turn individual held beliefs, experiences and values into a strong sense of purpose about who you are and what you stand for as a professional, and how to articulate these as your point of difference going forward."
Whilst Dan's feedback is incredibly generous and I am delighted he received great value from our work, here's the thing: Dan had a lot of the information within him already. He's extremely smart and has great people skills. What I added was the skill of 'sense making' to help him bring it all together in a more powerful and tangible way.
The Institute of the Future's "Future Work Skills 2020" notes that Sense making is one of the top 10 skills needed in the future. They say that the core driver of this skill is the rise of smart machines and systems.
There is no doubt that smart machines and systems is disrupting the context that a CFO operates in, but I think that the skill (or art) of sense making is one that most CFOs have (or need) already. All day every day, they're making sense of financial information and company performance in the context of the past, the present and the future. What I take from the above research and insights is that we actually need to look at the context changes - ie the drivers - and take a refreshed look at the core set of CFO skills that are adaptable to shocks, changes and disruptions.
This is where CFO of the future comes in.
"Alena, what skills does a CFO need in the future that they don't have today?"
Really great question and my response is this: fundamentally, I believe that in the future, the mandate for a CFO will continue to be around having impact and creating value. It is, however, the context in which impact is had and value is created that will change significantly. The skills that make a CFO successful will stay substantially the same but a CFO will need to be more adept leveraging all of the skills in a faster and more impactful way. This calls for a way for these skills to be simple to identify, understand and apply so that adaptation and amplification of said skills is easy.
In CFO of the future (released next week) I have synthesised and identifed across the 4 quadrants of CFO leadership the 12 key skills a CFO needs if they want to lead with impact and create value. These skills are mapped across the compliance and commercial spectrum of a CFO and the technical and non-technical spectrum.
Looking back at the Future Work Skills 2020 infographic, you can see that 10 skills are identified as being the skills needed in the future workforce. It's also colour coded to indicate the drivers of the skills (otherwise known as what's happened in the context).
You might be forgiven for thinking, 'great - 10 new skills I need to be on top of!'. I want to share with you what happens when we look at these skills through the lens of the 12 skills covered in the CFO of the future:
My sense is that you look at these skills, and think 'they look more familiar. I can do those' which is what I want you to think. I won't want you to worry about having to learn 10 more skills. However, the key difference is this: When you approach these skills with a refreshed mindset and through the lens offered/provoked through my book, you are given new ways respond to the context and elevate your results.
CFOs operate inside a complex environment at the best of times. When you add change, disruption and evolution into the mix, things can easily boil over and become too much – unless you are equipped with the right tools. My guess is that your experience over the past 18 months has validated the need for you to be adaptable, both at a personal and an organisational level. You need a set of skills that will allow you to adapt to anything - including the latest 'new skills' that a leader must conquer. Once you've got these core skills in place, you can invest all your energy and effort in responding to the change. You can handle everything gracefully, effectively and with less angst. Just like Dan continues to do.
That's how CFO of the future is intended to help you.