CFOs That Celebrate, Elevate

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

What a week! After 2 weeks of running around barefoot on a tiny island, it was an incredible way to get back into the swing of thing by celebrating the contributions of the finance profession at the inaugural Australian CFO Awards hosted by weel!
So great to share the CFO night of nights with some of my incredible CFOs!

Now, as someone who works day in and out with CFOs and their finance teams, it's been an interesting couple of months urging everyone to nominate themselves, their leaders and their teams. My encouragement was met with various levels of discomfort and deflection. 'Oh, no's not really me to talk myself up.' or 'There's no way I would win' or simply 'Oh, I couldn't do that.'

I get it. Talking about yourself and being the one to showcase your own achievements goes against the tall poppy syndrome that exists in the Australian culture and also risks putting ourselves in the spotlight – something which many CFOs simply don't want or need in their lives.

Public speaking isn't something most CFOs love, visibility and speaking up in a Boardroom or amongst senior executives can be challenging for some, and difficult conversations are typically things we avoid. Standing out from the crowd is sometimes exactly the opposite of what we want.

Ironically, though, we're ambitious, aspirational and proud of the achievements and outcomes we deliver. We're proud to have the 'C' in our title – for many, that status is extremely important.

This complex paradox is why partnering with weel's incredible Adriana Amato, Damon Hauenstein and Richard McBride of CFO Magazine to create these awards was meaningful to me.

Hanging out with award winners - ooh la la!

Here's the thing – nominating yourself for an award isn't about self-promotion. It's about recognition – something that every CFO and finance leader that I work with craves. They don't want money - they just want to know that their work makes a positive difference. So part of me things if we can't advocate for ourselves, then how can we expect anyone else to?!

I've also talked in the past about how I got over my fear of public speaking and now speak regularly at company, industry and association events in front of thousands of people who are way smarter than me!! Do you want to know my secret? It's the knowledge that while the spotlight and all eyes may be on me, it's actually not about me at all. It's about everyone in the room getting what they need and what they want. I'm simply a vehicle to help them get what they need.

Listen to what some of the now 'Award winning CFOs' (sounds pretty cool, doesn't it?!) had to say about their victories:

Hear what CFOs of the Year Karina Kouroutzoglou and Jennifer Woodward had to say upon receiving their awards
And how Aurecon CFOs Andrew Muller and Chris Carter honoured their team upon accepting the 'Finance team of the year' Award on their behalf

Nothing 'boasty' about that, is there? They weren't showy – they were humble and recognised all the key contributors to the award. As the ultimate service professionals their victories recognised the great contribution that they have made to their business, their people and their communities.

This is why I'm so passionate about what I get the opportunity to do in my work. I think CFOs can change the world. CFOs have the the access to data, the intelligence for insight and the desire to deliver financial, social and environmental benefits through their work.

Your work is important.

This is why we celebrate each time we get together in the CFO Boardroom. Held the day after the Awards, my CFO Boardroom community met for the final 'In the Boardroom' immersion day to reconnect, celebrate and elevate themselves in preparation for 2023.

Learning lots and loving life

I was reminded yesterday that the space we create in the CFO Boardroom is quite special. While the executive coaching we do through the year is deep and transformational, when we're together 'In the Boardroom' it's all about connecting in a safe space with people who know what's it's like to think and feel the way you do.

It's also a place of elevation - a chance to pause, reflect and readjust so that we avoid the 'drift effect' – i.e. the risk that our results will be defined by our default behaviours of our 'fast brain' as compared to our high performance behaviours delivered through intentional design and conscious delivery.

In fact, one of my inspiring CFOs, Jason, said to me yesterday 'you may not realise it, but if we (the Boardroom members) didn't have this space you've created, we'd probably be lost. We wouldn't have anywhere to explore what's possible and to learn what we need to ensure we're achieving our potential'. 12 months ago, Jason would describe himself as 'the apprentice CFO'. He now admits that he's risen through the ranks all the way to Playmaker. I was like a proud parent as he welcomed the new community members and put their minds at ease that they could elevate in the same way, despite their own self-doubts and challenges.

Celebrating the best parts of the day, one of our newest community members said 'I've found my peeps!'!!!

As highly social creatures, when we hang out with the right people – in our case, CFOs who are unashamedly ambitious, genuinely passionate about their own growth and development, want to lead with purpose and deliver meaningful outcomes for their people, businesses and communities – we put ourselves in a position where the only way is up. Faster.

I'd decided that being the last event before Christmas it needed to strike the right balance of brain extension and mind/body wellbeing. So while I always engage a world-class guest speaker to come and talk to us, I decided to bring two into the Boardroom yesterday. Social researcher, futurist and TedX speaker Mark McCrindle shared with us 'The future for CFOs' and Charlotte Thaarup from the Mindfulness Clinic who runs the foundational module of the University of Newcastle EMBA program delivered powerful insights on why mindfulness for CFOs is critical for their own wellbeing and for business success.

Celebrating, connecting and growing - what a combo!

The decision to do this was validated when Catherine, one of our original CFO Boardroom community members, shared with me a conversation she'd had with her CEO. He'd said to her 'I'm so glad you're offsite at your event tomorrow, because I need you (at your best)' and after sort of deflecting the comment as a given, he reiterated 'No, I need you'. And I think that describes what's going on at the moment in many businesses and characterises the importance of the CFO role today. Our CEOs and Boards are looking at – relying on – us to be the guides of our businesses. And we can't be in that role if we're constantly firefighting, focusing purely on strategy. We need to take the time and space to lift and learn with others that can help us do so.

I'm celebrating the successes of all my CFO Boardroom community members – the program's unique combination of executive coaching and high performance community has now been in place for a full 2 years and going into its 3rd year with the improvements we've made is going to be exceptional. I am proud and I'm happy to say that.

Because as I said, it's actually got nothing to do with me.

What are you celebrating?

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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