Can CFOs Juggle Their Different Hats?

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

We know that the remit and the role of the CFO have changed significantly over the past several decades. Gone are the days when they're hidden in the back of an office, beavering away on the numbers.

Today, a CFO's job is more multifaceted than ever. But is it possible for one person to wear this many hats?

From Scorekeeper to Playmaker

If you've read my book, 'CFO of the Future', you'll be familiar with the journey of a CFO - which is from Scorekeeper to Playmaker

The CFO role has moved beyond reporting and towards partnering. In fact, I think business partnering is the wrong goal – business partnering should be BAU. But that is the topic for another time...

CFOs are no longer just in charge of finance, there are so many more hats they need to wear.

I work with CFOs every day who tell me they are also in charge of:

  • HR
  • Risk
  • Strategy
  • Data and analytics
  • Corporate strategic planning
  • and more.

In fact, I recently spoke at the CFO Summit and ran a poll with the CFOs who attended. 91% said they wore more than 2 hats and 50% said they wore more than 4 hats!!

How many hats do you wear?

Growth is the goal

The remit has grown from back office compliance-focused to incorporate the strategic commercial side, it's an exciting time.

Having ground-floor involvement with your executive and board around the direction of the company is rewarding and fulfilling.

I don't think many CFOs have a problem with the elevation of the role, in fact, it excites them. The problem lies in how you manage to also provide the basic responsibilities of custodianship and controllership. And this tension causes frustration.

Is this even possible?

You know what, I think it is. And what's more, I also think the challenge makes the job much more exciting. But this is why you need to be exceptional across the 4 quadrants of CFO leadership.

The 4 Quadrants of CFO Leadership

A little bit like how a chef knows exactly how to combine different herbs and spices to complement the star ingredient of a meal, a CFO needs to know how to mix the different aspects of the 4 quadrants of CFO leadership. The right recipe will ensure that the organisation can flourish in the delivery of the strategy.

If you need a refresh of the framework- feel free to head here for a brush-up.

But in a nutshell, yes, the finer details might change and evolve - but they're not going to go away. And here lies the challenge.

Is it possible to service all of these roles?

It's a challenge - but CFOs aren't scared of a little hard smart work, and I'm sure you're no different.

One of the side effects of juggling the spinning plates and wearing multiple hats is a feeling of overwhelm. Many CFOs tell me they often carry with them a feeling of constant guilt - that nagging voice that says they're not getting it all done.

With the passage of time, CFOs can start to feel like they're dropping the ball and lose their self-confidence.

And when you feel like you're behind the 8-ball, this is when decisions become reactive instead of proactive. Which is the opposite of unwavering confidence, one of the 3 key outcomes we help our value-driven CFOs deliver.

The two key aspects of unwavering confidence

Firstly, when we have unwavering self-confidence in our ability to be a CFO of the future and lead with impact, we create value for our organisations.

And secondly, our unwavering self-confidence instils confidence in others. Value-driven CFOs are always at the forefront of change and because of this, influence is the main game.

These two aspects need to work hand in hand as in order to influence effectively we need to have a powerful executive presence so that our CEO, COO and Board are confident in the counsel we give, and our teams are confident in the path we provide for them.

Three tips for delivering unwavering confidence

The key question we help our clients answer with respect to unwavering confidence is; How do I show up with the self-certainty to inspire confidence in others?

Research tells us that CFOs are seen as 'inspiring' by others, but 'only 10% of CFOs see themselves as inspiring'.

So there's a mismatch between how we see ourselves and how others see us.

We could unpack that for days - but instead, let's look at three ways to feed our self-certainty to inspire confidence in others.

1. Be clear on your brand and the value you can deliver

It's time to stop trying to be all things to all people. It's just not possible. When you're clear about your brand and what you can deliver, you know where you can create the most value.

2. Know your contribution to the world through the work you do

I work with CFOs every day, and the most common missing link I see is the one between; What is the contribution that I want to make? And how can I deliver that through the work that I do?

You can't lead your organisation into the future if you don't know the answers to these questions.

3. Plan, prepare and put yourself out there

There's a reason I talk so much about planning and preparation, it's because it really is a key driver to delivering unwavering confidence. Once you have this element thriving in your regular cadence, everything becomes easier.

And then the putting-yourself-out-there part can really happen.

Having the confidence to back your decisions

At the end of the day, if you don't have unwavering confidence in your decisions, prioritising which hats to wear and which to leave on the shelf can feel impossible.

Being clear in your mind about the contribution you're trying to make to your organisation will help you back yourself - to know what matters most - and to create the most value.

And that clarity will help you decide exactly how to use your team to reach those goals, but that's a conversation for another day.

How many hats do you have to wear?
How can you more seamlessly traverse the 4 quadrants of CFO leadership?
How will you show up with the self-certainty to inspire confidence in others?

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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