Did You Choose to Be a CFO? (And What That Means)

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

One of the biggest hardships we've had to endure as humans over the last 2 years is that many of our choices, both big and small, have been taken away from us. We've been faced with situations where both our choice to spend time with our loved ones has been taken away from us as has our choices around what brand of toilet paper we want to use in our house.


The nature of our some of our choices has changed and been made vastly more difficult: I'm not sure about you, but I remember feeling quite stressed about my decision around which COVID-19 vaccine to choose. It felt like a really tough choice to make at the time and occupied a reasonable amount of my brain space. Similarly, the decision about returning to the office to work has been one of the choices that for many people and especially people leaders has been fraught with baggage.

Leadership has got harder

I look back at the challenges we'd discuss 'before COVID' (BC) – too much time spent in the office, too many distractions (not enough focus/strategic thinking time), too many meetings, increasing complexity in regulatory requirements....they all still exist. But they have taken on an additional layer of nuance and challenge recently.

Hybrid working: while the ability to work from home, a café or an office (or all 3!) has provided great flexibility for staff who want to drop kids to school, get their workout done in their lunch hour, or simply reduce their commute time, it has introduced new challenges. How do I 'connect' with my team? How can I truly know how they are if I rarely see them? How do I get 'the water-cooler conversation' back?

Too much 'pinging': Do you remember (BC) being frustrated by the distraction of the 'ping' and mail pop-up of your inbox? I discussed this in amusement recently with our CFO Boardroom members who shared that now the potential sources of 'pings' and distractions or interruptions to their day is anywhere from 5 to 12! Think email + different Microsoft Teams channels + Teams calls + mobile phone calls + text message + whatsapp + someone knocking at your offie door....you get the drift! While the channels of communication have widened for the everyday CFO, as has the distractions!

Too many meetings: Again, this problem existed BC. But now our meetings are also via Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and we spend our day staring at boxes on screens! We no longer even have the 'luxury' of moving from meeting room to meeting room and as a result we're more mentally and physically drained by the end of the day.

Increasing complexity from the external environment: yes, it used to be primarily the regulatory forces at play. Now every business is dealing with the skilled labour shortages and a particularly volatile labour market, supply chain shortages and rising costs, changes in consumer demographics and habits. Add to that an election year – it's complex!

There's a lot going on, and I appreciate and empathise with CFOs when they are frustrated by everything that's going on to make their job harder at the moment. Trust me – I am, too!

But here's the thing: Leadership is hard.

Multi-tasking isn't an effective strategy!


How did you get to CFO?

In the past, many of our promotions have been primarily based on our technical ability, or a specific area of expertise that happens to be highly valuable to an organisation. Some of them have even happened simply as a result of the passage of time and circumstance. There is also a pool of CFOs (and other executives and leaders) who got to CFO quite organically and some might even say, 'by accident'.

What I'm saying here, is that the pathway to CFO is now more varied than ever and I think that's exciting. Why? Because as many of you know, I think CFOs can change the world for the better and if we have a more diverse skill-set at the top then the world will be better for it. But I digress....

You have a duty to choose to stay

While our pathway to CFO may not have been 'the traditional way', the fact is we now are in an incredible privileged leadership position within our organisation and we need to acknowledge and honour that.

We therefore have a duty to choose to be a leader, despite the frustrations we face. Even though we have our preferences around the way we work, the way teams 'should' work and the way we're used to. Even though it takes more time to do certain things these days, or you have to take the time to learn a new way to accommodate the increased variability permanently inserted into our workplaces.

If we choose to lead, we need to step up

Leadership must come with great intention. An intention to lead your organisation, your teams and yourself.

You don't need to get everything right, you don't need to have the perceived 'perfect CFO' CV. You can (and will) make mistakes on this very difficult leadership journey.

Leadership is not about perfection, but intention.

Our actions must reflect our intentions

Our job as a CFO today has never been harder. But – the principles are the same:
- We need to find time and space to think
- We need to create connected team
- We need to ensure you communicate in a clear way, through frictionless processes and effective channels and rhythms
- We need to create value

In order to do this well in our current context, we need to make sure we have the right tools in our leadership toolbox to help us achieve these things.

Getting the new 'tools of the trade'

In our March CFO Boardroom mastermind day, our guest speaker was author of Leverage LIVE online and Connected Leadership expert, Cheryle Walker. With over 20 years of experience in using web-conferencing software to hold and engage an audience LIVE online, Cheryle works almost exclusively in the virtual world, connecting and creating impactful interactions, using technology to teach, to communicate, design, curate, and lead. Whilst our CFO Boardroom event was onsite in beautiful Sydney, Cheryle held her session online to simulate the hybrid working environment many of us find ourselves in. In fact, our members spread themselves around the mezzanine to really get into the vibe!

Learning to lead live online!

Cheryle opened our minds, provoked our thinking and helped us create new ideas and leadership tactics as she shared with us a powerful matrix to help us understand how to approach our communication most effectively in order to have our desired impact in this hybrid world. Our members walked away from her session feeling more equipped to deal with the 'opportunities' leading in a hybrid environment provides to us. Fair to say, our leadership toolboxes were heavier (in a good way!) after her session.

Choose to be a leader in this new context

It's tough going at the moment, there's no question about it. We are going through a revolution, but that doesn't mean we need to make revolutionary changes our leadership approach.

We simply need to do 3 things:
1. Choose to lead
2. Be intentional about how we lead and the outcomes we desire
3. Make sure we have the tools to lead in the new context

Which choice is most important for you?

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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