From Instinct to Intention: Strategic Leadership

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

First it was the 'war on talent' that was the burning people issue in everyone's minds. Trying to find and employ great people prior to them being snapped up by someone else for tens of thousands of dollars more. Now it's the 'Great Resignation' we're seeing and for some of us, experiencing.

In my first book, "Meaning Matters: Results Beyond the Numbers", I map the typical career journey for a leader in finance. I discuss what happens at point "C" which is a tipping point - a line in the sand, where finance professionals say 'tomorrow, everything will be different'. Typically I see this happening when finance leaders have reached a point in their career where they realise they've had enough of being on the hamster wheel. This could be caused by:

  • Feeling underutilised and undervalued. 'I could do so much more if I were given the opportunity'

  • Lack of recognition. 'I'm not appreciated'

  • Stagnation in development. 'I want to grow my career'

What this ultimately comes down to is a feeling by finance staff that there has to be a better option to their current situation. Why the Great Resignation has emerged as a trend is that people don't see that this 'better option' exists in their current employment.

Alarming global statistics from Oracle indicate three-quarters of employees feel stuck professionally and 85% are unsatisfied with their employer's support. Other statistics show up to 65% of employees are looking for a new job. This is frightening. At a local accounting event I spoke at recently, when presented with the model above, 44% said they were in stage 2a, and 26% said they were in stage 3, approaching E. Which tells us that in that population of over 100 finance professionals, 70% are at risk of becoming one of these Great Resignation statistics.

People leadership is, and will continue to be, a key responsibility for CFOs in the future

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CFOs have sat at the front line when it comes to people leadership and human resources matters. It started by playing a lead role in determining redundancies, stand downs and salary cost management for business survival. Currently, they are helping the business adapt to higher-than-normal turnover and an unprecedented scale of resignations. As the world continues to adjust to hybrid working, the CFOs involvement will continue to evolve to the implications of hybrid work policies on office space and lease costs and making sure there is enough budget to ensure companies have the workforce they need to achieve their business' strategic objectives.

It's true: it's an employee-centric market. The flexible business practices forced by Covid are now being demanded by current and prospective workers and the lack of international migration of workers into the Australian labour market has pushed the price of local labour upwards.

It falls on the CFO's shoulders

CFOs face the incredibly difficult task of simultaneously responding to ever-changing and unpredictable market changes, high staff turnover, low staff morale and contentment and the ever-present bottom line pressures.

This means retention of quality staff is increasingly important. It's expensive to replace and recruit staff, but at the same time we don't want to keep workers who aren't willing to turn up and bring their A-game.

Most CFOs have an instinct with their team, with respect to capability and attitudes, and whether they are a good fit. However, with such a busy workload, and knowing the pressures that come with performance - management and employee turnover, quite often a CFO's instinct doesn't turn into action until it's too late.

With Christmas fast approaching, it got me thinking: How could Santa turn around a world of gift delivery in 24 hours without an A-team of elves playing their A-game?


What would it be worth to you to have your A-team, playing their A-game?

I posed this question to Lisa, a Finance Director I worked with last year, as she had a gut instinct that her team wasn't where they needed to be, but didn't know how to identify where the problem was.

Lisa was working for a listed organisation that had undergone rapid exponential growth, and the finance team's processes, procedures and people understandably hadn't matured at the same rate.

She was finding it difficult to find a path forward because there were so many team issues - the problem wasn't specific enough. But at the same time, the impact on her ability to perform at her best was evident. She was being bogged down in the detail every day compensating for her team.

So I started by focusing her attention on the following questions:

  • What would it be worth to you if you had your A-team?
  • What could you achieve?
  • What would it mean for your career?
  • What would your life look like?

We had set an expectation for a more positive future; now we needed to get specific about how we might make it happen. Lisa listed out all her direct reports and their staff. We then went through each individual and ranked their performance to date from A+ to D based on capability, attitude, and potential for growth. It sounds harsh, but that wasn't our intention. - we just needed to find clarity around where the issues were and therefore what action Lisa needed to take. By the end of the session she felt like a cloud had been lifted and she could see the path forward.

What about you?

The current landscape and market momentum mean it's a high-stakes turning point for CFOs, an opportunity to take stock and be deliberate about your next choices to make sure that your company attracts and retains talent. The Great Resignation doesn't have to be your story.

Where are your team at in their career journey?
Are you making intentional decisions around your team's performance and culture?
Do you have your A-team playing their A-game?

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]
Grab your copy of Alena's CFO of the Future!

This is the trusted guide for CFOs to lead with IMPACT and create VALUE.

Grab your copy of Alena's Meaning Matters!

It's time for women in finance to find power in their purpose!

 ⓒ 2023




Let's Connect
Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Darkinjung people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work and pay our respects to the Elders both past, present & emerging.