Hidden Problem for CFOs When Leading Their Teams

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

As NSW continues to record sky high COVID cases, the chances of us coming out of lockdown on 28 August is wearing off as quickly as the nail polish from my last pedicure. I'm finding that as the time goes on so is the resilience of many of the CFOs and Finance leaders I work with.

For any of you reading this from Victoria, this might be bringing back memories of your extended lockdown last year.

Through the conversations I'm having, I'm finding that people are generally falling into 1 of 2 categories:


As the profit season comes to an end, many finance teams are overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done AND trying to balance all the virtual meetings and homeschooling. The constant reminder of the sad state of affairs at 11am each day seems to now be pervading the workplace - as team meetings and 'connection' conversations are fuelled by the uncertainty and sadness that is around us.

We need to be focused on employee wellbeing as an imperative for performance.


Referred to as 'burnout's lesser known cousin', boreout is defined as 'profound boredom rooted in a sense of meaninglessness' which as the latest lockdown continues is likely to replace the burnout above. You may not know of this concept, but I think this is the insidious feeling that may be entering into the mindsets of many at the moment as the weeks drag on.

The thing that characterised this for me was when the Olympics was over...I started hearing from people, 'I don't know what else to look forward to these days'. Does that resonate, ?
We need to create meaning and purpose for our employees to lift them when they can't.

What you can do to help

There's no question that there are motivation and energy issues hampering our teams right now. We need to help them. Not only because it will start to impact performance, but simply because I know you want to do the right thing by them.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you a few ideas that might help:

Idea 1: Connect through purpose (and increase trust)

I was coaching my client Jane last week and I was taking her through my Purpose Integration process and she had a lightbulb moment. "Oh my gosh, Alena, I've just realised something. My friend and I run every day and we often ask ourselves the question 'Why do we keep doing the 'wrong thing' at work? Why do we continue to sacrifice our time and energy and prioritise others' needs above our own? I've just realised why that is - I have a business purpose, but I don't have a personal purpose."

Some of you know I believe you have a life purpose and you integrate your work into that purpose - they're not two discreet things. This was what helped Jane identify the gap and root cause of her and her friends' problems.

If your teams are struggling with burnout or boreout, encourage them to think about their 'big why?' or their 'so what?' beyond work. In your next team meeting get vulnerable and ask them 'what is this all for?' and use that as a way to reconnect with them and help them lift their spirits. The depth of this conversation between you and your will galvanise you in a way you haven't been before and you generate a huge amount of trust with your team by creating this space for them to have a 'real' conversation.

Idea 2: Create temporal landmarks (including 'moments of joy')

The days are bleeding into each other. Even my kids are doing schoolwork on a Sunday because it doesn't matter when it gets done - they just want the fastest way to the ipad. So it's a great opportunity to create temporal landmarks to break up the week and create moments of joy. That is, a special treat that gives you something to look forward to at the end of the day or week.

I appreciate that our opportunities for moments of joy have reduced significantly, but I think if we think hard we can find them. For me - I've started a jigsaw puzzle. It's going to be challenging and it will take me a long time - but as I keep reminding my kids, we have nothing but time right now. It's been nice being able to stop and ponder over something as insignificant and trivial as a puzzle and just take my time.

It might not be a puzzle for you, it might be a painting, an ice-cream or fancy takeaway. See what temporal landmarks you can create in the work calendar and what moments of joy you can bring to the work day. A client of mine sent Uber Eats vouchers to their team for a coffee treat - genius!

Idea 3: Stop looking at the numbers

Numbers jump out to us. Due to our training and expertise, we have a natural tendency to look at numbers and try to make sense of them. Many of us are trying to do this with the number of cases and starting each meeting with a general chit chat about it - a little like we used to do with the weather.

Not only is this a fruitless task - we're not health and pandemic experts - but it perpetuates the uncertainty and feeling of helplessness that many are feeling. Take the lead - acknowledge people and their feelings and set the tone for the meeting you want to lead.

Remember Dr Stephen Covey's Circle of Influence and perhaps spend some time with your team regaining focus on what you can control, what you can influence and what is simply just a concern. It's a simple yet extremely effective exercise that provides everyone in the room a sense of relief, certainty and control - feelings that everyone could use more of these days.

Idea 4: Ask them this 1 question (and have fun with it)

"How do you want to emerge out of lockdown?"

This was the question I asked all of my clients last year and it sparked new ideas, energy and a sense of curiosity, innovation and excitement. I think we've forgotten this - because we've come out of lockdown before, many of us are waiting to execute our return to office plan.

Put this question on your next team meeting agenda and hold the space for an unstructured conversation. Be on the lookout for great ideas and don't be afraid to think big. Watch as the energy across your team shifts and their body language changes. Give them time...they will look intrigued at first and then they will smile and start to think. And ideate.

Ask them how they want to 'feel' when they emerge out of lockdown as well as what they want to be able to say they 'did'. Not all the ideas may be possible and they certainly may not all work, but if there's one thing this pandemic is teaching us it's to treasure each minute. Make it count.

Need other ideas?

As you can see, the ideas I've shared are about creating pause points and space for you and your team to....just be. To change it up, shift and lift the energy which may be waning a little. I hope these help and I'd love to hear how you go implementing them.

Last week I held a series of 15 minute phone calls with several members of my CFO community. It was an opportunity to reconnect away from a screen and for them to ask me any questions or share with me what's going on in their world. They were really well received, so next Friday August 27th I'm opening my calendar to offer the same to you. If you'd like to jump on a call, simply book a time that suits you here and we'll make it happen. I know it can be hard to continue to hold the space for your team, so I'm happy to hold some space for you if it would help.

Take care.

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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