How CFOs Can Help Each Other Win

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

This weekend, after our requisite time outside for exercise, it was family board game time. We pulled out 'Qwirkle' – a game that has become a fan favourite since our first lockdown last year due to its appeal and 'playability' for both adults and children. If you haven't played it before, it's a bit like what might happen if dominoes and poker had a game baby – you want to get 'Qwirkles': 6 tiles of all the same colour or a rainbow of all the suits. The aim of the game is to get the most points by the time the tiles run out.

Qwirkle is a family favourite

As we played, the situation arose where my youngest, Mila, didn't want to put down a series of tiles because she knew if she did, the next person to go would be able to get a Qwirkle (maximum points). She said "I'm not going to put mine down because I don't want to give someone a Qwirkle". We then had a conversation as a family about how it's best to help others get more points because that, in turn, gives us more opportunities to do well ourselves and to create better plays. It was interesting to see that my 9 year-old understood and applied that concept, yet my 8 year-old didn't. I wonder what happens in that formative 14 months that separates them?

It got me thinking about our CFO Boardroom session last week and how we choose to invest our time in helping each other solve their problems and achieve their goals. Our precious time, that's often spent back to back in meetings trying to get all the things done...spent on others' goals. We don't sit there worrying that the spotlight isn't on us and what we might be missing out on as a result. No, we lean into the conversation and we actively seek to help each other. Why? Yes, we're kind humans, but there's something else.

We know that when we help the people in our tribe, we all lift.

Your success is our success

That was really evident in our session last week. With all of us in locked down in our various locations, the timing was perfect for us to reconnect and provide an injection of energy, inspiration and perspective for everyone to accelerate their impact with their respective teams and organisations. Particularly for one of our Boardroom members, Renata.

Renata Garnero is the Chief Financial Officer of Aster Group, a community Club. A highly successful purpose-led leader, she is passionate about serving her community and also serves on multiple Boards for social services and education organisations. Renata was experiencing lockdown in a way that was unique to the rest of the group: with the club being in complete shutdown, there was no work. She came to our session feeling lost.

I see this quite a bit, even before the pandemic. It is typical for high performers like CFOs to the other side of an important deadline or milestone, accomplishing a major achievement, and feel a sense of 'bleh' on the other side. I found this was so prevalent in leaders in finance that it was the inspiration for my first book, Meaning Matters: Results Beyond the Numbers.

What Renata was experiencing was a loss of purpose: what Viktor Frankl, Viennese psychotherapist and concentration camp survivor refers to as an 'existential vacuum'. And as a CFO with a strong sense of community purpose, and with her organisation – a community hub – closed, it was hard for Renata to know what to do, where to turn and how to draw inspiration for the day ahead. As she shared this with us, we really felt for her. She said to us, 'I had all these goals and I was well on the way to achieving them...but I don't know how to move forward when there's no work'. Remember – this is an organisation that has had their doors shut for 12 weeks. Renata's sense of responsibility for her fellow executives, her team and her community was clear, and only exacerbated her feeling of helplessness.

A problem shared is a problem halved

We all felt for Renata. The empathy was palpable and the group took this problem on as their own. The ideas started to flow, 'Could you try this...', 'One thing we've done that might help is....'. While the narrative inside Renata's head was that she wasn't really able to do anything, others in the room observed that she'd actually achieved so much already and with the potential to open mid-October (which was announced that day) there was lots of opportunity ahead for her. Offers of support were flying across the wifi.

While we spent a good chunk of the day helping Renata through her challenges, the ideas and solutions that were shared helped everyone with the different business challenges they were facing like:
  • Days blurring together
  • Spending too much time 'at work' because the divide between work and home has disappeared
  • Zoom fatigue
  • Team motivation

By the end of the day, the energy had shifted. Renata's energy and reflections were inspired. We were so impressed. She had reconnected to purpose and her head was full of ideas and ways for her to partner with her CEO to lead the organisation back into the club. Because of the conversations we'd shared and the assistance everyone had provided to help her, everyone else in the room was also equally as energised because of the genuine connection and collaboration throughout the day.

A sense of creativity and innovation was back in the room despite people walking into it feeling like they'd lost a bit of mojo.

Collaboration and empathy at its best from the comfort of their own homes!


It was proof that when we help others lift, we all lift. It was an excellent reminder just how important it is to surround yourself with like minded people who are invested in your growth and success. And that it doesn't always need to be about you.

Renata called me the next day. Having spent most of the day having 1:1s with her executive peers she was buzzing with insights. She now knew exactly what to do with all the ideas she'd come away with from our Boardroom session and the how to best execute them for success. She is now ready and energised to lead her organisation and community through the next phase!

As for Mila, I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for when she suddenly realises it's good to set up others' for Qwirkle success. I can't wait for what that realisation might open up for her beyond a simple board game.

What might open up for you if you were surrounded by people who understood your challenges and supported your dreams?

Who are you hanging out with?
Do they understand your challenges?
Do they help you lift?

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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