How CFOs Can Thrive With a Small Team

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

Earlier this week I shared a post on LinkedIn about whether the role of a CFO had become untenable due to the 'mores' compounded by the 'lesses' in resources and talent.

I shared 3 of the contextual factors that I find are becoming more critical in the current economic and commercial climate. These were:

  • the CFO has not just a good relationship but the demonstrated respect and support of the CEO.
  • the CFO's team operates as a united organism that is adaptive and highly responsive to shifting ways of working and communicating.
  • the CFO is regularly exposed to and challenged by ideas and insights external to their organisation.

I'd like to build on those today and give you some additional insight into how you might implement some of these ideas into your organisation and also enjoy the benefit of unwavering confidence and profound value.

The Office of the CFO is a 're-mindset', not another re-structure

Last week I shared the 2023 Annual Report, where I introduce the concept of "The Office of the CFO" and I thought I'd share why it might be useful for you as a mindset shift and how you might go about implementing it without creating a painful structural change.

A more common construct you might be familiar with is the Office of the CEO. The way I see it, the CEO has the remit to lead across the organisation. They also have accountability across the whole organisation. But the CEO is just one person, and so establishment of the Office of the CEO intentionally acknowledges that the CEO cannot do everything and be everywhere by themselves. So the Office of the CEO is the construct through which 'everything' happens. There is typically the role of the CEO, the CEO's Executive Assistant and a Chief of Staff, sometimes referred to as an Executive Manager or Business Manager. Quite often, that's it.

The EA coordinates where the CEO needs to be, the CEO attends the 'the red button' meetings and engagements and the Chief of Staff spends all of their time engaging with and influencing key stakeholders to ensure strategic projects and priorities keep moving and high-profile problems are being solved.

The red button refers to the most important decisions like that which a Captain of a navy ship need to press if there is potential loss of life on the other side
So what makes this extremely lean 'structure' work?

How can 3 people effectively mobilise and lead an organisation to achieve its strategic objectives and deliver on its goals?

It's about the positioning of the not just the CEO, but the Office of the CEO. This positioning greatly influences the respect with which stakeholders engage with the Office of the CFO – just as they would engage with the CEO themselves.

Knowing that talent challenges are prevalent for many CFOs at the moment, and that investment in additional resources is always a tenuous decision, I think there is opportunity for CFOs to take this mindset into their own lean teams.

I have a small finance team - could this work for me?

This is exactly the question I expect you to be asking at this point. But there's a higher level and better question for you to be asking and that is, 'What would be possible if I ran a successful Office of the CFO?'. How would this enable the business to:

  • Have more conversations that matter?
  • Deliver strategic objectives faster?
  • Collaborate in a more cohesive and united manner?
  • Contribute greater value to the communities we operate in and/or support?

This thinking requires a focus away from 'me' as the CFO to 'we' as the Office of the CFO. It really embodies the idea that the Office of the CFO as the arteries of an organisations making sure it is functioning well and optimised, and its 'lean-ness' gives organisations that adopt this approach an edge over their slower, more top-heavy counterparts.

How do I create the Office of the CFO?

Another great question.

I think the role of Office of the CFO is to deliver 3 key outcomes:
1. Influence and mobilise stakeholders
2. Deliver strategic priorities
3. Identify and apply innovation

In order to achieve these 3 outcomes, the Office of the CFO must have laser focus on the 3 levers that matter. They must be:
  • Outcomes focused
  • People focused
  • Future focused

Before you gloss over these 3 levers on the basis you have these covered, ask yourself the following questions:

1. Outcomes focused: To what extent do the the leaders in your team have an entrepreneurial mindset and not simply comfortable and 'part of the furniture'?

2. People focused: How confident are you that your people have the right balance of intelligence, emotional and social intelligence alongside an exceptional level of conversational intelligence?

3. Future focused: How certain are you that your team has the support systems in place to be the first to know when disruptive innovation that would be useful for your organisation is created.

With the above in mind, if you were to create the Office of the CFO for your organisation, using your existing resources and structures, what is one action you could take?

If you are a CFO of a small team, I highly encourage you to consider how this mindset might serve you. Shift the focus from 'me' to 'we' and in doing so elevate the value you can create for the organisation, people and communities you serve.

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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