How Extraordinary CFOs Create Self-Belief

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

As the ultimate service professional, Chief Financial Officers are often humble humans. They're not showmen or women, self-promoters and will quite often put others' needs in front of their own. When I talk to CFOs, they often refer to themselves as 'people pleasers'.

That said, they're confident in their capability. They've at least a tertiary level of education and quite often have gone on to collect numerous post nominals and are really quite impressive. CFOs know what they know.

But do you know what's interesting? They know even more what they don't know.

Do you proactively seek out what you don't know?

Some of you will know I spent 15 years as an external auditor in Australia and the USA. Yes...'not a typical auditor' is what I was told on numerous occasions, but that's a topic for another day. Call me a nerd, but the audit assertion 'Completeness' was always my favourite. Testing for completeness is about testing to ensure your population is complete and you're not missing anything. So you actively create tests to search for what's not there - you are looking for something that might exist in a defined vacuum of time. I loved it.

When it comes to our capability, what I find is that CFOs are hesitant to proactively seek out what they don't know, or what's not there. That's for many practical reasons like time and resources, but I think a larger underlying reason is a lack of self-belief.

Our existing training is not complete

For CFOs like yourself, there is a broadly known traditional pathway which involves doing some sort of finance or accounting degree, achieving a postgraduate qualification and moving up the corporate ranks. If you're reading this, you've likely lived through and seen a big shift in 1) what it means to be a CFO and 2) the broadly accepted definition of leadership. As a result, you'll know that while that traditional pathway is useful, it's no longer enough.

CFOs realise this at different stages of their career. Examples might be:
  • When they have been given a bigger opportunity
  • When they are asked to speak in front of new or larger audiences
  • When they are asked to lead a larger team
  • When they are asked to take on an additional function within their remit
  • When they are asked to cover the CEO role for a period of time

Each of these scenarios open up a gap or vacuum that requires the CFO to fill. In order to do so, they need to step into the vacuum and do something differently. Sounds simple, right?

Simple but not easy

In the spirit of service, a CFO will always step up and do these things. But it won't be easy. And this is where self-belief comes into play.

Running in the back of our minds as they step up will be thinking:
"What a great opportunity!"
"This is what I want to be doing"
"I'm progressing"
Running concurrent to this self-narrative will be the thoughts:
"I've never done this before"
"I'm not used to this"
"This isn't me"

And it's the final one that gets in the way the most.

Self-belief is about identity

One of the great things about being a CFO is that as an identity - it's a good one. No, it's a great one! I believe CFOs can change the world through the work they do and the impact they can have. But not many people hold the same belief...not even CFOs themselves.

I get it. My belief is big and it's aspirational. But I stand in that conviction from the work my extraordinary CFOs do and the powerful contributions they make to their people, businesses communities through their careers. It's not easy to hold such big beliefs around your own identity and so many times my job for my clients is to hold that belief for them, until they've got the self-belief to take it from me.

5 steps create self-belief for you and your Finance team

If you've started this year thinking about your growth and how you can lift, or even how your finance teams can grow and lift, here is the process I use with my clients.

1. Hold a big dream in front of you: Use this big dream to create a void - and on the other side of that void have for yourself an inspired possibility.

2. Create an action plan to get there: Identify and map out on a timeline what you need to do, what you need to learn to get there. (Note: creating a plan sounds easy, but committing pen to paper takes a lot of courage.)

3. Create feedback loops: This step is key. If you don't create a mechanism to receive positive feedback from your actions, you'll stop and you'll stay where you are. You need these feedback loops to help you create momentum so you keep going.

4. Build the muscle: Continue to do the work and get uncomfortable. Like a muscle under stress, it will tear and the growth will happen in the recovery. Allow yourself to feel stretched and then allow yourself to rest. And repeat.

5. Reflect: Create the space to look back and see how far you've come. What you've learned and how you've grown. We build in this opportunity for our clients to reflect on a monthly basis and I'm told all the time how they're surprised at the growth they see during the reflection, even though it still feels tough. This spurs them on.

Want to have greater self-belief? An invitation...

I invite you to have a look at the opportunities in front of you. Choose one and map out the 5 steps above. Be intentional about how you're going to grow into your elevated identity and in doing so, not only capitalise on the opportunity in front of you but optimise your own growth and fulfilment.

I know you'll always get the job done - CFOs always do - but ...wouldn't you prefer to feel confident, inspired and at ease about it?

Love to hear your thoughts...

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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