How to Make the Most of Half-Time for CFOs

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

It was so great to hold our first CFO Boardroom session last week! Holding the first 'in the Boardroom' day in June was very intentional knowing the natural cadence of a CFO across the course of a year: - year-ends, reporting seasons, budgets, etc, meaning that our quarterly rhythm had to avoid those typical crunch time periods.

In the room we had CFOs with:

  • financial year-ends - gearing up for their year-end close, auditors and financial reports: it's crunch time!
  • calendar (or other) year-ends - they were in the midst of business and so a little in that blur of people and projects.

One of the comments made towards the end of the day was "I feel like my brain was opened up again" and I thought I'd share the possibilities for performance when we do take the time to open our brains and why at this point in the year - 'half time' per se - it can be particularly important.

Own your impact

I frequently refer to the work of Daniel Pink, best selling author of Drive and When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. In his latter book, introduces the concept of a 'temporal landmark': an imaginary line in the sand that allows us to pause and say, 'tomorrow will be different'. It's not uncommon when I bring my groups of CFOs and Senior Finance Leaders together that they say 'The benefit of these days is the ability to have the time and space to reset, review and refresh'.

One of the secrets and most underutilised benefits of a temporal landmark that I remind them of, is's made up!!! It's not a real thing! In fact, time is simply just an artificial construct that was created by man. But I don't want to get too philosophical here, the point I'm making is that you don't need to wait until someone else creates the space for you. As a CFO you must take 100% responsibility for your impact and so it's up to you to create the space you need.

You need to create temporal landmarks and insert them into your day/month/year in ways that help you achieve your aspirations, objectives and outcomes.

What does it mean to take 100% responsibility for your impact?

One of the quotes in my book, Meaning Matters: Results Beyond the Numbers, is from my dear friend Linda Buchan. I played netball with her throughout my teens and early adulthood. We played in club teams, many rep teams and went away on development camps and carnivals. During those years netball was my life and my netball friends were like sisters.

Linda was a boarder, and would often spend the night with me and our teammates and join us in the long drives around NSW to get to our events. You might relate. As you got older in State League netball the age groups converge and so our early 20s her younger sister, Kim, also joined our team.

Then the most horrific thing happened. One evening Kim was staying over at Linda's place in Neutral Bay. It was cold, so they had the heater on and there was something left on the heater. While they slept, it caught on fire and the apartment went up in flames. Kim died the next morning whilst Linda fell into a coma. Linda not only missed her sister's funeral, but while grieving her own injuries (both physical and mental) she was now faced with the grief of losing her sister - her best friend. As I write this, it still hurts, but it's nothing compared to the rebuilding that Linda had to do in order to 'find my way back to me' which is the subtitle of her book, "Step by Step".

Despite her loss, she knew the responsibility was on her to make the changes needed in order to make something of it all.

"I now understand that life is a sequence of experiences and events that we create for ourselves in order to learn something from them." - Linda Buchan

Take control of your impact

The greatest models of leadership are those that stand the test of time. Dr Stephen Covey's "Circle of Control" is an excellent example: it's simple, effective and easy to understand and apply.

In the Boardroom, we discussed the challenge of certain stakeholders and in particular, what happens when the most challenging of our stakeholders is our boss. It's a topic of a much longer discussion, but in order to not dwell on the insecurities or issues of the one person that can have a huge impact on the work context we operate in, we pulled out Dr Covey's model to turn our attention in and focus on the things that we have:
(a) control over: in our circle of control
(b) influence over: in our circle of influence
(c) no control over: in our circle of concern

When we own our impact, we start with with the things in our circle of control. It is in this sphere where we have no choice but to take 100% responsibility for our impact. It is in this sphere where we gain the tools and resources and as a result, the energy and courage, to step up.

This is why IMPACT is so important for CFOs.

Quadrant 1: Impact

When it comes to the key skills of a CFO, they sit in 4 quadrants. When we're considering performance effectiveness, we always start with IMPACT. This quadrant is all about self-leadership and is where we master the non-technical skills that amplify our ability to deliver commercial outcomes for our business. By now I'm sure you've seen it: that person that is so deep in their area of technical expertise that they don't have perspective or presence with others. Accordingly people like this have very little impact around the decision-making table.

The 3 specific skills that require focus in the IMPACT quadrant are:

1. Executive presence: do you have a distinct personal brand and the gravitas that goes with it? Do people notice you even before you're spoken?

2. Impact and influence: do you have a voice? Do you use it? Do people listen when you talk and do they act when you lead?

3. Visionary decision making: can you make bold and forward-focused decisions in the face of uncertainty? Can you do so quickly and without all the information?

Creating space is the platform for impact

You might be currently hearing a lot of 'I can't believe it's June already?' and you might be even hearing this from yourself! The issue that often sits unknowingly alongside these statements is that the law of diminishing returns is manifesting. That is, because the months are whizzing by in a blur your focus is, therefore, a little blurry....

It's a bit like why sporting teams have half time breaks, to stop, reset, refresh and review. It's why some games like basketball have the concept of a 'time out'. So they can be better on the other side.

A 'micro' example in the workplace I often hear about is 1:1 meetings. At the beginning of the year, you agree with your boss that your 1:1 meetings will happen and they'll be focused on strategic matters, you career progression and people focused. Over time they quickly become task oriented, consumed with problem solving and sometimes even firefighting. Before long, they're cancelled from the diary due to continuing conflicts.

What's the macro example of this for you ?

When we take the time to 'open up our brain', we increase the possibility and potential for greater impact. Greater impact opens more doors for opportunity.

Make the most of half-time

Have you had the impact you wanted in the first half of 2021?
What is the impact you want to have in the 2nd half of 2021?
What actions do you need to take?

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




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