[Playing on Purpose] the Power of a ‘Just Cause’ for CFOs

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

In his recent book, "The Infinite Game", Simon Sinek shares the concept of a 'just cause'. A just cause is an idealistic future state that does not yet exist, nor can it be achieved by any one person or organisation. At its heart, a just cause is service oriented that thrives and adapts through adversity. He contrasts this to 'your why' as being future oriented, whereas your 'why' is based on your experience of the past and meaning you derive from them.

Sinek's just cause is 'I imagine a world where the majority of people wake up every single morning inspired, feel save wherever they are and end the day fulfilled in the work they do'. It's idealised, it's inclusive and you can choose to jump on board or not.

Idealism doesn't come easy for CFOs. Nor is playing a game that can neither be won or loss, which is the premise of Sinek's whole book, of which having a just cause is just one element. CFOs like to achieve things. They operate in the practicalities of today, taking into account the learnings from the past, to create a future that achieves tangible (inherently 'winning') outcomes.

A common coaching question I'll ask is, 'What would be the ideal scenario?' and quite often this stumps my clients. They go straight to the 'this is what I think will happen' or 'this is what is probably going to happen because of x, y or z'. Thinking about an ideal scenario is to them like rainbows and unicorns - a thought not worth pursuing.

But it's in the idealism where we open ourselves up to infinite possibility.

Sinek's latest book is a must read for CFOs.

Conviction, humility and collaboration

So why is thinking of ideals not commonplace for CFOs and finance leaders?

I talked last week about self-belief and how this can manifest for CFOs. Thinking and pursuing an ideal just cause that in and of itself is unattainable by yourself is big and bold. In a corporate context where you are measured on tangible outcomes, it is understandably challenging to think bigger.

But here's the thing. What you do as a CFO can sit within your own personal just cause. In fact, if your just cause is big and idealistic enough, it will be. Your job is to have the conviction to define for yourself a just cause which guides everything you do. When you do this, your eyes are open to greater perspectives, more opportunities, improved strategic thinking and therefore better decision-making.

If you stay in the practicalities of probability, you're severely limiting your thinking.

"But why play a game that I can't win?"

Is that you talking, or your ego?

Last week, I had the pleasure of taking my youngest daughter to her first concert ever, an Ed Sheeran concert. I was ecstatic to see her eyes light up at the stage and be in awe of the enormity of the stadium. I spent most of the concert watching her reactions instead of the performance itself. The concert was outstanding, and Ed Sheeran's talent was undeniable, but what stood out to me were the stories he shared.

First he shared that he's often asked 'what's his favourite song?' and he acknowledged that given the volume of songs he writes, it's hard to choose just one. So he borrows a line from the legendary Stevie Wonder who when asked the same question responds 'I haven't written it yet'.

He went on to tell us that, in fact, he writes too many songs for him to release for himself. So he gives some away. Sheeran referenced a particular song, 'Love Yourself' that he did almost release as his own, but ended up giving it to Justin Bieber. It went on to become a worldwide hit.

Naturally, Sheeran is often asked 'Why would you do that? How could you give away a song to someone else knowing that you could make it a hit yourself'? In the spirit of knowing he hasn't written his best song yet, he says "I'll just write another one".

What if you knew you hadn't done your life's best work yet?

Wow - even as I was caught up in the moment of the evening, I thought, 'That's conviction. That's someone who 100% backs themselves'. Because remember, each song an artist releases is an individual opportunity to elevate their reputation and increase their earnings. They don't earn a salary. Sharing their work and collaborating is a high stakes pursuit. Imagine being so confident in yourself that you can detach from your own ego-driven need to do everything yourself?

Sheeran has gone on to share that the hit wouldn't have been as big if he'd released it himself. What a contribution!

How CFOs can get more from themselves and their teams

I think the idea of pursuing a just cause is a powerful one for CFOs to consider not only for themselves, but how they collaborate with their different teams. Ask yourself these questions:

· What is the just cause that you jump out of bed for?
· What is the just cause that your ELT is contributing to?
· What is the just cause that your FLT is contributing to?

Is there alignment?

A 'just cause' is personal, which means there doesn't have to be alignment in order to work together and kick great goals at work, but consider this: what would be possible if you asked the question and learned that the alignment did indeed exist?

What I know from the work I do and the CFOs I work with, when they play a game that's not limited by the day-to-day practicalities of their job, opportunities show up. Goals are kicked and outcomes achieved quicker and easier than they thought possible.

They tell me it feels like magic. It's not. They've simply had the courage to dream.

Imagine if you had the conviction to pursue a just cause?
What new opportunities and experiences would that open up for you?
What would the detachment from the need to win at everything you do allow for you?

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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It's time for women in finance to find power in their purpose!

 ⓒ 2023




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