The Art of CFO Leadership in the Remote World

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

I spend a lot of time talking with CFOs and finance leaders, and I'll give you three guesses about what their most common pain point right now is. Anyone?

Yep, you got it. It's managing virtual teams.

After two and a half years of lockdowns, we can finally come back to the office. But there's a lot of resistance. And it's not just about people wanting to work remotely. With all of the illness that's going around, transport issues and extreme weather - it's hard.

Even hosting an event is a nightmare right now - I recently spoke at a CFO event where the night before the host said he almost texted me because he'd had so many people pull out last minute he wanted to manage my expectations. Lo and behold it was a full house and we had to add tables and chairs to fit everyone!

There's more uncertainty than ever, and it seems like there's a new inconvenience every day that's making onsite work more difficult.

I get it. So many companies are struggling to find a balance between providing a flexible working environment and creating (or re-creating) a high-performing in-person culture.

It's a minefield.

There's no denying that this is one of the biggest challenges facing today's leaders. The feedback I hear from CFOs is - company culture and relationships are actually in a worse place than they thought.

I'm hearing that their teams are stuck in the detail, in firefighter mode. That everyone's just doing their to-do list and no one is thinking about the future, no one is leading. It's bleak.

Although there's no clear blueprint to turn it around, here are a few ideas for you.

First, surrender

Look, we know that better relationships and conversations happen face to face.

And I'm sympathetic, I am. But here's a question for you – is it time to simply suck it up and make 'virtual' work for you?

If your set-up isn't working, it's probably an indication you may be doing 'virtual' wrong.

I am seeing a select group who are getting it right. These are the CFOs of the future who have chosen to surrender to change and find ways to thrive in a remote environment.

How? By;
   • asking how leadership roles can be recreated to suit new workplace structures.
   • keeping their focus 'above the line'.
   • figuring out new and creative ways to stay connected.
   • finding the agility required to dance between the quadrants.
   • embracing the new workplace - because we aren't going back to how things were pre-COVID anytime soon.

CFOs need to stay above the line - people can't see what happens below the surface


Now let's talk about how.

Get your tools together to build relationships

Good project management is especially important with virtual teams. And there are so many tools on the market, most with catchy onomatopoeic names.

Zoom, Microsoft Planner, Slack, ASANA, Trello, Toggle, Dash.. the list goes on.

I'm not going to tell you to run out and sign up for all these. In fact, I'm going to advise you to do the opposite.

Part of the problem right now is that there are too many ways to stay connected. This can often feel like a lot of noise if not managed correctly. We know too much data can cause decision fatigue in business, similarly, you can find your team in peak-distraction-mode when they have notifications coming at them from all directions.

You don't need them all.

What you need is to optimise the tools that are working for you, and be clear on how you want your team to use each channel.

You can't let your tools lead you. Set some principles and remember that the 'tool' is just there to enable the work.

Who's leading who?

Managing your time is the key to stepping into the future with intention

Remember how I mentioned that post-COVID many teams are stuck in detail, in firefighter-crisis mode? The CFOs are no exception.

I'm seeing CFO who are spending 50% of their energy below the line. They are in the tactical space rather than the strategic space. And they need to get their thinking back up above that line.

How? Well, it's all the unsexy stuff.

  • Manage your calendar correctly so you don't default to just reacting and responding to what other people want from you. We do this in under 30 minutes each Monday in the CFO Boardroom!
  • Incorporate more time in your meetings for connection, agenda management is key here.
  • Be clear what your purpose is - if it's connection then manage the virtual room in a way that makes it a priority. Better yet, take your team out to dinner and don't do work!

Step into the facilitator role

Yes, we all agree that face-to-face is best, but virtual has some benefits.

There are ways to create a connected and high-performing culture in a virtual world. It just takes a bit more effort.

It's not impossible, you just have to manage the environment like an expert facilitator and make it your priority.

Are you resisting remote work?
What are you finding hard about it?
How can you creatively achieve what you desire?

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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