The Benefits for CFOs When Strategy and BAU Collide

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

Like many other working parents in Greater Sydney, this week I commenced the joyous task of homeschooling my 8 and 9 year-old girls. I say 'joyous' because last year I did not enjoy it – I found it hard juggling a full workload and trying to provide 6 hours of education for my girls. Don't get me wrong I had help – my husband was an equally active participant, but I struggled.

With that reflection, knowing that we were going to embark on 4 days of homeschooling this week, I decided I had the information and tools to be more proactive and prepared for the week ahead. On Sunday I found myself packaging the 'dry snacks' in 8 separate bags labelled with their initials for the 4 days. On Monday, I chopped up and put in 2 separate plastic bento-style containers all their fruit and veggies they'd need for the following day. They now had (for day 1) all the food they would need over the course of their 'school day' at home.

Am I doing this because I'm uptight and letting my 'Alpha' flair? Maybe. But that's not the main reason. I know one of my character flaws is that I want to do it all. I've developed enough wisdom, however, to know it's not possible.

Preparation increases productivity

I know I need to feed my girls nutritious food. Like many of a CFO's BAU tasks (think internal controls, risk and reporting), it's a 'must do'. If my girls don't eat good food throughout the day, their brain doesn't function and their body suffers. It's a long shot, but it could happen. As is being tapped on the shoulder by a regulator because you've got a material weakness in your internal controls.

The main reason I'm packing all the food in advance is because Tuesday – Friday are not only school days but they're workdays, too. As much as I want to, I know I can't do it all, so I need to think strategically about the week. Getting the 'must-dos' (like food) done and out of the way allows me to maximise the impact of the one-on-one time when homeschooling my girls. I can spend time with them learning, not chopping up fruit, veggies and other snacks.

From a work perspective, it also ensures that the time I'm spending with clients or book writing is equally as focused and I'm not distracted by hangry kids or the guilt related to the fear that I'm neglecting them.

Letting go of perfection

My husband and I also decided that we needed to apply the 'Minimum Viable Product' (MVP) concept to the schooling. We agreed that we would enforce and support learning before lunch during which the curriculum covers English and Maths: the cornerstones of learning. Remember: they are 8 and 9 so I'm not making any judgment around what's more important – science or art – but I reckon they need to know how to read and write proficiently in order to get on well in their lives.

After lunch, they'd be free to do as they please – run around, jump on the trampoline, get the crafts out, general playtime.

The judgment call that we've made is that the learning of highest impact and leverage is that of English and Maths, and therefore this is where the focus of our limited resources (i.e. our time) needs to be.

The quality of our actions and decisions determines the quality of our results

All of this preparation was our way of trying to find some sort of imperfect middle ground. The actions we took and decisions we made:
  • Allowed us to prepare for the 'must dos' that could be done in advance
  • Focused on the items of greatest impact and importance. Yes they were going to miss out on some things, but that's the reality.

As a CFO do you juggle spinning plates?

Like trying to combine full time homeschooling and work, doing everything we want to at work is just about impossible. My guess is that if you were to look at your 'to-do' list, you'd need to clone yourself at least once to get it all done to the quality that you desire. Am I right?

When we look at the 4 domains of a CFO: self-leadership, team leadership, controllership and strategic leadership, the challenge for CFOs is that if they do drop the ball in any one area, they risk:
  • Letting their team down (team leadership)
  • Letting the business down (strategic leadership)
  • Breaching a regulatory requirement (controllership)
  • Letting themselves down (self-leadership)

The 4 Domains of Leadership for CFOs: What are you most worried about?

The decisions you make need to be about impact. Where can you as a CFO have the greatest amount of impact that would have a cascading or waterfall effect elsewhere in the business or in your team?

It also needs to be about timing. What tasks/projects can be shifted without massive consequence? Even regulatory deadlines can move with forewarning, good communication and humility.

Ultimately, the decision is around value. What is the value that you deliver for the business?

I decided the value I deliver is my presence. When I am fully engaged and present, I have the greatest positive impact on my children and my clients. I have made my decisions around that and taken shortcuts where needed.

It's not ideal, but it's real.

What is the greatest value you deliver?
What spinning plates are you juggling?
Where can you exercise your professional judgment and have greater impact?

Love to hear your thoughts.

PS – subsequent to writing this we've been notified that lockdown has been extended at least 2 weeks. Let's hope I can last the distance and maintain the quality of my actions and decisions!!!

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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