CFOs are data driven and results oriented. Typically they are ambitious, have a high degree of integrity and are always thinking about how they can drive value (whether it be profit, revenue, EBIT, EEV, etc) for their business.
But throughout the Covid lockdowns and consequent shift in working environments over the last two years, it's become more and more apparent that Finance people value something that can't always be quantified or valued with numbers - community.
Last week I had the pleasure of hosting events for two of our CFO communities - and in person at that! The relief and joy to be together again was palpable - to be able to let their hair down and share what's really on their minds, the 'little things' that ultimately develop into the big things and of course the successes they've achieved over this incredibly difficult time.
I was reminded of the speed and volume of high quality, relevant and proven tips, intel and connections that were shared, swapped and transferred as we engaged in our conversations. My CFOs walked away equipped, assured and confident to face their approaching challenges and opportunities.
But the joy I observed was not just of seeing other people or being in a shared workplace - they had that in their offices. The joy I observed was that of being in a community.
In his work on social connections, evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar proposed the significance of the number 150 - that is, humans have cognitive capacity to maintain up to 150 meaningful social relationships. I know, 150 is a lot! But inside the 150, there are a couple of other important numbers that might be easier to get your head around: 5 - this is deemed to be your close friends, almost like family and 15 - your best friends, the ones that you go to for advice and that you lean on when you're struggling.
My guess is that if you think of your social circles, you can probably come up with a list of 5-15 people pretty quickly that you deem to be your family and best friends. Is that right?
But what about your close 15 at work for your career? As you might know, I ordinarily don't distinguish between 'work life' and 'home life' but I think our relationships and the people we surround ourself is one of the areas that we need to. Why? Because our work is a big part of our lives, what we do and what gives us meaning. It's critical that we are intentional about the 'people we hang out with' so that we are investing our effort and energy in those that can help us and that we can help (and of course, that we like!).
Do you have tunnel vision?
I have found many CFOs are exceptional at establishing themselves internally within their business, positioning themselves as the 'go-to' for guidance and advice with their boss, their peers and their team. But what I noticed last year when CFOs and other senior finance leaders who had been made redundant came to me for help positioning themselves for their next CFO role, they would say to me, "Alena, I know it's who you know as much as what you know, but I haven't networked in years. I've spent all my time focused on my internal profile and stakeholders. I don't really have anyone to reach out to outside my job."
It is easy to get so focused on success in your current role, that we get a little bit tunnel visioned. I know I've made that mistake in the past. You want to do so well in your role, that you invest all your time meeting and establishing impactful relationships throughout the business, and you forget about the world outside. Does that sound familiar to you, ?
And that's not just relevant for when you're looking for your next role. What about all the regulatory and commercial change, the industry issues, the latest ideas, technology or innovation that are working for other businesses? How do you keep relevant, strategic and lead your business if you're not 'out there'?
Source, Meaning Matters: Results Beyond the Numbers, Alena Bennett, 2019
In my first book, Meaning Matters: Results Beyond the Numbers, I discuss the idea of a Powerbase. This is the type of people you need in your world at work to be successful. I've chunked it into 6 pieces of a pie - here are the roles you need:
1. Connector: someone who will actively (and ideally, proactively) open doors for you
2. Sponsor: someone who will advocate for you
3. Mentor: an experienced and trusted adviser, and typically someone who has taken the path you want to take.
4. Teacher: someone who can teach you what you need to know to get you where you want to be
5. Supporter: someone who will roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to help you achieve something
6. Balancer: someone who will provide you comfort when you need it
You might be thinking - how do I divide 15 by 6 (I know that's how I first approached this!)? Of course it doesn't - it's not a perfect science, nor do you need to cap your powerbase to 15 or for each role to be a separate individual. In fact, ideally some people occupy 2 roles for you.
My hope for you is that by sharing these 2 perspectives, you'll think about whether you have enough of the right people around you to achieve your goals.
Who do you need in your powerbase in 2022?
As we move into the holiday season, you'll start to think about - if you haven't already - what you want to achieve in 2022 and beyond.
I encourage you to then think about who is in your powerbase or tribe, what is the quality of your network and... who are your people? Who is that group of people that you surround yourself with that act as your personal Advisory Board? And are they the right people that will get you to where you want to be in the future?
How do I find my people?!
It's easy to say "find your people", but where do you start when you're time poor and don't really like networking? Lucky for you, I've got a few places for you to start!
If you're an CFO looking to build your tribe for 2022 and beyond, consider joining us for a CFOs Connect Community event in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
If you are in a regional location or online is more your style, then join us in our next live online CFOs Connect Community event.
If you're serious about building your tribe - your personal Advisory Board - and using that tribe to help you elevate your performance with intention, support and accountability, then the CFO Boardroom might be what you need.
Are you in a CFO community?
How much time do you invest in building your tribe?
Could an investment in your tribe be what's needed for you to boost your 2022 engagement and performance?