I was reflecting on an article I wrote previously, Why time isn't the issue: 9 questions to stop your team missing the mark, and (luckily!) agreed that those 9 questions are still as relevant today as they were 2 years ago. However, it also demonstrated to me the core issue behind why some teams still find themselves siloed and not performing at the level they'd like or as their CEOs expect. And that core issue is communication, and in particular, cross functional communication.
As the remit of the CFO and finance professional continues to broaden, so do the direct reports sitting in the CFO's team. Teams that historically wouldn't have much to do with each other are suddenly sitting in the same leadership team meetings: imagine, a group of subject matter experts meeting on a regular basis without an understanding how their worlds have combined. This is why the creation a shared purpose is critical when forming a high performing and dynamic finance team.
But how do you do that? How to do you create the link between IT, Risk, Business Partnering and Strategy? Those who have been on this journey know the answer to that, but I'm still seeing many finance teams stuck in limbo with this question still unanswered. The answer is simple - your team need to talk about it. They need to get in a room, ask each other questions - face the elephant in the room - and keep talking until they have reached a common understanding about the respective value and contribution they bring to the team.
But, to reference my article once again, this is where "time as the issue" rears its head. We don't have time to spend all day locked up in a room talking about this stuff, I hear you say. We have a job to do, stakeholders to meet, analyses to run, insights to generate. 100%. I'm realistic. But it's important to remember that without the foundation of a shared purpose, derived through open and honest conversation amongst your team, you will not move forward. Your team's growth will be transactional, not transformational.
Most CEO's are looking to their Finance teams to drive strategy, to hold the business accountable and help them identify levers of success to pull. They are looking for Finance to help transform the business. A transactional Finance team can't do that.
Are your team members talking?
How do I get my team to have these types of conversations?
One of the keys to connection is shifting your focus from content to context. In order to get your teams talking honestly with each other, you need to obsess over the environment you are creating for them. Is it an environment that feels safe and what can you do with and in the room to make it feel more safe?
• What statements do you need to make?
• What questions do you need to ask?
• What ground rules do you need to set.
• Who else needs to be (or not be) in the room?
What's your role?
You've guessed it. If you want your team to go from back-office, to business partners and perhaps even to industry leading, your role as a leader is to provide clarity. No, you don't need to tell them every step of the way, but you need to provide frameworks and structures to support them to be free, open and honest.
Once they're talking, your team's silos break down. They become more cohesive and functional, and are able to rally around their shared purpose. In doing so, they have access to make fully informed decisions about the team and how to deliver results. They feel comfortable articulating their genuine challenges which enables the team to - together - address what resources are needed in order to solve those challenges. The team becomes efficient, effective and energetic and they derive, drive and deliver value for the business. No longer do they get stuck in the weeds.
Don't let go
Once they're on the other side of shared purpose, and have generated the trust in and with each other, they are firmly on their way to being a dynamic team. But this takes time. Most finance leaders move away from this step too quickly because they're crunched for time and so they wonder why 12 months later, they're faced with the same challenges. I know they make that mistake because I made it myself in a former life. I'm here to prevent you from making the same.
Communication doesn't slow down delivery. It enhances it. Invest your time wisely and execute a plan to make your conversations count.
How do you combine conversations for cohesion with delivery?