What CEOs Want From Their CFOs

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

As I've been doing the research for my next book (exclusively for CFOs!), I have been asking CEOs what they need from their CFOs. One question I have posed is the following: "In order of importance, do you expect your CFO's focus of attention to be:
  • strategic - big picture, almost futuristic
  • tactical - focused on the when and how
  • practical - hands on and in the detail?"
What do you think their response so far has been, ?

You've got it - all 3. So therein lies the challenge. On a daily basis, CFOs need to juggle their mindset and their actions between 3 different spheres of focus: high level and longer term with a focus of risks and opportunities, medium term focused on the allocation of resources and the meeting of deadlines and milestones, and the very short term, focused on the here and now and helping your teams complete their tasks.

"Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing" - Miles Davis

When we look at the Deloitte Report, "What CEOs want - and need - from their CFOs", a similar issue presents itself. It succinctly states that CEOs want their CFOs to be:

  • an adept influencer

  • a strong communicator

  • a tireless change agent.

Great, you might be thinking, I can do those things. The report then proceeds to state, 'Of course, CFOs have to go beyond these roles and do the following, at a minimum, to be a credible voice and earn their CEOs' trust'. It then lists 7 additional requirements, again, all of which make perfect sense. So we're at 10 key skills required of a CFO. Again, that's not too bad.

However, what I have found so far is that across over 20 publications (and counting!) CFOs must be experts at over 110 skills and attributes. More than 110!! No wonder at times it can feel like you're in a tug-o-war and you're the rope!

Here is what I think:

You can do everything, just not at the same time.

The impact of timing on share prices

In Daniel Pink's book "When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing" he cites the research undertaken by three American business school professors to determine the impact of timing on the outcome of more than 26,000 earnings calls (investor calls) from more than 2,100 public companies over 6 1/2 years. Using linguistic algorithms, they found that the general tone of these calls in the morning was typically more positive than those in the afternoon, where the mood dipped and became more negative (there were smaller peaks and troughs after lunch and after the market closed). In response to the tone of the conversations themselves, even when adjusting for economic and environmental context surrounding the organisation, there was a direct correlation between the timing of a call and the share price immediately subsequent to the call.

Imagine that: the time of the call can influence the movement of your share price? Timing can make that much of a difference?

Set your sequence

Being "CFO-fit for the future" means more than just being a great business partner. It's about being an influencer in your own right. Influencing the direction of your team, your organisation and most importantly, the trajectory of your own career.

However, many CFOs at the moment are struggling to rise above being an adviser. In fact, most oscillate between firefighter and deliverer. When it comes to taking action to move up through the levels, this will not be because you can do everything exceptionally. No way. Your ability to move in a sustainable way up the levels and through to Influencer will be dependent on your ability to know what areas of growth and focus will provide you with the biggest return on your performance. Your ability to move up the levels will also depend on your circumstances: your resources, your capacity, your energy. It will be unique to you.

The question is, which move is the right one for you?
What is the area in your job or your career where you need to inject more energy and focus to allow for the growth you desire?
What is your sequence to success?

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]
Grab your copy of Alena's CFO of the Future!

This is the trusted guide for CFOs to lead with IMPACT and create VALUE.

Grab your copy of Alena's Meaning Matters!

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

 ⓒ 2023




Let's Connect
Acknowledgement of Country

We acknowledge the Darkinjung people, the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work and pay our respects to the Elders both past, present & emerging.