What CFOs Need to Cut Through Complexity and Innovate Successfully

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

This week I'd like to share a story about a client and friend - let's call him Paul. He recently joined a medium-sized listed organisation and is a brilliant leader – purpose led and fuelled by ambition, action, and innovation. His organisation hired him into a leadership role for his commercial mind, hoping he could continue to build on their organic growth. However, since starting, Paul has repeatedly come up against the compliance mindset of those he works with. He shares stories with me where I can't help but picture him banging his head against the wall!

Does that sound familiar?

Paul experienced quite a lot of resistance to change. But as a respectful, proactive leader with a clear view of his 'big, hairy, audacious goal', it hasn't stopped him. I've been blown away by how many changes he's already been able to implement in a remarkably short period of time – and he's managed to do so without any collateral damage with his executive peers. So how can you have this kind of success?

Paul's success is that he's quickly come to understand that his peers are results oriented and fundamentally uncomfortable with change – so he tailored his approach accordingly. He elected to start small: to set up 'pilots' of the innovative initiatives he wanted to implement across the business. His plan was to deliver results and show what would be possible if those results were scaled.

Here's the thing - Paul had the impetus and energy to do this because he did have a big vision.

Do you have a big vision?

How CFOs can build and lead with vision

Over time, Paul effectively outsourced data processing so that his number-crunching leaders can focus on analysis. He's also been innovative with his recruitment, bringing in a one-day-a-week technical specialist and other relevant experts from around Australia and the world to round out his team's expertise.

This put him in a great position when remote working came into effect. He's created new roles to get the engine turning faster and with a focus on the highest-leverage work. It's innovative, to say the least – and it's generating huge and measurable returns.

What's really interesting about Paul's scenario is that it showcases the very real expectation that CFOs will innovate, but the practical challenges in doing so. There are quite often so many challenges involved in doing it that it becomes far easier to just push it aside. Resourcing automation and innovation products is a huge investment in time and money, and is risky, so it takes a lot of courage to execute and implement. What I've found is that this complexity builds when companies increase in size and siloes form across the business. These complicated structures then increase the complexity of the systems, rendering them more important not less.

The point is this: CFOs need to find automation solutions (hi-fi AND lo-fi) that stand out from the noise. The key is that they must add value to your company now and contribute to the growth of your company in the future.

As a CFO, your job isn't to get caught up in the noise but to extract what's necessary for the execution and evolution of your organisation. You need to be outcome focused.

Your time is crucial

The challenge lies in finding the time and space to do that 'extraction'. And when you're encumbered by not enough people, underperforming people, less-than-perfect processes and demanding stakeholders, it can seem impossible to find the time to stay abreast of what's out there. But it is possible, and it's vitally important.

This is why we invest the time, space and energy in the CFO Boardroom to do this thinking. Whether it's in our 1:1 sessions, our accountability catch-ups or our masterminds, we're constantly thinking above the parapet and asking ourselves 'what outcomes do we want to and need to achieve in the next 90 days?' and 'what's best practice?'. It's also why I get world class experts that specialise in these areas to come and spend time with us in our mastermind days - because we don't know what we don't know and sometimes we just need a way to hear from the expert.

Find your tribe

When we surround ourselves with the right people and keep each other accountable to plan, implement and reflect on achieving our strategic goals - the things that shift the dial - there's (to borrow from the incredible Simon Loong, Founder and CEO of WeLab), "limited downside, unlimited upside".

If this sounds like something you need, it might be the right time to talk about your involvement in the CFO Boardroom. I have an exciting bonus to share with the lucky few who are accepted into this program and community in the month of November, so if this is something you've been pondering, then now is the perfect time to talk.

Author: Alena Bennett

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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