What Makes a CFO Happy?

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

If you're reading this, you're my type of person. You're someone that wants to be happy, or someone who is curious about how they could be happier. I love that, well done.

You might think that's an odd thing for me to say. But here's the thing – through my career as a finance leader in Australia and the US and now as someone who spends every day talking with CFOs either 1:1 or in a group, or on stage – happiness is not a state that shows up in lots of CFOs and finance leaders.

Why is that?

That is the topic of a separate and much longer piece of work, but what I've seen is more seriousness and less happiness when it comes to a CFO's character.

I don't think they're mutually exclusive states. But I do think that there is an undertone that still exists today that this must be the case.

It's why we put our 'game face' on when we walk into the office. Why we tone down our smiles when we walk into a meeting. And why we avoid talking about what we really care about in the workplace.

Do you know what happens once you've done those things repeatedly year after year?

You forget what lights you up.

You forget how to dream.

You lessen your ability to communicate with impact.

CFOs on stage!

Last week in the CFO Boardroom, we opened the day by inviting everyone to get up 'on stage' and give a 3 minute speech on any topic they were passionate about. We did this for 2 reasons:

1. I have many CFOs who want to work with me to improve their public speaking.
2. This approach would give us an opportunity to learn about and connect at a deeper level with each other rather than a simple intro around the room.

The standing ovation was for and shared by every single one of our CFOs!

I'll be honest – there was a little shell shock in the room when I briefed them on what they were about to undertake. There were lots of nerves and sweaty palms. But knowing they were in it together and we were in the safe space of our supportive community, the general vibe was nervous excitement.

What each of our CFOs created and shared with us was nothing short of incredible. It was personal, it was professional and it was powerful. There were mic drop moments (we broke the mic!) and profound silence as our spines tingled with the gravity of what we were hearing and experiencing.

We heard what our CFO community really cared about and what lit them up. And do you know was most interesting? They were happy, they were serious and they (without me guiding them) were able to relate their passion to how they do their work.

They spoke with impact.

The quality of their communication was worthy of any executive meeting or Boardroom.

Happiness at work is not an indulgence, but an imperative. In fact, it might just give you the edge you need to elevate your impact.

The relationship between a CEO and CFO

We also put one of our incredible CFOs, Catherine Patterson, in the hot seat. Catherine has almost single-handedly transformed her global business which has not one, but 3 CEOs!

As she was sharing her story and the work that we'd done together to help her identify and integrate her purpose into her work and how that had elevated how she showed up, how was perceived and ultimately how it elevated her performance, one of the observations from our community was this 'It seems that you've got a really good relationship with one of your CEOs. Do you think that has helped in your journey?' To which Catherine responded, 'absolutely'.

A recent study showed that 75% of CFOs are generally satisfied at work, but that retention was still an issue in the short term to medium term with 56% willing to consider outside opportunities. 87.5% of those surveyed said that the most important factor influencing retention was the quality of the relationship between the CFO and CEO. The study of nearly 200 CFOs across public, private, and non-profit sectors showed that if the relationship between the CFO and CEO was not one of genuine partnership, then the flight risk of a CFO is high.

What do you think? What is the quality of your relationship with your CEO? How does that impact your ability to influence and be the partner and playmaker you want to be?

If it's not as good as you'd like, then fear not. Catherine went on to share that in the past she, too, hadn't had the best relationship with her CEOs. And it wasn't until she had truly understood her purpose and how her work allowed her to bring that purpose to life, that she was able shift her relationship with them. She is now the trusted guide and partner to her CEOs and she loves it.

CFO is a people job

The Good Life details the longest survey on happiness ever undertaken. The results? Meaningful relationships make us happy. When we put that into the context of the role of a CFO, which of course is all about developing meaningful relationships in the business to help deliver value for the organisation, then my closing questions today to you are this:

What is the quality of your relationships at work?
What makes you happy?
How does this influence the impact and potency of your communication?

Love to hear your thoughts...

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

 ⓒ 2023




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