Why CFOs Need a Challenge Network

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

As you might know, I am currently in the process of writing my next book, "CFO of the Future". This was always going to be the priority for July and August, so the timing of lockdown hasn't been the worst if I'm completely honest.

I'm a high initiator which means I'm great at starting new projects. Particularly this one. I'm super excited by the opportunity to provide more CFOs like you access to my work and produce a succinct trusted guide to help you now and in the future. As someone who is guilty of not celebrating success and just moving onto the next priority and milestone, I have to admit, when I finished the first draft at 12:10am I was buzzed. It took me 2 hours to eventually wind down and get to bed.

Then the editing process commenced. I received comments and questions from both editors. My elation started to fade. Self-doubt started to creep in. "Is this good enough?" "Am I good enough?" Alone with my thoughts at my desk, I started to spiral. I emailed my main editor, Mish, and asked her for a session the next day. Then I took myself out for a bike ride with my family.

During the bike ride I had the space and fresh air to clear my head. "This is all part of the process", I reminded myself. "This is why I have brought specialists into my book team. Because this book isn't about me, it's about the CFOs that need it. And if this process is designed to improve the experience and use by CFOs, then that's a great outcome. This isn't about me."

I jumped on the call with Mish the next day and she reaffirmed my concerns. "They're not that bad, Alena. There's so much [in the book] the edits are to help you keep it punchy so it's an easy and impactful read for your very busy CFOs. You're doing a great job."

We may not want to see the red pen, but we're better off for it!

Hearing feedback is hard...even when you ask for it! I was blessed with the fact that no one other than me (and now you!) heard or saw that feedback. As CFOs we're used to 'getting it right' and being rewarded for our efforts. That's where we channel our energy and how we deliver great results. Our self-expectations grow as our success compounds. I think what happens, however, is that it sets us up for disappointment when we don't meet our own high expectations.

In his book, "Think Again" organisational psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant introduces the concept of a "Challenge Network". This is a group of trusted people you choose to challenge your ideas "by pushing us to be humble about our expertise, doubt our knowledge, and be curious about new perspectives".

I had created this challenge network yet still struggled to hear the feedback. Not only was my ego bruised but I was concerned about the impact on the timelines – would addressing the comments put our deadlines at risk? The timing was tight enough?!

I think the pressure of time constraints and fear of hearing critical feedback is what holds many of us back from proactively seeking alternative views. It's faster and easier to get consensus and rally people around you that affirm your ideas. However, all this does is reduce quality and limits our potential.

I think about the CFOs I work with and the immense pressure they are under and the number of perspectives and priorities are juggling already before thinking about a challenge network. But I can't help but think it would be a highly valuable concept to implement.

What do you think?

Do you have a challenge network?
Where in your work could you benefit from a challenge network?
Who should be in your challenge network?

Love to hear your thoughts.

PS if you'd like to pre-order your book and access launch benefits you can do so here.

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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 ⓒ 2023




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