Why CFOs Need to Be Their Own Role Models

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

Junior Tatola
is one of the stars of the South Sydney Rabbitohs National Rugby League team and he also happens to be my cousin. My family and I couldn't be more proud of him - to see one of 'us' represented every weekend on the sporting field is quite powerful. In fact, what Rugby League has done to support the growth in profile of many of the Pacific Island nations is a great tribute to the fact that many of their NRL players are, in fact, Polynesian. The games played with Tonga, Samoa, Fiji are celebrated with genuine joy and appreciation, even when the score shows a lot to not many, because of the invaluable contribution of energy to the sport as a whole by those nations and their passionate supporters.

What has this got to do with how you lead as a CFO?

20/30 years ago, when I was growing up, I didn't see any of this. In fact, when I was asked where I came from (the assumption being that I wasn't from here because of my skin colour) and I said 'my background is Tongan' they wouldn't know where or what that was. Now - we see Tongan (and other nations) sports teams frequently, Tongan sports players represented and even celebrated when some hunky martial arts guy walks onto the international Olympic arena ;-)

Junior receiving the George Piggins medal at the Rabbitohs Red and Green ball this year

We can't be what we can't see

I share this, because seeing people of my heritage on a grand scale gives me great pride, joy and most importantly, hope, that young Polynesian kids now get to see what's possible for them.

However, if we don't have the benefit of seeing what's possible, we need to learn to reverse engineer it. That's where the philosophy of Change Leadership comes in.

Change starts with self

One of the many challenges faced by Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) is that we're at pointy end of the hierarchy with no other CFOs in the business to see. When we look around us, quite often we're by ourselves, trying to navigate the personalities and politics that exist at the upper echelons of the business, all while making sure the team and staff are safe, productive and also growing and developing. No one else is dealing constantly with the past/present/future paradigm and worrying about our compliance as well as commercial success.

It can be hard to get a read of 'what's possible' when you're so focused on 'what is', especially when there's no other gauge around you. We can't be what we can't see.

But what we do know - what I often obsess about - is the results that we want or the outcomes we desire. This is where the Change Leadership quadrant of the 4 Quadrants of CFO Leadership comes in.

The great Dr Stephen Covey taught us that we need to stay focused on what we can control, and be lighter with what we can only influence, or in fact is only a concern. We can't control others, we can't control the economy, but we can control ourselves. So the most effective pathway to achieving your results and outcomes is to start with yourself.

Change Leadership for CFOs

Change leadership comprises 3 key skills:

  • Executive presence: how you show up, how you talk, how you dress (yes, it's how you dress!). It's the manifestation of your ideas, beliefs and emotions. And it's critically important.

  • Influence: Influence is essentially the capacity to have an effect on another person's views and/or actions. It's an exchange between two people that moves them from one place to another. Only by exerting influence can we create change.

  • Visionary decision-making: is about solving the better problem – not just the one presented to you – even when the context around you doesn't require you to do it. Making the better decision, not just the required decision or the good-enough decision.

When you master and use these skills together, you identify with clarity:

1. How you need to show up to achieve your goals in a way that feels congruent to you and your purpose. That doesn't feel like a 'business persona' or mask you need to put on at work. You get to show up as your best self!

2. Who you need to get buy-in and support from to attain your new elevated results. We know we can't do it all alone, and quite often people are the primary obstacle getting in the way of what we want. Get change leadership right, and you'll be accelerating your impact, instilling others' confidence in you and creating valued relationships along the way.

3. Inspired ideas and new ways of working, thinking, doing and being for you and the people around you. You'll be making decisions that set you apart from others and make a sustainable impact to you, your people and your communities.

Change Leadership will be the determining factor for CFOs in 2023

I think 2023 will be just as, if not more, challenging for CFOs. So the question I want you to obsess over is how do you need to apply the skills and attributes of Change Leadership in a different and more effective way to tackle those challenges and achieve your results?


This question should be front of mind for all CFOs right now

5 tips to achieve elevated results in 2023

1. Get clear on the outcomes you want. Know what 'done' or 'achieved' looks like. Break it down until you have that clarity.

2. Put yourself in new situations. Creativity and resilience will be even more important next year. The only way we can build those skills is by exposing ourselves to new opportunities, perspectives and experiences. Put yourself out there!

3. Be open to new possibilities. Having a growth mindset will be the difference between success and failure for many CFOs in 2023.

4. Hang out with new people. The easiest way to expose yourself to new situations is to find new communities of people to spend time with. People that are on a similar journey and will help you achieve your goals.

5. Do the work. Our level of self-discipline and commitment to excellence will be put to the test next year. If you want results above mediocrity you need to do the work - inertia won't carry you. Invest in yourself, your brain, body and soul and grow your most valuable asset - you!

There's a good chance you don't have someone that has walked your exact path, looks exactly like you and has your exact problems. That's okay - our uniqueness is what makes the world sparkle. But not being able to see what's possible for our future can pose challenges if we're trying to elevate to our next level of capability, competence, character and results.

Change leadership will be the key to you being your own role model and in that, you'll give the gift of being a role model to others around you.

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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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.