What does a good CFO look like?

by | Jul 8, 2022

The Role of a CFO in Business

CFOs – Were you promoted internally to the role? Are you meeting expectations and building relationships?

Recently I was invited to speak to Accountants and finance professionals at CPA Australia‘s CPA Week 2022 Conference in Perth on “Navigating your career into leadership”.  Below is an extract from that speech where I spoke about managing and meeting the expectations of peers, the business owner, CEO and /or Board.

Expectations from a Good CFO

Does this sound familiar?

When you were promoted did anyone tell you what they expected of you?

As a relatively new or emerging CFO, no one necessarily tells you what you should be doing differently to shift from being the beancounter to the valued partner in business do they?

  • Do you have a sense you might not be meeting expectations?
  • Feel like you are doing two jobs?
  • Struggling to keep your head above water?
  • Is that imposter syndrome creeping in? (especially for us women)

Building Strong Relationships with the CEO and the Board

My experiences

From my own experience of following a fairly traditional route to CFO, I have 3 bits of advice for my younger self:

  1. Gain clarity on expectations. Find out what the Owner, CEO, Board, peers expect of you as the CFO. If you are not sure, ASK!! If you think you know, ASK ANYWAY – you might be surprised. Don’t assume you know. And don’t assume it’s what the last person did who sat in your role.
  2. Get out of the weeds! Try to see the bigger picture and understand the strategic context. Get your head out of the details. (The answer is not in the spreadsheet)
  3. Get out of your office! Spend as little time in your office as possible. And I don’t mean the working from home thing. Build relationships and understand the issues and perspectives from across the organisation.

For example:

  • When you go to a company function, don’t just hang out with the accounts department. Go and talk to people you don’t know from other departments.
  • Get to know your team and what makes them tick and what their challenges and frustrations are. Their family, interests etc. Find out what they need from you. Talk to everyone in your team everyday.

So what?

  1. What no one will ever tell you is that as the CFO you are the least popular executive.
  2. No one wants to tell you anything. More likely than not, they want to hide things from you.
  3. The challenge is to get people to know you, trust you and respect you so that they share with you what’s going on. You are not going to be able to do that sat in your office.
  4. Broaden your perspective from other organisations, sectors, industries, professions. How? Get out more!

Are you meeting expectations and building relationships?

As an accounting and finance professional, are you looking for objective support and guidance from someone who has walked in your shoes? A Coach who understands the demands of the accounting profession? As a qualified one-on-one executive level coach,   I can help you stretch your thinking, challenge your comfort zone and grow as a leader in life and work. Click here to contact me today.

Written By Debbie Millard

Master your business through strong leadership, knowing your numbers and empowering your people

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