I’ve recently begun working with a CFO who recognises the need and the desire to step up into what she calls being “the CEO’s right-hand person, the trusted advisor.” But she hasn’t been able to make it happen as quickly or as easily as she anticipated.
You see, she is incredibly busy. Working, sometimes, ridiculous hours. really long hours. She is finding herself continually focused on things like, “It’s audit time, it’s budget time, it’s board reporting time,” and she’s doing a lot of the contributing work.
She’s doing a lot of doing. As a consequence, she’s not able to get to some of the strategic elements of her role. The things which she knows are important and also vital for her to be able to provide the advisory support she aspires to. To provide the insights, to make the strategic recommendations, and to be able to operate at the much bigger picture, much broader portfolio level to support her CEO.
We’ve been identifying together the contributing factors to her situation.
And there are a few.
One is about the choices that she makes for herself in terms of where to focus her time and energy. Is she focused on the highest impact, most value-adding activities? Not often enough.
The second aspect relates to her team, which she says is great. Yet, in order for her to elevate her practice of leadership and to be able to elevate her perspective from a ‘doing’ perspective to an ‘advising’ perspective, she needs her people to step up as well.
At the moment, what is happening is that it’s her team who are dragging her down into the detail. They are asking her for help and advice on things that if she was really honest, and she has been really honest, they should be able to do themselves.
It’s been like having a dog and barking yourself.
What this means is, as she tries to elevate up the scale from being the expert and doing, to being the finance leader and advising, the gap is becoming too large between her and her team. The capability gap, the capacity gap, the leadership gap.
As a CFO you have a key role to support your CEO, to be the trusted advisor. You should be creating the opportunity for yourself and for your CEO. This is important, because who is better placed to offer insight to the CEO about the business, about the risks and options, the potential and possibilities than the CFO?
We are focusing on 3 key areas to support my client’s desire to become the trusted advisor, more easily.
Here they are.
1. Focus on the important.
That means consistently asking ‘what is the most important thing I need to do right now?’ And by important, what I mean is it has impact and it adds value. It is something that you, in your role, with your expertise and being in your genius zone, need to focus on.
It is not something that somebody else in your team can do.
If you consider your work in the context of the Covey Time Management Matrix below, you need to spend as much of your time as possible in the high impact and not yet urgent quadrant 2. And be challenging anything that isn’t in quadrant 2.
2. Develop people capability
You need to develop your people. As the finance leader, this is one of your primary role, to develop your people. This is partly about self-interest, because the only way you’re going to escape from the doing and the reviewing, is to have your people equipped so that they can provide you with completed staff work. Work that is completed to a sufficiently high standard that you do not need to review it in detail.
As well as developing their capability, you also need to develop their accountability. To set the expectation that this is the standard of work that you want and need from them. That you are not going to be marking their homework any longer. They need to deliver to you.
One of the most challenging aspects of elevating your own leadership and influence and asking others to step in, is to let go of being the expert of everything. Finance leaders typically have fabulous domain knowledge. It’s one of the reasons their careers have progressed. However, just because you are the best financial accountant, or commercial manager, doesn’t mean that is your role anymore. So, in addition to developing your people, you also need to be thinking about your own capability, beyond your finance knowledge and expertise, because you are needed as the trusted advisor.
3. Mentor and Coach
Now, of course, you need to actively contribute to the development of your people. Though rather than doing or reviewing all of their work in detail, instead you can be mentoring and coaching them to close the capability gap.
Share your knowledge, so that next time they are able to do a piece of work independently. Set the expectations and coach them up to that expectation so they know that they are accountable for completing the work at the right level.
Everyday you have an opportunity to mentor, model and coach your people.
In order for you to become a trusted advisor, you need to be developing leadership in your organisation. Creating leaders. Whether they are leading self, elements of work or a whole portfolio. By developing the capability and accountability of your team, that releases you from the day to day activities so you can focus on the important. Which means you can shift your perspective to the big picture, strategic and advisory essentials that your CEO needs from you.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
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