You’ve recently been promoted to the role of CFO, and everyone is giving you all the typical advice, including get some “quick wins” to prove your value to the rest of the executive team. But CFOs often get stuck in “quick win mode” and never get out of it. That means they’re constantly reacting to what’s happening rather than leading change.
To focus on shaping your organization’s strategy and transforming for the future, rethink your initial approach in order to be successful in the CFO role. The following three priorities can help you set yourself, your function and your organization up for lasting success.
The three priories to set yourself up for lasting success
1. Look inward before you look outward
New CFOs are often so anxious to get started on transformation work that they skip a critical step: aligning values, purpose and aspirations with the organization’s performance outcomes.
We suggest that you begin with the end in mind. Think about what legacy you’d like to leave in this role, how your personal brand will affect how you lead and how you would like to spend your time.
You should have a good sense of your personal purpose as a leader in the CFO role. It’s essential for you to understand how your purpose will influence both what you do and how you do it. With that in mind, you’ll be able to come up with a personal leadership style — one that serves your purpose as well as the organization.
Together, your purpose and style will set the tone for your team’s culture and values and it will build an authentic platform as you begin forming and driving your vision and strategy.
2. Assess and build your team
To succeed, you’ll need a host of talent backing you up. The more talented and high-performing your team, the better and faster you’ll be able to meet the goals set by your executive team, board of directors, and external stakeholders.
To build a finance organization that can handle the responsibilities of today and achieve your future vision, you need to understand your team inside and out. That starts with an assessment of your team’s strengths, weaknesses, experience and knowledge, so you can better understand their overall effectiveness.
An assessment will also show you where you have talent gaps to fill through development or recruitment. Finally, the assessment will help you decide how best to delegate work and how to complement your own skill gap in the CFO role.
3. Be intentional about building stakeholder relationships
In the CFO role, you’ll likely interact extensively with the company’s leadership team, but you’ll have a variety of stakeholders who command your attention, both external and internal. Whether you’re working with investors, regulators, bankers, auditors, ratings agencies, customers or community groups, it’s essential that you build a rapport and actively manage these relationships. You’ll also need to ensure that they understand and support your vision and priorities.
We recommend that you develop a relationship map to manage your stakeholder universe. A project management tool can be invaluable here. A map will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your relationships so you know where to focus your attention. Taking a proactive approach to managing your relationships will broaden and accelerate your impact.
Grow into the role of CFO
Our research shows that new CFOs who don’t take a structured approach to these priorities take too long to accelerate their progress and help their organizations reach peak performance.
If you need assistance setting your priorities and developing the skills necessary for success, we can help. Read our opinion piece to learn in detail how these priorities can lead to optimal performance and a longer tenure in the CFO role. Then reach out to learn about how to accelerate your success with our CFO coaching and other leadership development programs.