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What Skills Does a CFO Need?

Every corporate executive role requires skill sets unique to that position that facilitate personal success and strong business performance. CFOs certainly aren't exempt - while some may assume they must have top financial knowledge and a willingness to improve their skills, they need much more in order to help a finance department run smoothly and keep a business on track. 

CFOs are essential to any corporation that needs to keep its finances on track and ensure it makes the best business decisions possible. But what makes a great CFO? Proformative members have been debating this topic in recent weeks. 

Experience and understanding 
CFOs need the experience that will help them lead a corporation in the right direction. It's often helpful to have a CFO who's been in a variety of positions, taken on numerous different responsibilities, worked on multiple teams and understands what other company employees go through on a daily basis. CFOs who take into account how lower-level workers do their jobs and complete projects can develop policies or strategies that will empower teams not only do their work but ensure the implementation of new programs is successful. An executive who hasn't personally worked in a role may not understand exactly how a group of employees is contributing to a company, and it's essential for them to recognize what everyone does - and what challenges they face - on a daily basis.

Strong communication capabilities 
Many people think CFOs only need concrete skills in accounting and finance, but they need some soft skills in order to be successful in their positions. One of the most important - and possibly underrated - skills any executive can have? Stellar communication capabilities. An executive who isn't taking the initiative to effectively communicate with employees isn't likely to get a great response from workers, or may improperly convey a message completely- a misstep that can cause an entire department to miss the mark on a project or even frustrate valuable employees. 

As modern workforces become more diverse and extend their reach internationally, communication skills are even more important. Recognizing that different countries and groups communicate differently is important for a CFO to realize, and even more important for him or her to put into practice. Knowing how to work with an ever-changing and diverse workforce is critical for a CFO who wants a company to continue to be successful. 

Willingness to learn and take on new challenges 
As companies grow, become more complex and require CFOs to handle additional duties, they must be eager to learn about the changing business world and take advantage of new opportunities and technologies that come their way. While in the past, CFOs may have only needed a high level of financial knowledge to get the job done, CFOs of today have more responsibilities under their belts, making it important for them to easily adapt.

Many organizations now put their CFOs in charge of IT budgets, sourcing and other projects - this means a financial officer needs to be willing to take on projects that may not be directly related to their area of expertise in order to ensure a corporation's operations run smoothly. Being able to understand IT analytics projects, automated data reporting, cloud technology and big data can not only help a CFO manage projects, but also help them steer a business in the right direction. 

Everyone makes a bad decision every now and then, and that's even true of company executives. However, what separates a good CFO from a great one is the ability to self evaluate, come clean with other company leaders and spin those questionable projects or investments into profitable ones. If a CFO notices he or she has handled a situation poorly, it's important for them not to ignore the problem or hope it will work itself out - instead, they should be proactive and do their best to rectify the situation quickly and responsibly. Executives who fail to notice their weak spots may continue to make the same poor decisions without stopping to review their performance and recognize those choices may not be in the best interests of their organization. 

Corporate awareness
Every business runs its operations quite differently and firms can have vastly different corporate cultures; this makes it essential for a CFO to learn to mesh well with these expectations and requirements. A CFO should take the initiative to adjust strategies to suit the business he or she is leading. Initiatives that worked with one firm may have no chance of succeeding with another, and it's critical for higher-ups to examine how a company operates and make necessary changes to ensure tactics and projects will be a good fit and a success.


Sarah Jackson
Title: Associate Editor
Company: Proformative
(Associate Editor, Proformative) |

Take a look at Proformative's free Career Resources Guide:

Proformative also offers an online course titled,

"The Catalyst CFO: Managing Change"

And, here is a video introduction. to this Proformative course.


Best... Sarah

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