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CFOs: Make 2015 the year you take your game to the next level

With 2015 approaching, many senior financial executives are thinking about what the new year will mean to their workload; deadlines, projects, bonuses (both to pay and to be received), staffing concerns and loads of other stresses. The thoughts are all about what needs to get done and what they are ultimately responsible for.

For the busy and stressed Chief Financial Officer with the weight of the world (or at least their company) on their shoulders, the approach of the holidays and the New Year should give you pause. Think about how to make things better.

There are 24 hours in a day, and, whether you plan for it or not, they will always be filled. As my CFOs told me when writing my book, more than three-quarters of CFOs are putting in more than 110% of their effort into their role as senior financial executive in their organization.

CFOs are expected to accomplish more than just the day to day accounting and finance tasks. They are expected to be leaders. They need to lead their finance team, lead their colleagues at the executive table and lead the company as a whole. You need to remember that, as CFO, your input is needed to help the company make sound strategic and operational decisions.

As was noted in this 2014 study from American Express:

For eight out of ten respondents, the finance function is a strong, if not dominating, influence on strategic and operational decisions. (See Figure) The finance function is involved with strategic and operational decisions at nearly every company, and 80% of respondents say that the finance viewpoint is either an influential factor or the determining factor.

Amex 2014 study - Figure 7

The expectation is that, as leader of Finance, your opinion counts. What you have to say is influential within the company. Yet too many CFOs feel that they are getting stuck in the details.

How can a CFO get unstuck and take their game to the next level?

Formal training

As an experienced professional, you know you can benefit from continued education that makes a real difference to your career and your employer. Options that can benefit you while meeting your busy schedule can include:

  • An Executive MBA – This could be an excellent tool to move you beyond the technical you have relied upon to date. Many Executive MBA programs are tailored to the busy executive and should not impact your work schedule much.
  • CFO oriented Leadership Programs – An executive training program focused on taking a CFO to the next level might be ideal for the senior finance executive that either already has an MBA, or feels the need to build their career knowledge based with a group of similarly experienced individuals. Programs like the Queen’s CFO Leadership Beyond Finance Program, in partnership with FEI Canada, can be an ideal solution.
  • Online training – When you know what skills you need to improve on and which you need to learn for the first time, online courses can be an ideal solution. If your company has access to leadership and soft-skill courses, make sure that you take advantage of this opportunity. You could also look at service providers like Proformative to give you a choice of options that will suit your training needs, as well as those of your finance team.

Peer Groups

Chief Financial Officers are positioned at the intersection of their finance team, their executive colleagues, and the CEO and the Board. Being at this junction in their organization can make it difficult for them to learn from and share with others. Many CFOs have told me that they feel lonely in their organization, and don’t have people to discuss their challenges with.

The solution to this loneliness can be being part of a group of CFO peers. (I recently discussed C-Suite Peer Groups here.) You can become part of an existing group, or create your own.

For 2015, I am creating CFO Peer Groups for a select group of CFOs across the USA and Canada. These selected Chief Financial Officers will commit to work together, learn, share and network with each other. I am excited to facilitate these groups in 2015. I expect that the participating CFOs will take their game up to the next level.

Executive Coaching

Each of the CFOs that I have worked with as their executive coach has been able to step up their game. Executive coaching for the CFO (or future CFO) can be very beneficial to the executive and the company they work for. It is my experience that, like athletes, CFOs perform better with a coach who is well suited for them.

As we approach 2015, it is time to take your game to the next level.

Whether you choose to take the formal approach to learning, get together with your peers to learn, share and network, or engage an executive coach, any step you take to improve yourself and your game is a good step.

What will you do to improve your game in 2015?