5 Skills Every Aspiring CFO Should Embrace


Technical competence, confidence, attention to detail, and a keen understanding of automation and process improvement are standard markers for those rising finance professionals seeking to make a step up to CFO. Start working on these five personal skills to ensure that you stand out from the crowd and improve your CFO toolkit.

Be Proactive

Lazy is not in your vocab and never will be, but success and recognition come from more than simply being busy.

Make space and time to step back and see the bigger picture. Just because a process is engrained doesn’t make it perfect or even good enough. Challenge yourself to change the system and to see a better way.

The best CFO’s have the ability to see around corners and anticipate new challenges before they are a reality. Take the time to think about what these could be for your team and for your business, whether this is how to insure yourselves again the rising complexity of cyber security attacks or identifying a new opportunity to maximise profitability; the possibilities are endless and you have a unique viewpoint.

Manage Up. Manage Down. Manage Across

A keenly debated topic of conversation, that reoccurs during many of our senior finance events, is how to deal with the volumes of queries, questions and pressures that come from multiple directions: From above; From below; From all sides.

While there is no magic ingredient to fix this, it is important to remember that this is symptomatic of your pivotal position in the business. It is important to remember that your team is a reflection of your leadership, that your CFO can only operate to the best of their ability with your support, and that strong stakeholder groups make for strong decision making.

Being at the centre of this complex matrix is desirable but building a relationship with your colleagues takes effort, commitment and patience. Work hard to develop strong relationships to ensure a good flow of open and honest dialogue. Engage and facilitate, build trust and positivity, show willing and eagerness. The final piece to this complex jigsaw, learn how and when to say ‘no’.

Be Flexible

As you have developed through the finance hierarchy, in whatever your specialism, discipline or industry, you will have no doubt developed an unwavering, inflexible focus on hitting your deadlines. At all costs; just remember those missed dinners, weekends away and of course the gym sessions that you didn’t quite make.

While this commitment cannot be ignored and will remain central to success throughout your career, learning to build flexibility into your working style and pattern will allow you to build your standing and also support the growth of those around you.

Encourage yourself to embrace challenges and questions, stop what you are doing, listen and digest. This will encourage those around you to do the same, making challenges feel more achievable, supporting open dialog and also positive discussion. With time and perseverance, your group will become more empowered and confident when faced with a problem, leading to more effective and self-determined decision making.

Build Trust in your Intuition.

While predicting the future is not possible, grasping control of your intuition will help you to better understand the likely outcome of events. However streamlined and successful your business may be, the next bump, challenge or catastrophe is only just over the horizon.

To build trust in your intuition, you will first have to build your understanding of the behaviours and attitudes of your team, the leadership team and your stakeholder group. Take the time to consider their behavioural patterns and signals; how do they respond under pressure? What’s their attitude to risk? How do they prefer to communicate? Everyone you work with is different and therefore the only way to better understand and assess them, is to spend time with them, to listen and build a bond. Meetings for meetings sake should always be avoided, but next time someone looks like they need a helping hand or wants to catch up, grabbing a few moments together might just make all the difference when things get rocky.

If you’re not on top of your numbers, making judgement calls is always going to be a challenge and will lead to providing poor solutions. By building and trusting your intuition, you will judge situations quickly and resolve issues more efficiently.

Be Authentic

A CFO and their finance team will always be held to a higher level of scrutiny than all others in the business. You hold the purse strings, you control the cash; if you drop the ball, miscommunicate information or behave in a way not befitting a senior finance professional, it will resonate throughout the organisation.

Acting and leading with an authentic style is key to progressing your standing within you team, your business and in the regard of the senior management team. Ask yourself what characteristic you expect to see from a leader and ensure that you are replicating them yourself.

Consistently encourage and operate with transparency, be honest with yourself and monitor your self-awareness, and finally maintain the high ethical and professional standards that you expect from those around you: From above; From below; From all sides. 

Author: Tim Hedger, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer

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Posted by: HedgerWay Senior Financial Recruitment 1 comment(s)
Richard Day 12-04-2019 09:11
Great article Tim!

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