Congratulations! You have been selected as Company XYZ’s new CFO. The selection process was long and difficult, and you have been chosen as the Chief Financial Officer of the Company.
The announcement has been made, and you have the opportunity to meet the key people on your Finance Team. Each leader on the Finance Team is apprehensive. They don’t know you. You don’t know them. How do you approach your new reports?
Before starting any new executive position with a company, I highly recommend that you read “The First 90 Days – Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels” by Michael Watkins. I wrote about it here.
Meet your leaders, together and individually. Learn, listen and ask questions. Your Finance Leaders have a lot of information and knowledge. An open and respectful attitude will provide you with an understanding of the leaders themselves, the department and inter-departmental dynamics, as well as critical information you will need to get your job done and be successful.
But do make decisions. CFOs need to have a plan to succeed. The first 90 days are critical to putting the plan together.
Who should stay? Who should go? Figuring this out is a key part of your plan. You need clarity as to what your team should look like to accomplish your goals.
But beware. If you don’t decide who stays and who goes, it may be decided for you. You could end up losing the very people you want and need to keep. You need to act quickly and decisively to ensure you have the team you need to succeed.
Decide who stays.
Decide who goes.
Communicate your plan.
Decide on the type of person/people you need to bring on board.
Start the hiring process quickly and using the best resources to ensure hiring success.
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Derek Quackenbush says
Yes, it’s tough being an incoming CFO and navigating myriad issues re: existing staff. I do not disagree with anything said. However, when a change is needed, it should be done quickly. I’ve let folks continue on whom I knew were not a fit because I was apprehensive about losing their institutional knowledge while I was still coming up to speed. But I’ve found that the damage that can cause outweighs the extra time (and stress) caused by just ripping off the band-aid, so to speak. In my experience, an incoming person has a 3-6 month period of time in which there is latitude to be less than perfect…a honeymoon, if you will. I believe it’s best to take advantage of that as much as possible. I would rather not wait until month 9-12 to cause an upheaval by turning over staff if I can pack that into the honeymoon when the team (my executive peers) will be more supportive of me as the “new guy.” My two cents…
Samuel Dergel says
Thanks for your ‘two cents’. I think there is more value in what you have said than just 2¢.
How do you decide between 1) letting the person go and then finding the new person or 2) finding the replacement and then letting the person go?
Jeff Kane says
I am currently going through exactly what you are describing. I knew that I had a dysfunctional team coming in as that was disclosed in the interview process. I am walking a tight rope as I have a legacy accounting system that makes a couple of people indispensable to the company right now but not long term. I am in my 120th day period. The approach I am taking is outlining what positions and skills the company needs and then seeing who fits where. I don’t have many that match as they have gotten raises and promotions over the years that don’t match the job. Plus there is guilt in letting people go after having experienced this job market personally. Thus the tightrope.
Love your blog;
Rob Germundson says
Organization change is inevitable. New CFO’s must be supportive of the current team. These people are still needed for critical tasks the company requires. My process is to evaluate skill bases quickly. If personnel data is available check educational background, current position, salary levels, etc. Next interview the entire team one on one and inquire about issues, concerns, and what they see as key business drivers. Use this information as feedback to check against the views of the executives. This sorts out smoke vs fire so the CFO can start to formulate a plan. As much as possible review every position to get the pulse and feel of managers and employees.
With this information and knowledge the CFO can then make some of the tough personnel decisions. Generally, there are under performers who can be moved quickly to other organizations or terminated. Often, the remaining team will absorb the work leaving the CFO with flexibility to hire new personnel strategically. Higher level performers usually respond well to these changes and support the CFO. Finally, communicate your vision and let people help implement change with your guidance. From past experience the initial changes can be done in as little as sixty days. For the rest of the CFO’s plan it can be between six and nine months. In the end, its now your team and mission to support the company direction and goals.