I speak with many CFOs in my role as executive recruiter, CFO Peer Group facilitator and executive coach. Each CFO, without fail, expresses that they are busy. The scale starts at ‘busy’ and goes all the way to ‘overwhelmed’.
So I was not surprised to see the results of this recent report from EY. I appreciated this infographic, as it helps to explain why the Chief Financial Officer is feeling overwhelmed and under pressure.
These four survey results identify two areas of pressure facing the CFO today.
- Weak finance team (Ability to delegate, Concern over finance function)
- The day to day gets in the way of the strategic priorities (Tension between old and new, Role stretch)
I showed this graphic to member of my CFO Peer Group, and here is some of the feedback they gave:
Weak finance team
- We have under skilled people in place as we cannot “afford” to recruit at the experience level we need
- The CFO is being asked to cut staff significantly while taking on additional responsibilities and regulatory burdens. This all needs to be performed while changing and upgrading staff to meet more strategic priorities
The day to day gets in the way
- We are so transaction heavy we need more staff to keep up with the day to day
- Under increased pressure to meet compliance demands with no legal or other support
- The CFO often lacks along with his organization an understanding of the business is one I see quite often from business partners
- While there has been an evolution in what else the CFO is responsible for, the CFO is still the defacto compliance officer managing accounting, legal, HR, Facilities, and broad administrative responsibilities.
- The CFO is under tremendous pressure today to “do it all”
I also asked my CFOs what can be done to resolve these pressures. Here are some responses.
- From a CFO disciplinary viewpoint, you need to define the stands where you say: “this is a MUST to have, and this is a NICE to have”.
- Ultimately, the role is CFO is defined by what expectations are.
- The CFO often lacks along with his organization an understanding of the business is one I see quite often from business partners. They just don’t visit customers, spend time with sales or other functions.
As CFO, it is your responsibility to deliver what is expected of you. To do so, you need to get the buy in necessary. While platitudes reign, yet not enough CFOs have the ability to change the expectations. Too many times I hear “this is the way it is – I cannot change it”.
As CFO, you have accepted this job in this environment. Either fix it, or find a more reasonable environment. It may not be the environment that’s the problem, but the person in the mirror who accepts the problem environment.
No one wants to just do the best they can (certainly not you). You want to thrive and achieve more, better, further, faster.
You can fix your team – you just need to have a plan and get buy in. As executive coach for CFOs, I have worked with Chief Financial Officers to help them accomplish this. While not an easy task, it will not get better by itself.
You can move from the day to day to the strategic – you just need to make sure you have the people, process and technology that can take care of the day to day to give you time to be involved with the strategic issues.
Here are my recommended steps to break the cycle:
- Prepare a vision of how you can focus on the strategic while your team properly covers off the day to day.
- Prepare a plan to meet the vision
- Sell the plan (classic change management)
- Implement it
- Deal with exceptions as they happen, yet if exceptions happen regularly, they are no longer exceptions and you need to have the people, process, technology to deal with it.
Sounds simple? It’s not. But unless you are going to tackle this head on, you will be unable to move beyond these challenges and continue to be stuck like most of your peers.
What’s your plan to break the cycle?