Improve your skills as a leader in the middle
Four obstacles standing in the way and how to overcome them.
July 19, 2012
The downfall of many controllers, CFOs, and finance directors is that they are so busy fighting fires that they are unable to devote time to preventing those fires. This step illuminates the real hurdle and its sources that you must face and overcome. It also provides valuable tools that will enable you to use your objective reasoning and business acumen to be a creator of solutions.
For the majority of management accountants who felt the urge to walk through the leadership door or have found themselves in a situation in which they had to be a leader, there is a huge hurdle to overcome. This hurdle is the most difficult part of management accounting leadership, which is moving from knowing what you need to do to really doing it.
Sources of your most difficult hurdle
This hurdle has four sources, which together or individually most often prevent you from being the leader you know yourself to be and the team needs you to be. Each arises from middle leader issues you face daily.
Source 1: Your employees
A misplaced or disheartened employee says, “I hate it here but am stuck until I can afford to retire.” A situation like this will produce problematic results if you do not address it while building a productive and reliable team. You will have people on your team whose heart is not in their work and are terrified to leave. As leader, you must address this problem and ensure that all employees contribute their best work. The true CFO knows that by setting high expectations and holding every employee to them, you set the tone that everyone, including you, must perform each day at 100%. Then you compassionately and directly work on each person’s attitude and remind them to stay positive.
Source 2: Your work
The great CFO and everyone else all face similar work, which can be demanding and is time-sensitive. However, you should never let the urgent crowd out the important.
Source 3: Your firm’s culture
The culture is an area in which too many management accountants let the manager-in-the-middle syndrome defeat them.
The accomplished CFO restructures any part of the firm’s culture that undermines the effectiveness of his or her team. Even if you feel you cannot change your employer’s overall culture, you already (a) affect this culture and (b) set the tone for your department’s culture. As someone who wants to be an effective leader, you must take charge of changing cultural norms so your team feels like winners, not losers.
Source 4: You
We can and do undermine our desire to be great. Following are areas in which the true leaders have learned to stop getting in their own way.
All of these are false excuses that tell me the individual is afraid. The great CFO knows that having a sounding board goes beyond using one to obtain honest feedback on your leadership abilities. The management accounting leader in a typical organisation may feel isolated for a variety of reasons. You will always need someone to bounce ideas off and provide suggestions, critiques, and insights. Unless you work in an organisation where you have multiple peers who perform the same work that you do, you will not have access to peer support. It is up to you to seek out and recruit a mentor or coach.
This article has been excerpted from The Traits of Today’s CFO: A Handbook for Excelling in an Evolving Role. You can purchase the publication on CPA2Biz.com.
Ron Rael, CPA, is a leadership coach and an award-winning speaker and facilitator who uses advanced learning techniques to deliver measurable, bottom-line results.