Do you consider yourself a leader? Or wish you were a leader? I believe everyone is a leader – of ourselves and others in various different aspects of our lives. As leaders we have to inspire those around us while remaining focused. Uncertainty and difficult situations do not stop us from taking leadership charge. We need a positive mindset, a focus on team engagement and inspiring change.
Focus on purpose. If you focus on why your team exists and how it adds value, you will be able to engage the team at a deeper level. Purpose is a key motivator
Leaders use many strategies to lead others. Using these techniques will aid you in your endeavour to be a great leader:
Follow through on your promises. A real leader keeps the promises made during meetings, especially regarding personal development, growth and support.
Avoid micromanaging and empower individuals. Micromanaging can have a negative impact on the group you’re trying to lead. People are motivated by autonomy.
Respect the opinions of others. Allow them to share their ideas. Listen carefully without judgement or referring to what has or hasn’t worked in the past.
Listen to the needs of others. If you listen carefully, you’ll discover more about what motivates your team members.
Avoid procrastinating. It can destroy your leadership goals. Rather make a decision with 60-70% of the information than avoid making a decision at all.
Stay focused on the outcome. Once you make a decision, adapt if necessary or the outcome will not be achieved. Share your change thoughts with the team.
Share your vulnerability. Your leadership will benefit from showing a human side and more empathy for others. Showing vulnerability is a sign of strength.
Look for answers outside of the norm. The ability to think differently is a crucial leadership skill and much needed for creativity and disrupted business models.
Admit mistakes, don’t blame others. Pretending that a mistake didn’t happen or abdicating responsibility will make your teams lose respect for you.
Brainstorm with your team. Find solutions together, it activates the collective brain power of the team and they feel like they’re part of the process to resolve.
Avoid making others feel small or scared. Fear, superiority and an attitude of knowing everything can prevent positive interactions.
Allow your team room to grow. They need to be able to make progress and set their own goals. Mastering tasks and demonstrating achievement are key.
Create a safe environment where everyone’s views count. As a leader, you can make better progress if the entire team is able to say what they really think.
Share your knowledge and expertise. Coach and guide others with your experiences and support, without telling them what to do.
Make time for the team and for the individual members. The more time you spend on bonding and connecting the team and on individual growth the more successful you will be as a leader.
Break down the hierarchy. The greater the power distance to your team, the less likely they are to share their thoughts openly, possibly increasing ineffectiveness.
Be transparent, avoid gossip. Rumours and innuendo ruin team dynamics and energy. Be open about what is happening and when you can disclose information.
Stay flexible and agile. Adjusting to what is required in the moment and adapting to external factors means thriving in uncertainty. One size does not fit all.
Lead and inspire change. In increasingly volatile environments, leaders need to embrace change as an opportunity and help others move through their fears.
Treat team members as individuals. Different personalities require different leadership strategies.
Manage your confidence and how you show up. The energy of the leader is like a contagion. The more positivity you reveal the more positive the team will be.
Be a positive role model with a positive mindset. Be an action-based leader that lives positive behaviours that inspire followers. Focus on a growth mindset, continually learning and embracing new possibilities.
Follow a strengths-based approach. Rely on the strengths of individuals in the team and complement your weaknesses
Be a mentor and mentee. A real leader is willing to help the next generation and willing to learn from their perspectives to be better leader.
The two-decade-long finance transformation that we’ve been running has been with the aim of increasing company performance. In the negative story, we’ve done this by minimizing the cost of Finance and by chasing efficiencies at every step of the way. The positive story speaks about freeing up time for work that really matters which can re-engage the function and super-charge value creation in the company. Mostly until now, we’ve only seen the negative effects. The cost of Finance has indeed been minimized and fewer people now work in the function (or at least they’re not employed at the locations they used to be). We’ve struggled to deliver on the positive story. How to break the tie? How can we create a truly high-performing finance function? Over the past weeks, we’ve been discussing that it’s the leadership of the function that needs transformation to make this happen. We discussed the self-awareness of the leader, how culture (and the need to change it) is a significant driver of transformational success, and how leaders must re-engage their teams to make them excited about the future. Do all of these well, and you’re on the verge of creating a high-performing finance function.
The team dynamics of the transformed finance function
The first thing to realize is that Finance equals a Team of individuals that all desire to be engaged and motivated and because of the difference in individual styles; this means the finance leader needs to use different approaches. Secondly, the dynamics of the finance team are very important. Do people trust each other enough to voice their real opinions, do they even feel like a team and act like a team supporting each other, is there enough psychological safety to ensure high performance? Often the solution when this is not the case, is to have a team building day, do some exercises and everything seems fine for a while. However, high performing team dynamics require consistent effort and a willingness to do things differently. It is consistently thinking about how to get the team to collaborate, as a team, and to think differently or more creatively to solve problems together. Creating a common language in Finance could be the first step towards collaboration and increased team dynamics, for instance using the book ‘Strengthfinder 2.0’ by Tom Rath to follow a strengths-based approach to identify and leverage each individual’s strengths. Another step could be to understand each other’s individual values and how these show up in daily behaviour at work. Integrating this into the day to day language and interactions of the team will start to shift the dynamics and allow for a higher level of trust to unfold. The focus changes to consistent use of activities and mechanisms to increase the positive dynamic within the finance team and to foster higher levels of collaboration. We know one of the excuses will be we are already so time poor, this will be very difficult. Perversely from our experience, the more time invested in team dynamics means that the challenges in motivation, misunderstandings and people issues reduce and solving complex issues or delivering on larger projects becomes easier. In short, team effectiveness increases and your time investment pays off big time!
The Finance Leader as an integral role player within the transformed team
So often we work extremely hard to progress within Finance, and when we are in a position of leadership, a distance starts to form towards the team. This is natural as the leader takes the ultimate responsibility. But the leader should not always have all the answers. Better, more creative, innovative solutions are found when brainstorming with the team. Creating the conditions where the finance leader plays an equal role as a team member and acts as one with the team (in certain situations); brainstorming, learning, creating and adapting together — elevating back to leading and inspiring the team and taking overall responsibility for the finance function. Often this feels counterintuitive as we have been elevated to the position of leader. However, being able to simultaneously shift between the different roles improves the dynamic and fosters greater trust.
Setting the tone for future Finance meetings
Team activities are not something that should be left for an away day when we have time. We can just as easily change our mindset towards regular meetings in Finance to create the breakthroughs we need in team dynamics and collaboration. This means that we should prioritize the interactions and collaboration in Finance to the same level of the most challenging forecasts or budgets that we need to complete. We can dedicate a portion of our normal, regular finance meetings to topics that will foster collaboration. These are a few examples of activities that can be integrated into regular team meetings:
• Individual and collective strengths • Brainstorming a particular challenge together (either an individual or team challenge) • Discussing a recent challenge or topic and what went very well and/or not so well • Creating team charters around specific challenges, e.g. business partnering, increased creativity and agility, working differently • Team values exercise • Culture and behaviours in the team and how these need to change for the future • Team purpose
Effectively we are setting a new tone for team meetings and prioritizing team dynamics for success. Finance meetings are not only used for discussing targets, challenges and workload but also used equally to engage and foster greater team dynamics and collaboration.
The new way to lead the finance function “in a nutshell”
Leaders in Finance must become more conscious (self-aware) and connected to their teams. They need to prioritize the culture, habits and beliefs that will drive change and become role models for the behaviors that exemplify true business partners. Leaders must invest time with their teams, create a compelling purpose to engage, inspire and drive value creation, set a new tone for team meetings and prioritize team dynamics for success. This might seem to be a huge challenge but is not if we prioritize small incremental steps daily and move in the right direction to ensure a huge impact over time.
Why don’t you start tomorrow by deciding to lead differently? Invest in your own growth and development (self-awareness) and the development of your team, commit to understanding the current culture in Finance and where you would like it to be, focus on re-engaging your finance team with purpose and changing the format of regular finance meetings to increase collaboration and trust. Are you ready to truly transform finance and create greater value?
According to Gallup, the global workforce is disengaged. The finance function is disengaged – why would Finance be any different from the rest? Why is the finance function disengaged? Because the two-decade-long transformation has made people uncertain, and they have lost faith in their abilities to succeed in the future. Why? Because the transformation has brought about new requirements for what activities people should do daily.
In most cases, people have no clear picture of what they’ll be doing – business partnering?, data science?, technical accounting? You know what they mean from the consultant slides but has anyone ever shown you a framework for what it means in your company and for your specific context?
Even if they have, you’re still uncertain because you question if you have the skills you need to succeed. Was any training provided to you? Likely not. So, it’s no wonder that the finance function is disengaged. This is a leadership problem. The leaders of the function must re-engage with the finance function post-transformation and lead the people and the function to success.
Engage with purpose – it’s the only thing that works
Some of the leading management thinkers in the world, like Prof Vlatka Hlupic (The Management Shift®) believe that a focus on people and purpose is what will differentiate high performing organisations in future. David Pink demonstrates that there are three ingredients to motivating people effectively – autonomy, mastery and purpose. If we want to engage, connect, inspire and motivate our people and teams effectively, it would be through crafting an engaging team purpose together.
Purpose is something far greater than the targets and objectives that we currently use to drive certain behaviours in finance. Purpose is a connector; it bonds a team, gives them a sense of belonging, increases the collective energy and allows the team to become emotionally invested. It is the ‘why’ of our existence as a team and how we add value and make a difference.
Purpose is not what we do or how we do it. Simon Sinek believes that people buy ‘why we do what we do’ – how we add value and how we make a difference every day and not ‘what we do’. Our purpose is crucial for business partnering as it fits in the dimension of driving value and assessing what we deliver in value every day. Purpose is a core ingredient of a high performing team, and it helps to inspire excited followers.
This is an example of the difference between the why what and how for a larger overall finance team:
Why: We empower the business to make better financial decisions aligned with the long-term strategy of the organisation.
How: We achieve this by analyzing results, providing insights, partnering with the business and spending time with our internal customers.
What: Preparing long-range plans, budgets, forecasts and actual reporting, performing controlling activities and financial projects.
The neuroscience can explain why purpose and the ‘why’ is such an important motivator. The what and the how resonates with the neocortex – where the rational thoughts are formed and the why resonates with the limbic brain where our emotions originate. Purpose resonates with the emotional part of the brain; which helps to engage and take people along with us.
When we effectively brainstorm purpose with our finance team, they can start to relate to how they fit into the overall larger purpose of the organisation and where they belong in the bigger picture. Purpose is at a more holistic level that goes beyond just doing a job; it is about adding value in a more meaningful way.
When we start to follow this process of a more purpose orientated view to what we do, it will also open questions to finding our own individual purpose, which is much more than just a job. It is what we are individually passionate about and how we add value in the world.
Our childhood can provide insights into what we are passionate about and when we got ‘lost in time’ as children. The most effective way to find our purpose is to set an intention to find this purpose and then to place our attention on it by investing our time and effort into activities that help to find it daily or weekly.
It requires a certain level of tenacity from a leader to be willing to go on the journey of purpose with our teams. When brainstorming with our finance teams, we might not have all the answers or be able to answer how the purpose relates to everyone individually or what is in it for them.
Finance leaders are generally uncomfortable with not having all the answers. Brainstorming with our team helps us to find these answers together and leaders who embrace this vulnerability, actually are showing strength rather than weakness.
Brainstorming questions that lead to defining our team purpose:
What do we do?
Why do we do it?
How do we add value and/or make a difference?
What is my role in delivering the team purpose?
What is in it for me as an individual team member?
Finance enables others to succeed meaning our commitment to our purpose must be even stronger
When you can’t achieve success in your own right but must do it through/together with others, you cannot just be motivated by a paycheck.
Since Finance is no longer systems or process-driven which can be executed by an SOP, we must redefine the purpose of the function, and the leader must focus on what will engage the team within the greater collective purpose of the organisation as a whole.
Teams are engaged when brainstorming together, working on problems together and figuring out together how they can add value as a group and as individuals. Have you started to brainstorm purpose with your team? Do you know what is in it for you as an individual team member?
This was the sixth article in the series about leadership transformation in the finance function. You can read previous articles and posts on my blog site.
The finance function is changing. We did this to the function by keeping it in constant transformation for the past two decades. We worked with the systems, the processes, and the people. Everything has changed because of what we did.
However, something also changed because of what we did but not because we were trying to drive this change. The very culture and deeply rooted behaviours of the finance function also changed. Or at least they ought to if we want to realize the full potential of the transformation. When cultures, beliefs, habits and actions don’t support a transformation, there can be no resultant change.
If culture and behaviours are not changing, the transformation that we’ve inflicted upon the function will feel like an organism from an alien planet. One that cannot live or breathe in the finance function around us. It will not be welcomed, and it will not thrive. All our transformation efforts will be lost. This is an unacceptable scenario, so we must work actively to change the culture and behaviours of the function to drive a real change. First, let’s look closer at culture and how it’s governing the likelihood of the success of the finance transformation.
How culture eats everything else for breakfast
What is Culture?
Many refer to culture as the glue that holds an organisation together, or a type of immune system that repels everything that does not fit, or the sum of values and rituals that are jointly shared from within. Some also refer to it as a type of social unconscious – which helps to create the belief that culture is intangible and soft. This is something to watch out for, as culture affects everything we do in an organisation. Culture should always be consciously worked at, as it encapsulates the behaviours, values and attitudes that manifest in interactions with employees and all other stakeholders.
Another way to view culture is that we, as finance leaders, create experiences for our teams and the people that work for us. These experiences create certain beliefs in their minds. These beliefs, in turn, create habits, and then these habits drive their actions, and in turn, actions are what drive the results of the organisation. This is the approach from the book ‘Change the culture change the game’ by Roger Connors and Tom Smith.
As an example, if you join a new organisation and you notice that the way to get ahead is at the cost of your peers and colleagues, you might start to withhold information and only share what is absolutely necessary. A belief manifests that if you want to get ahead, information is power and should only be revealed when you can look good from it, there is something in it for you, or it can improve your positional power.
In this type of organization, each leader will have a very silo orientated mentality and collaboration will be at a very low level; impacting the overall results of this organization very negatively.
In this type of organization, each leader will have a very silo orientated mentality and collaboration will be at a very low level; impacting the overall results of this organization very negatively.
The best thought out strategy or transformation will fail if we can’t get people to change their beliefs, habits and actions.
But how can we impact culture?
Make conscious choices about what habits and beliefs will drive the new culture
Hold people accountable for driving the change and disincentivise old ways of working
Internalise the change so that it lasts beyond the first few town halls
We must realise that people don’t buy what we say, they buy what we do through the behaviours we demonstrate, as finance leaders, each and every day. That is why role-modelling is such a powerful thing.
We can always complain about what other departments are doing or are not doing. However, the best way is to start with ourselves to actively demonstrate the change. The finance leader actively engages with the business to understand the results, provides the insights and helps the business to drive success.
The next crucial component to impact culture is to decide which habits and actions (behaviours) support the old ways of doing things and which new habits and actions (behaviours) support the transformation. We want to move away from old behaviours and incentivise innovative ways of doing things.
If we stay with the business partnering example – we want to move away from Finance telling the business they got the forecast wrong, Finance should be working with the business to provide insights that inform the forecast. It is a joint process to get to the most reliable figures for the future plan.
We see many companies that run workshops to define the old and new habits and actions that would support a transformation, but then they spend no efforts on making sure that old behaviours are disincentivised and new behaviours are recognised, rewarded and that everyone is held accountable for the (new) way they are doing things.
This is the third piece in the puzzle of changing cultures. We want to move away from the behaviours that label us as the controllers, holders of the purse strings or the risk-averse group that does not understand the bigger picture of the business or what drives business success. There is no point to control at the back end of the business if there is no front end because the business failed.
The final piece in changing culture is to ensure that the new behaviours and actions are internalised way beyond the implementation date. This is when change is really adopted as a new way of doing things and becomes part of everyday life.
We find that many companies focus on the go-live date, especially in technical system implementations or outsourcing. At the go-live date, there is still a lot of resistance to the change, and the behaviours have not yet been internalised and adopted. This can be expressed as encouraging adoption and integration vs. managing resistance.
We would be remiss if we write about culture and don’t mention what drives high performing cultures. Without high-performance cultures, there are no high performing teams. Google’s Project Aristotle research [insert source] proved that phycological safety is a critical ingredient for a high performing sales team. Psychological safety means that the individuals in the team feel safe to take interpersonal risks, e.g. to say what they really think without the fear of being ridiculed, reprimanded or unexpected consequences.
We want our Finance teams and business partners to tell us why they believe the strategy will fail so that we can take early corrective action and avoid failure.
Finance leader, you must own culture for your people to be successful
We can only be true business partners if we start role modelling the right behaviours within Finance and recognize and incentivize our teams accordingly. We can’t expect the business to follow if we don’t start first and demonstrate that we want to be true advisors to the business. Our analytics will only lead to insights if we inspire people to behave differently. We need to be advisors, analyse insights and provide better solutions to the challenges facing the business.
What can you do right now? You can brainstorm with your team, which behaviours and actions serve the old ways and need to be stopped and which new behaviours will ensure success. Hold each other accountable to these new behaviours and start role-modelling in Finance today. Invest in helping people to adopt and internalise change way beyond a go-live date. Determine how much of your project investments and budgets are focussed on this piece that is crucial to success.
It might not be possible for you and your team alone to drive the culture change. However, if you start role modelling and show the benefits of the new ways of working others will follow. So the question is: are you ready to drive the much-needed culture change in Finance and step up to the plate as a leader?
This was the fifth article in the series about leadership transformation in the finance function. You can read previous and other articles on my blog site here
Why are you a leader? Why do you want to become a leader? Do you know what it takes to lead? Are you enjoying being a leader? If yes, why do you enjoy it?
Are these tough questions to answer or do you find the answers with ease? We bet you that most leaders haven’t reflected deeply about the answers to these questions. Instead, they saw leadership as the best and maybe the only way to climb the corporate ladder. They saw it as an opportunity to get ahead and have a fulfilling career. But really, why did you become a leader?
Still struggling or starting to struggle to answer the question? Granted this is not an easy one but if we don’t have well thought through answers, rooted deeply in our purpose and passions then why are we doing it? It’s time. No more beating around the bush. Can you answer why you are a leader?
The answer starts with self-awareness
When we compare IQ (intelligence quotient) and EI or EQ (emotional intelligence), we can compare it to an iceberg with IQ being the tip sticking out above the waterline and EQ the far larger piece below the surface.
EQ is a lot more complex, and there are many more variables that affect emotional intelligence. However, one of the four core elements of EQ is self-awareness. The other elements are self-management or regulation, social awareness and social skills or relationship management. In our opinion self-awareness is the gateway to greater emotional intelligence. If you would like to understand more about EQ, read the book ‘Emotional intelligence’ by Daniel Goleman.
Self-awareness is the state of a deep understanding of ourselves. It is having the ability to observe our behaviours, motivations, thoughts, habits feelings and emotions and to understand what drives and motivates us.
A deeper understanding of our beliefs, values, limiting self-beliefs, emotions and the thought patterns that we have. Many of our limiting self-beliefs stem from our childhood, e.g. feelings of not being good enough or feeling like you don’t belong.
Gaining a deeper understanding of ourselves is like shining a very powerful light within ourselves, gaining greater insights and then shining that light outside ourselves to lead others.
When we start to recognise patterns of behaviours in ourselves, we can spot those patterns in the people around us that we lead and interact with; creating a greater understanding and allowing us to connect with others at a deeper level to drive more effective and successful business relationships.
Often leaders are not aware of the impact that they are having on others. Sometimes it is not what they say, but how they say it, or how they come across. Having this deeper understanding will unlock your greater leadership potential and increase trust with your business partners and employees. As you reveal and share more of your true self, others will trust you more and be willing to speak up about topics that they don’t agree with or when they see things heading in the wrong direction.
But how can I practically increase my self-awareness?
The following are tools that can be used to gain this deeper understanding of self:
Keep a daily diary of thoughts, feelings, emotional triggers and self-reflection,
Ask a trusted colleague or employee (that will be honest with you) for feedback using three simple questions,
Take a personality or psychometric test,
Identify your strengths,
Identify your three to five core values
Identify your passions and your deeper purpose
Answer a series of self-reflective questions from ‘The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®.’
Let’s look closer at each of these elements and how you put them into use.
360-degree feedback: Do a full 360-degree feedback review with your peers, employees, boss or line-manager and clients or other leaders – or just ask the three simple questions. A 360 is a multi-source assessment used to gather insights about you as a leader and very often includes a self-assessment. The answers from various sources are then compared to provide the individual with a rounded picture of how other people view them. This provides valuable insights regarding your behaviours and how others see you as a leader.
Keep a diary: Recording your thoughts and feelings daily, can provide very useful insights. Repeated emotional triggers and self-reflection on your behaviours can unlock patterns and give more meaningful insight into what is holding you back from your greater potential as a leader.
Ask a colleague: Ask a colleague you trust and respect to share what they think you do well in the working environment and what you can improve on. There is always a difference between how we view ourselves as leaders and how others view us. Use these three simple questions:
What should I do more of?
What should I do less of and
What should I keep doing in the same manner?
Personality tests: Personality and psychometric tests provide valuable insights about our preferences, styles and behaviours. These are a few DISC0 profiling, Myers- Briggs, SDI,
Core strengths: Identifying your core strengths can help you to find out more about yourself. Take the Strengthfinder 2.0 test to find out what your five core strengths are.
Core values: Identify your three to five core values. Assess the behaviours that you live these values through and determine if you are leading and working in congruence with these values.
Purpose and passion: Obtain a greater understanding of what you are passionate about and how this aligns to your greater purpose. Our purpose is not merely doing a job, but rather what motivates and drives us and gives us a feeling of immense pleasure as we are adding value and making a difference. It is doing the things we love that unlock our passion. Think back to your childhood and when you lost track of time because you loved something so much. If you would like to know more about building a career that is a passion and aligns with your values and purpose, read the new book ’The Compass and the Radar’ by Paolo Gallo.
Self-reflection: Answer the following self-reflective questions:
Who am I today and what has shaped me to be this person?
What shaped me at a deeper level?
What are my negative drivers/triggers?
What are my positive drivers?
What are my limiting self-beliefs?
Which repeat patterns of behaviour do I display?
Which unconscious biases do I possibly have?
Think about the following questions and ask yourself how they apply to you and your life and highlight your qualities, feelings and emotions that are unlocked by asking these questions. In the book ‘The Authenticity Dilemma Resolved®’ Talita Ferreira answers these questions from her own experience.
All these tools help you to get a better understanding of yourself and will increase your awareness over time.
Why is this particularly important to Finance now?
Because we must now lead people to realise their full potential as business partners as opposed to optimising processes or (only) replacing people with tech.
Partnering effectively with the business is about a change in mindset and a behavioural change. The behavioural change is about forging deeper relationships with others to increase trust and leading people differently.
The mindset change is about committing to do things differently; to learn and adapt with our team as we go on a journey of moving away from certain behaviours and adapting our behaviours to embrace the change.
We must move away from being just a controller to more of a business advisor, moving from a silo orientated finance view focused on short term targets and results to collectively being responsible for the organisation’s long term achievements. Balancing risk and finance with what is good for the company overall and having an increased customer-centric approach with both internal and external customers.
Finance leaders must develop a far deeper understanding of strategy and business models and adapt from cost control to a focus on how value is created for the organisation as a whole.
It is crucial to commit to this mindset, have the self-awareness to notice when we stray or go off track, holding ourselves accountable when we stray and inspiring others to follow us on this journey of change.
What should finance leaders do now to start developing more self-awareness? Commit yourself to the mindset of a true business partner, hire people with the capabilities to deliver on the new behaviors needed, use some of the tools that we have suggested to gain a greater understanding of what is holding you back from your highest potential, hold yourself accountable and recommit when you see yourself going off track.
Does all of this resonate with you? If not, why not? If yes, are you ready to get started? If not, what’s holding you back? This is a crucial step in the transformation to create a bright future for the finance function. We know it’s hard to change how you lead, but it’s a must to succeed in the future!
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