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**Change failures – pitfalls to avoid**

In the current climate #change is the one constant.

When implementing #technologychanges in #finance or implementing #businesspartnering, we need to consider critical change elements.

In the coming weeks, I will share my learnings from the many #changeprojects I have implemented and consulted on.

A good place to start is why change traditionally fails. Rather than sharing a negative list, the failures are phrased as questions to stimulate thoughts.

• Are all leaders aligned with the change and are there enough #sponsors at the board level?

• What is the compelling case for change that links to the strategy?

• Can you articulate the change and explain it in a way that engages teams?

• Are you focussed rigidly on planning or remaining agile – testing and learning as you go along?

• Do you have the right resources, skills and capabilities to lead the change?

• Are you focussed on implementing historical decisions or the vital change behaviours?

• Are the change activities aligned and integrated into daily activities or totally separate?

Are people and behavioural change your number one focus?

We underestimate the importance of people in change and investing in change-readiness.

Which classic #changefailures do you observe?

@ Talita Ferreira 

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Is Creativity A ‘Dirty Word’ For Finance Professionals?

This article is co-written by Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg

We desperately need more creativity for the challenges facing us in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. If challenges were posed precisely like yesterday’s historical problems, we could possibly do without creativity. However, most CEO’s believe that their business models are being disrupted, but also that they don’t have the right team to help them rise to the challenge.

If we still don’t believe we need this skill, let’s look at the World Economic Forum top ten skills that we should have by 2020 – creativity is number three on the list. LinkedIn Learning ranked creativity as the top soft skill that companies are hiring for in 2019. Tom Malone, a professor at MIT, states that as many challenges will come from the way we work as will come from the advancement in technology. Jamie Anderson, strategy professor from the Antwerp Management School believes that creativity is the new mindset required for a digital world.

If we want to go beyond surviving as finance, we need to embrace creativity and stop seeing it as a dirty word. This thought pattern might have stemmed from the ages of creative accounting – but it is time to view creativity in a new light. It is a crucial skill to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and to help us imagine new ways of doing things.

What holds us back from creativity and creative thinking?

Our patterns of linear thinking are holding us back. As children under the age of five, we are very creative, but then we lose that creativity and start thinking in more traditional ways. The Western education system supports this linear way of thinking. Another blocker to creativity is organisational and team cultures that don’t encourage creativity, trying to do things differently, failure, and learning from mistakes.

Sometimes we are too busy to engage with creative activities or take the time to brainstorm different ways of doing things. As finance professionals, we don’t always ask the right questions upfront. We are used to jumping to action and activity, figuring out how to reach the target best. Sometimes we need to slow down and discover more; ensure we are asking the right questions and taking the appropriate time to answer them effectively, before jumping to delivery.

Our default setting is also our past experiences, but most of the challenges facing finance today are very different from past experiences. We need to sense and probe from different perspectives to come to new conclusions.

What do we need to be more creative?

According to an article by Professor Jamie Anderson on Creativity, creative thinking involves six key components

  • Problem sensibility – reflection upon the task or challenge,
  • Liquidity – having a lot of ideas to come to a good idea,
  • Flexibility – the ability to look at the problem from different angles or perspectives which leads to a
  • Re-definition– viewing the problem or challenge differently,
  • Originality of thought – courage to try something different and not copy others around us and
  • Collaboration – a process of engaging others to create solutions built on multiple perspectives.

Finance leaders are required to tap into all six areas if we want to thrive in the face of complexity, ambiguity and the challenges of digitalisation in finance.

What are the benefits of increased creativity?

Creativity helps us to solve problems more effectively, which in turn leads to the more significant accomplishment of goals. Better collaboration and interaction amongst team members and between different teams have been observed in groups with greater creativity – so a perfect prerequisite for finance business partnering and the future of financial planning and analysis.

Increased passion and motivation flows amongst individuals displaying higher levels of creativity. Creativity stimulates increased curiosity and a desire to learn and opens up new possibilities. Teams that openly embrace creativity have a far more stimulating work environment and are far more engaged and bonded as a team.

Which conditions support creativity in a business context?

A general attitude that supports open-mindedness, thinking differently and less judgement of different ideas will foster greater creativity. High levels of team trust and psychological safety will ensure that individuals are willing to say what they think and bring forward their most creative ideas without the fear of ridicule.

Rewarding the right behaviours like curiosity, trialling ideas and shared learning will ensure that individuals are more committed to doing things differently. Allowing time for creative thinking and play, supported by an inspirational environment can start to shift things on this front. Using a diverse group of thinkers when brainstorming for new ideas, will add cognitive diversity and ensure more creativity flows naturally. For instance, inviting marketing or sales to help brainstorm finance-related issues will provide a different perspective and add new ways of thinking to the mix.

The ability to start embracing uncertainty also goes hand in hand with increased levels of creativity. We need to allow experimentation and become more comfortable with failures– often referred to as the failing fast mentality. A culture of challenging, especially at the leadership level will help to bring about new ideas and stimulate doing things differently.

What can you do personally, to support more creativity?

Believe that you can get better at creativity and that it is a skill that even analytical finance professionals can learn. Challenge yourself a bit every day to do things in a different way that will enhance your non-linear thinking in terms of the six creativity components.

Commit to a few activities that will support your daily creativity development, e.g. challenging the status quo, or talking to diverse people. Brainstorm challenges with your team regularly. Do away with traditional meetings, sitting down around a table, whenever possible. Be more creative, ask powerful questions and use post-it notes and other facilitation mechanisms to come up with different answers. Create a finance team charter for creativity and commit to doing things differently.

You can also take a free CPD accredited course ‘A new mindset for a digital world – increase performance through creativity and innovation’, which will guide you on how to create a creativity team charter.

https://financeinspired4success.thinkific.com/courses/a-new-mindset-for-a-digital-world-increase-performance-through-creativity-and-innovation

@ Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg

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How Finance Leaders Can Create A High-Performing Finance Function

This article is co-written by Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg

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?

@ Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg

25 Ways to Lead

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.

*Top 12 tips to lead your ‘finance’ team through transformation for greater impact and success*

1. Link the case for change to your ‘finance’ plan.

2. Integrate and align the change – make it a topic of all your meetings and regular conversations.

3. Role model the new vital behaviours that will support successful change adoption.

4. Move people from change-resistant to change ready – focus on vital change behaviours and what’s in it for them.

5. Focus on impact above cost – success is whether the project delivers lasting behavioural change; not milestones and smiley faces.

6. Communicate, communicate, communicate the burning platform multiple times using different methods, sometimes buy-in is only achieved at the 20th or 30th iteration.

7. Listen closely and involve people in the change process – understand their underlying fears.

8. Use early adopters as change champions to convert others to believers.

9. Have empathy for where others are on the change curve and their pace of change.

10. Listen to critical views – sometimes they are nuggets of gold.

11. Test, learn and adapt – change is neither linear nor a box-ticking exercise.

12. Measure – add feedback loops & measure the effectiveness of behavioural change.

@ Talita Ferreira

Finance Inspired 4 Success powered by Authentic Change Solutions

**12 Ways to engage and inspire your ‘finance’ team**

1. Start with having a positive attitude and mindset – positive vibes are infectious; our mood impacts on those around us

2. Be a Connected leader – share bits of yourself and connect to the individuals around you

3. Set a clear direction – ideally brainstorm why the team exists and how you add value together (purpose)

4. Empower individuals in your team – after setting the purpose let them get on with delivering

5. Be a trusted supporter and take responsibility – be there when they need you and things go wrong

6. Develop them beyond their own limiting beliefs – help them to overcome what they fear most

7. Praise and recognise good work – doing this often raises the spirits of the team

8. Be a good listener – hold back from thinking what to do next and really listen for the messages within the words

9. Invest time in team activities – brainstorm challenges together and stretch yourselves to find new ways of solving old problems

10. Be confident and believe in your own abilities

11. Share your failures – it makes you human and increases trust

12. Trust is the holy grail – get people to say what they really think and truly value their perspectives

Finance Inspired 4 Success powered by Authentic Change Solutions

@ Talita Ferreira

A New Way for Finance Leaders To Engage Their Teams

This article is co-written by Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg

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.

@ Talita Ferreira and Anders Liu-Lindberg