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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Brie

5 Tips for a Productive CFO

There never seems to be enough time in the day for finance teams, and specifically CFOs. From data analysis and detailed forecasting to executive meetings and written reports for trading partners, CFOs are always needed for something.

On top of being the head of finance and making executive decisions, CFOs need to develop relationships with their team and the company as well as having a high level of time management skills. The combination of all of these makes it extremely difficult to effectively get everything done. Here are five tips and reminders for increased productivity as a CFO.

1) Be an accountability leader

It’s not enough for a CFO to lead by example, you’ll need to confidently articulate the importance of accountability to all staff regularly in order to be effective. It’s important that staff understand why staying accountable for all operational metrics is important, and especially how it impacts all aspects of the business, and even them personally.

Another side of CFO accountability is finding solutions to problems that affect the organization’s ability to adhere to expectations. For example, if the financial technology being used isn’t working for the team, an effective CFO won’t just accept this, they’ll ask questions, actively lead the search for a more fitting tool, and demonstrate to the rest of leadership the importance of making the change.

2) Create Relationships

A key to being a good leader is to have friendly and genuine relationships with your peers, and yes, even people below you. Being able to have a productive conversation with people throughout the organization can help create a team identity. While obviously, those in the finance team or in direct contact are the most important, as there is the most interaction, developing relationships with people around you in a professional way will only bring out good things. It can help to motivate them when you assign projects and tasks and in general provide a sense of care and good leadership

There has been a lot of talk about the “new CFO”- one who has a more dynamic, decision making role, instead of the typical numbers-oriented CFO of the past. Much of this change starts with soft skills and building relationships. Lastly, being able to have a healthy relationship with your seniors, such as the CEO or the board is also key to developing trust.

3) Use the Latest Tools and Software

What better way to show your value than by leading your team to working smarter, better, and faster without increasing overhead costs? After all, CFOs encourage and keep track of this for the rest of the company.

Sometimes, this can be done by implementing new technologies such as cloud based FP&A tools that help budget and forecast more accurately and efficiently. Automating digital bookkeeping and financial accounting tasks can also improve this category, but even simple communication and project tracking tools can make a big difference for efficiency.

4) Stay active in your organization’s strategy development

A common challenge among CFOs is that they sometimes still act as controllers, just tracking day-to-day metrics, when the organization is looking for somebody with the financial expertise and business mind to help guide decisions and strategy.

If you’re a CFO, show your colleagues you’re a strategic thinker- take part in creating short and long term organizational goals. It’s up to you to use metrics to create useful suggestions that contribute to the firm’s overall strategy. Just hitting goals is enough to get by, but that isn’t the mindset that a CFO should have. After all, a CFO was chosen because colleagues want to hear what they have to say.

5) Improve prioritization skills

Many finance assignments are time sensitive and mission critical, making it hard for CFOs and finance teams to decide what to prioritize. This creates a two pronged challenge:

1. The communication aspect (team level). Because finance has to work with other departments and answer to deadlines from the C-suite, communicating is critical in understanding priorities. Asking for specific deadlines instead of “as soon as possible” will help avoid misunderstandings and guarantee that time is spent wisely.

In addition, clarifying with others on a regular basis, especially superiors, about which tasks take precedence will create a sense of responsibility, as well as avoid scenarios in which there were important updates and changes without notifying the finance team.

2. Time management aspect (individual level). A big part of juggling different tasks with different priority levels, on top of leading the team and making decisions is knowing how to manage time. Although sometimes ignored, improving time management skills is just as important as the hard skills that CFOs need to master. Taking time and effort to improve these skills is well worth it in the long run and will greatly improve both the CFO’s and the finance teams’ output.

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