Making the Most of Your Finance Team

Unless you comprise the whole finance department of your company, you have a team that’s as crucial to your success as a CFO as any decisions you make. Without quality personnel, it’s almost impossible to perform at your highest level and deliver the value your shareholders and fellow executives expect.

Work Closely with HR

Depending on the size of your organization, you may be very hands-on with hiring decisions in your department, or you could be somewhat removed from the process. Whenever possible, involvement is best. Reach out to your HR department and communicate with the hiring manager about the criteria you consider essential for success. A by-the-numbers process that targets candidates with the appropriate buzzwords in their CVs can’t begin to compare with a personal approach that looks at who would be a good fit for overall company culture and your department in particular. To build a good team, you have to be involved in its selection.

Abolish the Bean-Counter Myth

Successful CFOs aren’t concerned only about the bottom line, and they don’t just crunch numbers all day. Finance departments run on people, not just data; CFOs who get the most from their people do so by making personnel a priority. They make a concerted effort to understand their people and encourage their professional growth. As a strategic partner for your CEO, you’re the one who figures out how to make company visions become reality. When you do, it’s your staff that will carry out those directives. Establishing strong lines of communication and concrete benchmarks for your team encourages a cooperative company culture, one that says you’re all moving in the right direction together.

Set Realistic Benchmarks

From the sales department to IT, every sector in your organization has a general goal to make this year more profitable than the preceding one. Because that’s such a sweeping goal, it’s an essentially meaningless one for CFOs who typically deal in concrete, quantifiable terms. Productivity doesn’t come from a constant barrage of ever-increasing demands from on high but from an innate drive to accomplish more. Benchmarks are therefore not intended to instill productivity but to measure it where it’s happening. When employees don’t reach established benchmarks, do some research and find out why; the answers could point to a systematic flaw and not a problem with a single staff member. Use your metrics as a tool to measure progress rather than as a pass/fail test.

Reward Excellence Meaningfully

While the HR department typically handles bonuses and benefits directly, the best CFOs are involved with rewarding their personnel too. Financial compensation is a major motivator and a welcome reward for a job well done, but it’s far from the only prize you can deliver to people who excel. Public recognition via a press release, a personal thank-you letter or a few words of acknowledgment to the company’s CEO are ways to praise your best and brightest people directly. Rewarding outstanding contributions with opportunity can pay off for your department and for your top talent, so offer them a berth on your next convention junket or a chance to attend a seminar that can hone their already considerable skills to a finer point.

Be a Little Boring

Excitement is great in movies and on vacations, but it isn’t the word anyone wants to associate with the finance department. If your personnel are constantly feeling besieged or in crisis mode because of unforeseen issues, they can’t put energy into progress. They’re too busy putting out fires to build bridges. Be forthright and transparent with your team so they become comfortable with your stable leadership even when other elements of their work are in flux. Boring might be bad for a party, but in finance, a bit of routine is a good thing.

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