June 22, 2024

4 Ways Finance Is Leading Differently

What does it mean to be a Modern CFO? Here are a few clues:

You notice how employees recognize which metrics matter at your company and they care about meeting them as much as you do.

It isn’t uncommon for organizations to provide training and education that helps employees develop financial acumen. What’s different about the Modern CFO is the how they create an ongoing dialogue with employees that gets them to care about the numbers, long after the training program ends. They are the opposite of the mysterious figure, cloistered away in the CEO’s office or with investors, with little employee engagement or interaction. Rather, the Modern CFO is seen as a key enterprise leader with a communication style that connects and resonates with employees.

Modern CFOs are learning CFOs, not telling CFOs.

They have flipped the script from “Here is why these numbers should matter to you,” or, “You don’t have a choice, just do it,” to, “Let’s understand what matters to you,” or “Let’s figure it out together.” The difference here is that Modern CFOs don’t assume what employees “should” care about, and gone are the days of, “Do it because I said so.” You know you’re working with a modern finance executive when they no longer hand out impossible targets or threaten to slash budgets to get leaders to take the right actions. They engage in genuine two-way dialogue to get to the right outcomes and take winning hearts and minds very seriously.

Modern CFOs and teams are the first invited to the meeting.

Modern CFOs lead modern finance organizations that others might describe as strategic partners or enterprise thinkers. Others value their insights and rely on their recommendations to guide decisions and translate policies. They have a permanent seat at the table. To contrast, consider one audit executive’s experience: “When we show up for meetings, you’ll hear comments like, ‘Here comes the police,’” given the team’s reputation for black and white thinking and following the letter of the law to a degree that felt rigid, inflexible, and excessive by others.

Modern finance leaders, on the other hand, can lead with the right amount of uncertainty, agility, and nuance. They are willing to consider alternatives and explore options when it comes to translating guidelines and policies; some might describe them as innovative. They explain the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ You know you’re working with a modern finance organization when decisions, policies, and choices are as well-understood internally as they are by investors or the board. The Modern CFO helps employees appreciate the rationale behind the company’s capital projects, future investments, and why resources are going in some directions instead of others.

The Modern CFO leads authentically as themselves.

How can you be certain that you’re working with a modern finance executive? They have thrown away the old playbook that says CFOs have to play the role of aggressor, tough guy, or bad cop to deliver results. On the contrary, they reject advice that would have them believe they must create a culture of fear to get the job done, and in doing so, they teach their organizations entirely new ways of achieving outcomes and proving that there is more than one way to be a CFO. By leading differently, the Modern CFO leads the way for a new era of executive leadership. In doing so, they play an outsized role in modernizing their organizations, too.

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