The CFO’s Dilemma: Tight Management or Stellar Growth?

September 16, 2015

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It’s every CFO’s dream to “culturize” efficiency so all employees act like owners — eliminating obstacles to continuous productivity and profitability. But cost control alone can never produce soaring financial outcomes. Instead of solving problems, which at best, produces mere incremental improvements, CFOs must also ask: What growth opportunities are possible?

CFOs are trained to focus on results, not the drivers of results. A strict results focus often fuels power games and infighting, and nurtures cultures plagued by dread and drudgery. As one CEO said: “Profits are like happiness, in that they are a by-product of other things.”

Instead of just managing results, as CFO, you should also facilitate innovation. Initiate activities that excite people to collaboratively discover opportunities and explore possibilities. Try these three simple approaches – all proven to produce outcomes beyond expectations.

1. Take a stakeholder’s perspective. It always uncovers new ways to create value. Try this collaborative-creation activity to see your business through your stakeholders’ eyes. One LI company realized its best customers expect not just fast, but creative solutions; the CFO organized an innovation team that within just six weeks implemented an idea that increased customer satisfaction, retention and referrals.

2. Encourage balanced decision making. We no longer live in an either/or world; today, it’s both/and. Embracing positive opposites, such as change and stability, stimulates deeper, fresher thinking — leading to identifying new revenue-producing opportunities. For example, when sales slowed at a service company, the CFO initially wanted to get tough by enforcing sales quotas, but instead emphasized opposites: individual accountability AND genuine care. Sales almost doubled overnight.

3. Be brain-friendly. It’s a fact that most feedback worsens employee performance. Since our brains react on their own, common interactions often produce involuntary “threat” reactions. Instead of an open-minded, attentive listener, you’re faced with elsewhere-directed thoughts, suspicion and anxiety. To avoid that, I introduce leaders to SCARF, a simple tool for consistently effective conversations. It works!

When was the last time you took an honest look at your organization’s possibilities?

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