My first real job after qualifying as an account was that of a financial manager. Clocking in at 8am sharp on my first day I was expecting to be shown to my new office from which I’d be doing all this financial managing. Little did I know that the “office” I’d dreamt up in my mind was actually just a desk in the corner of a large open plan space. Sigh. Turns out all I’d be managing was creditors recons, bank recons, spreadsheets and journals and pesky auditors.
I would spend ages putting together management packs and writing up performance reports without actually knowing what was really happening in the business or knowing what the story was that the numbers were telling me.
And so it stands that in every finance department there seems to be a trove of people, that, given the right direction and time could add a material amount of value to the business through basic insights they have at a micro level.
To know what you know and what you do not know, that is true knowledge.
The first step in getting valuable insight from your team is to tell them what the business needs to know. What’s driving the business decisions and what are those charged with leadership looking for.
There's none so blind as those who will not see.
The second order of business a CFO needs to attend to is to train their teams in identifying trends and finding insights into the business. If you don’t know what you’re supposed to be looking for you’ll never find it.
New brooms sweep clean.
Thirdly, rotate your staff functions. Its incredible how a new pair of eyes or hands can pick up on inefficiencies or provide insights into a role or function that you think is settled and working well. Your staff will thank you as well, imagine doing the same job day in and out. And you don’t become over reliant on one person.
Get off that high horse (refers to the size of your horse and not what it’s been smoking).
One of the best CFOs I ever worked with would come sit with the general finance staff at least once a day in the afternoon. He’d pull up a chair and we’d talk about the day’s tasks and what we were all up to. Sometimes we’d talk nonsense, other times we’d get serious. Or mention something or someone we were battling with. Nothing beats a little “in the trenches” intel. I also used to work for a boss that I used to see for all of two minutes a day, one minute in the morning and one in the afternoon when he went home. He was definitely not collecting insights.
The common thread here really is about communication. The better the business communicates what it values and how to find that which it values, the better you’ll be in getting everyone to provide you with the insights you need to run the business and solve every day problems in your organisation.