Money Matters

Six COVID lessons learned – being a better CFO back at the office

One-eyed woman discussing with an older woman

The global pandemic has been disruptive on many fronts and has forced all companies to function in a new remote reality. However, there have already been many hard lessons learned that CFOs at any company would do well to take back to the office to drive results in any business environment.

Based on conversations with hundreds of finance leaders and kept up with COVID-19 related survey results since early February, I offer six valuable COVID lessons learned:

Communication – More communication is always better. There are many tools to leverage to communicate and collaborate effectively beyond email that include: Zoom, Slack, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and within leading AP, AR, and Treasury Management Solutions.

Engagement – Companies and managers have been forced to get a bit creative in engaging their teams. Examples of interesting engagement tactics include virtual coffee hours, virtual yoga, karaoke, guess my office, guess my pet, guess my favorite band, virtual family feud, virtual gaming, and virtual happy hours. Companies would do well not to lose the increased commitment to being engaged with co-workers, direct reports, suppliers, customers, and service providers that have been critical in the remote reality.

Networking – Many finance professionals did not know how to deliver anything close to business as usual in a remote environment and turned to virtual networking via LinkedIn and even online communities to get peer-to-peer advice on succeeding in a new business reality. Finance leaders would do well to re-embrace the concept of an online community for Finance professionals.

Technology – Many companies have learned that a crisis can be the right time to invest in technology. Some companies had to invest in AP Automation to make payments and mitigate payments. Others focused on visibility into cash movements, improving cash forecasting, or facilitating more timely reporting and business agility for increasingly dynamic business conditions.

Experimentation/Innovation – Companies and leaders have had to experiment and innovate to keep themselves, their teams, and their business partners engaged and productive in new ways over the past 3-4 months. The courage to not fear failure and take chances to create a competitive advantage in any environment will serve any company moving forward.

Realignment – Finance leaders found the value in realigning on expectations with staff, co-workers, suppliers, customers, and technology providers. Aligning on expectations should be done more than once a year. Doing this monthly, if not more often, is a good practice to continue to keep any relationship on the right track.

I also wanted to share a few more tips for CFO success related to engagement courtesy of a conversation from a recent episode of the Finance Trends & Disruption podcast episodes, Finance Dimensions – Communication, Motivation, Transformation and Delivering Success as a Finance Leader in the Next Normal.

  • Today’s Finance leaders need to be trilingual to be effective. They need to understand the creative aspect of the company. So, what are the product or service that is being created and the creative mindset that goes into that? I think they need to understand the technical standpoint. So, for me coming mostly from technology, what does it really take? What is the moat around the technology, or what are the most important investments we are making to be competitive? And then third are all the business elements, which would be the finance aspect, the retaining and attracting the best talent.
  • Today’s CFOs are almost in an HR role, in some ways. One definition, is, a pragmatic futurist that nudges the organization along while also saying no a lot. You have got to be very people-oriented. You need to spend a lot of time talking, explaining, testing ideas, and sharing. A CFO should aspire to be a gatekeeper for ideas, resources, and capital and human resources, and you should want everyone to have your CFO, to get buy-in on whatever they’re investing in, whatever they want to cut in, whatever it might be. CFOs need to embrace the role of being the “Chief Trusted Advisor” at their companies.
  • Investing in knowing and nurturing your Finance team is a key factor of CFO success. Learn about your team, not only just technically what they have done, but what they are hoping to do in their career and understanding where they have been invested in up to this point. Many people try to balance having the company drive their career advancement, and it is important that employees and finance professionals own their own career advancement. So, understand where they are in understanding their professional journey and maybe what skills they are looking to round out and make it happen for them.

If you want to learn more about how to deliver results in any business environment check out the Finance Trends & Disruption Podcast.