CFOs Hiring “People” People

A recent survey by Accountemps is indicative of a growing trend in finance. CFOs not only want people with people skills working for them, they themselves bring higher value when they bring relational skills sets to the table.

The Accountemps survey shows a dramatic increase in the value of interpersonal skills in the people they hire. When CFOs were asked what would tip the scales between two top candidates, 31% said interpersonal skills … up from 1% in 2004.

With CFOs, that skill set is also key. In conjunction with a proven track record in finance and today, operations, companies are increasingly hiring those finance leaders who are forward-thinking, good communicators, and have the ability to groom team members as well as their successor. Two of those three require solid people skills.

In fact, according to a recent K-Force article, being an award-winning CFO involves, “first and foremost, strong leadership skills … with the ability to tailor leadership styles to the situation at hand and set the right example for the finance team and the company as a whole.” You can say you’re a leader, but if you don’t have people following … because they want to not because they have to … you probably aren’t really leading.

And Tatum has pushed its CFOs to get training in “the softer skills,” including communications and negotiations. At the foundation of both are solid people skills.

In his blog, Beyond Beans, Chief Financial Officer Ben Paramore writes about the skills most valued in CFOs by  company directors. Beating out finance skills were integrity and the ability to communicate. Included in the list were team skills and positive relations with the financial community.

Bottom line … those accomplished CFOs with a strong digital footprint and solid network (so they can be found) and who possess stellar people skills will continue to be high-value targets by recruiters and companies.

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8 thoughts on “CFOs Hiring “People” People”

  1. Good post, Cindy. The need for people skills from CFOs really becomes amplified if they are considering a move to a public company where a large part of their responsibilities will become dealing with investors and Wall Street. As Ben also points out communication skills and integrity are also a must.
    Think about sitting down with a potential investor to pitch your company or to provide them an update on operations. Using your people skills you need to know when to listen and when to talk. Using your communication skills you need to be clear and concise with your message. Investors rarely give you more than 20-30 minutes. Finally, your integrity will build over time (i.e. what did you tell me last time vs. what you are telling me now). Honesty will build trust and integrity.

  2. Cindy, excellent post and nice to see that a time tested truth is becoming universally accepted. “People” people are vital to moving organizations forward in every functional role of the company. Great to be a skilled expert but at some point you must enroll people in the vision.

  3. Great post Cindy,
    I teach team skills in my business classes, and many students don’t understand the critical need to develop these skills, especially some of the accounting majors who perceive that accounting is something you do by yourself, which is so far from the truth. Teamwork incorporates many of the essential soft skills; including communication, forward-thinking, negotiation, honesty, integrity and leadership. I would like to see this incorporated into more curriculum to prepare students for the ever-changing world of business.
    Cynthia Spencer
    InstructorUniversity of Hawaii, Leeward CC

  4. Completely agreed. However, when i see the rubber hit the road i’ll really buy in. It seems that visionaries like all contributors to this artile hold similar points of view but when it comes down to it – Employers who are seeking help do not always seem to focus on People skills. Is it Possible the
    employers point of view is skewed by their marketing techniques or limited understanding of what they really need?

  5. With regard to your questions, Denise, my belief is that the CFO role is an evolution. SOX required a bean counter type of CFO, and many companies required the CPA designation as a result.
    Today, more and more companies want a finance executive who understands their business (operations), can sit at the table and guide vision (strategic), interact with the Board, investors, CEOs, (people/communication skills), and build consensus (leadership/people skills). I think companies will continue to value the softer skills as we move into the next few years.
    Just to be clear, I don’t think companies “focus” on people skills. It’s that people skills can be the deciding factor for a candidate who also brings all the other skill sets the company requires.


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