Overly-Social CFOs?

It’s often challenging just to get a CFO to dip their big toe into social media (Linked In), so the article by Steve Tobak, “The Hazards of Being Too Social in the Age of Social Media” may not apply to many Chief Financial Officers. However, he does raise some excellent points and it might be worth a read.

Tobak’s focus is on C-suite executives who self-destruct on social media because their social media communications focus on their companies. That’s definitely a recipe for serious problems.

From a career perspective, though, might I suggest that your “branded visibility” be around your area of subject matter expertise, passions, and/or interests RATHER than about proprietary or sensitive corporate issues related to your current position?

For example, if you happen to be a subject matter expert in turning around companies and it is what you would like to do more of in the future, create your social media presence around that topic. Share your depth of knowledge; provide examples of past successes without violating confidentiality; or if you regularly speak on a specific topic, share your slides on your Linked In profile.

Or, if you happen to be passionate around a specific interest or hobby, particularly if the skills that are used in that interest or hobby are some of the same skills you use in and on the job, you could make that the central theme of your digital footprint. Two clients come immediately to mind. One is a competitive tennis player and another one is a serious bike racer. The discipline and teamwork that are required in both sports transcend just the sport.

You can be a social CFO … particularly if you are leveraging your authentic branded positioning to attract the right kinds of opportunities. Just be smart about it!

Branding Speaks to Culture Fit

My clients know that I believe authentic branding speaks directly to culture fit. And prospects who talk with me will hear me say …

When you’ve made it to the top 3 candidate list, your ability to do the job is a given. That means, there are only two remaining questions … are you a fit with their culture and do they like you. When you are well-branded, the culture fit question has also already been answered. Likability is the only remaining issue.

Recently, CFO World ran an article entitled “Why CEOs Prefer Old-Fashioned Networking When Hiring,” and Robert Zecca, former president and CEO of Content Data Solutions provides a great perspective …

“I have three criteria which I use in hiring: they must be able to perform the job, their goals must align with the company’s goals, and they must fit into our culture,” he says. “By utilizing our networks, we find that the latter two requirements align and my job becomes a little easier.”

So I have two questions …

Are you well-branded? While it is more work at the front-end of the career management process, it makes finding (and attracting) the right opportunities that are a great fit with your skill set, values, passions, and interests much easier.

Are you networked and visible? If you aren’t, you might be missing out on great opportunities. If you are well-networked and visible but you aren’t attracting the right opportunities, see the first question.

CFO Core Concerns Conference

Just a final reminder that I’ll be live blogging / tweeting from Chicago beginning next Sunday. You can follow conference highlights one of two ways:

  • If you tweet, follow the hash tag #CFOconf.
  • Follow my Facebook business page. This is a public page so you can read the posts even if you aren’t a Facebook account holder.

If you are attending the conference, please come up and introduce yourself! If you are attending, I’ll be hosting a roundtable on Tuesday morning at the conference on Best Career Practices for Securing World-Class Positioning.

— Are recruiters calling you about new opportunities … regularly and consistently?

— When one of your contacts mentions your name, does what you are known for (your brand) simultaneously come to mind?

— Are you a subject matter expert within your industry space?

High-profile passive candidates remain the most desirable prospects! We’ll talk about the key strategies necessary for you to obtain World Class positioning as that coveted, well-branded passive candidate.

See you on the 12th!

Are you Linked In?

Tony LoPinto of Korn Ferry believes “smart professionals are well-advised to get on the [Linked In] bandwagon.” I totally agree, of course.

Linked In isn’t about job search, it’s about networking. And networking is a key piece of savvy career management to ensure you don’t end up unemployed and in a protracted hunt for your next position. It’s not enough to just be a placeholder on Linked In. Your profile has to be complete, interesting, differentiated, value-oriented, findable, and well-branded!

What passed for your daddy’s boring, paper, corporate-speak bio is your savvy, first-person, always up-to-date profile on Linked In. It is accessible to those who are interested in you, your company, and its executive management team … whether or not they personally requested information or even knew about you before they found you on Linked In.

Here’s the bottom line.

Linked In is also the place recruiters go to connect with and seek out top-notch, passive Senior Finance Executive and CFO candidates. If you aren’t there, you won’t be found.

Go on the offensive today and suggest that your entire executive team move into the 21st Century and the Web 2.0 world. That way, you’ll show up long before you even begin thinking about making your next move!

Boring paper corporate bios = dinosaur.
Linked In profiles = networked, connected, and tech savvy.

Effective Communication for CFOs

There were great take-aways from Scott Eblin’s recent blog post “How to Get the CEO to Listen to You.” Great take-aways for CFOs in communicating generally, but specifically in marketing Product You.

Eblin’s list and comments are in bold and italics. My comments follow his.

They knew what they wanted to say: They had thought about what they wanted to say before they got to the meeting.

Being crystal-clear about your marketable value proposition (MVP) is critically important. If a recruiter called you this afternoon, would your responses be clear and compelling?

They made it about the company and not about them: The people who made the biggest impact with their comments stayed about as far away from whining as you could get. They framed their comments in terms of what was best for the future of the company.  There was no “poor, pitiful me” tone to their remarks.

WIIFM … what’s in it for me is the ONLY question a company wants answered. How can you take away our problems, challenges, situations, and issues … and oh by the way, save us money doing it?

They had a clear point of view: The people the CEO listened to the most had an informed and clearly held point of view. They weren’t wishy-washy in the way they teed things up.

Authentic branding. Playing from your strengths, passions, and values. Subject matter expert. Either you stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.

They backed up their point of view with facts and stories about the impact of the problem: The most effective communicators shared facts and told real world stories that illustrated how the problem played out in real life and how that was hampering growth. They used examples that everyone could easily understand and relate to.

C-A-R stories. What was the Challenge? What Action was taken? What was the measurable Result? Solid C-A-R stories ensure you can provide compelling answers to any interview question.

They offered solutions that were easy to implement and likely to make a difference: When we got to the offer solutions part of the meeting, the people who had the biggest impact were the ones that offered solutions that were simple and clear. A good gauge of that was that they could easily get the core idea onto a Post It note.

The last sentence is critical. Can you convey your value in approximately 140 characters, roughly 15-20 words?

Finance Executives, Branded Visibility, and their Career

Two weeks ago in my Online ID re-cert class, I heard this astonishing statement … talented high school kids were not getting accepted into their college of choice because of the lack of a branded online ID.

One very smart FENG member recently connected the dots …

“I heard the NPR report on college admitting committees and wondered if there was applicability to us. They are receiving historically high numbers of perfectly qualified candidates, between whom it is hard to distinguish. According to the report, they make the biggest distinctions among them based on 1) distinctive or unusual backgrounds 2) passion for subject areas, business or personal, both covered or not covered in the program, just intellectual passion in general.”

If I might answer the opening statement. Yes! This is precisely about branded visibility. If you can’t stand out from the competition, then you will be lost among them. And if you look like every other Chief Financial Officer or Finance Executive, how will the company distinguish that you are the best qualified for the position?

Branded visibility. CFOs need it. And their high schoolers need it. Branding is no longer an option. To stand out from the competition, it’s now a necessity.

And it is branded visibility. you can be totally on-brand but if no one knows about you, will it matter?

If you want to learn how to use branded visibility to advance your finance career, join us for the CFO.com webinar on April 12 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Social Media Contrarian

I love being a contrarian. Some might see my contrarian positions as more akin to ignorant, stubborn, or even laughable … but the rebel in me to do things differently, stand out from the crowd, or trail blaze just won’t be quelled.

At times I’m quite skeptical of the career advice put out by Harvard Review. I hold a -contrarian- view about some of the advice targeted to the corporate world issued by those immersed in academia. But occasionally, they surprise me. The post by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, “Five Tips for Smarter Social Networking” was one of those surprises!

What I love about branding is that it frees a person to be who they really are. No masks, no facade, no pretending and yes, you can even choose to be contrarian. Rather than being a “yes man” who blends in with the majority – whether that is reflective of your view or not – branding allows you to take a bold, principled stand based on your values, passions, and beliefs. And you can choose to broadcast that branded positioning via social media. Will you offend some people? Of course you will. Will you attract like-minded people and companies? Absolutely. Can that be scary? No question!

Two quick stories. No surprise to those who know me that I love politics … and I am not shy about stating my views. The result of taking a bold, vocal stand is that many of the clients I attract share my values and positions. Can I work with people who don’t share those views? Of course. But do I attract my ideal clients? Almost always!

One of my CFO clients from a few years ago came back to me, deciding to do branding work this time in anticipation of using his very strong, personal brand to secure his next opportunity. Part of his communication plan includes social media. What’s utterly delightful for him is that since embracing and living his brand, his interviews are with companies that are a perfect fit for who he is. He hasn’t accepted a new opportunity yet … he is employed and has the luxury of choosing the “right” next move, not “just” the next move. But his strong, branded digital footprint will no doubt deliver that … and relatively soon.

Chief Financial Officer of …. ?

One of the members of FENG (Financial Executives Networking Group) asked a great question in last night’s newsletter around what to put on a business card when you’re unemployed. I think it’s a question that is bigger than just a business card.

We live in a society where we are defined by what we do (job title), so when we don’t have that title it can sometimes also cause us to lose our identity. Your job title might be CFO, but that is your [temporary] job title. When you lose that title, you are still a talented finance executive with a record of accomplishments and potential value to a target audience.

Still, what should you put on your business card? It’s one of the many reasons I love branding. Once you understand your brand, you can pull together a power statement that encapsulates your “value” to a prospective company, irrespective of the lack of a title, ahem, being unemployed.

That brand power statement can follow you wherever you go, from one company to another. The words might change slightly over the course of your career, but the essence of who you are remains the same and forms the foundation of your digital footprint and reputation. It shows up on your business card, under your name on your Linked In profile, and in your email signature line.

That said, the more obvious things to include on your business card – and in your email signature line – are your name, phone number, email address, and Linked In profile URL.

You ARE more than just your job title!

Could Your Career Survive Being Juan-Williamsed?

Who hasn’t seen or heard about the very public and very ugly firing of NPR’s news analyst Juan Williams over “controversial” remarks he made on a competitor’s show? Williams will be fine. In fact, this might be a far bigger boost to his career than he could ever have imagined.

But what would happen to your career if such a public and contentious firing occurred? And today, the Internet insures that if there is even the slightest bit of controversy, it would be public! Politics aside, here are a couple of things I think worked to Williams’ favor …

Integrity

What an interesting word. What we do when no one is watching. Can we have integrity when the situation warrants and then leave it behind when facing a tough decision?

In the latest SmartBrief for CFOs poll, readers were queried on what they would do if they were asked by the CEO or board to do something illegal or bordering on it. Almost 5% were unsure and almost 30% said it would depend.

I believe Williams exercised integrity on the job and after he was fired. In fact, I believe integrity was part of what allowed him to get pushed right out of the NPR door and into a $2 million contract with Fox News.

If integrity is a high value of yours, you won’t violate it because you know the emotional and mental consequences that will follow. If it isn’t, you might. Regardless of whether it is a high value or not for you personally, if you do violate integrity professionally, it might end your career.

Reputation

Williams’ reputation was (and remains) very visible to both his targeted and un-targeted audiences. Sure you say, he’s on TV. Yes, and the fact that you, Mr. Chief Financial Officer, are not … shouldn’t be the excuse to be invisible to the companies where you would love to work and who could use your skills and talent.

Could you move from fired, to unemployed, to employed within a day? What about a few weeks? A couple of months? Or today, would it take years? To make a transition as short and as smooth as possible, your network – and target audience – need to know who you are and how accomplished you are.

Branding

Do you stand for something or do you stand for nothing? No one has to guess about Juan Williams’ brand. If each of you submitted three words to me that best describe him, I’m sure many of us would choose the same or very similar words.

What about you, though? If you asked 30 people to provide three words that best describe you, would you find consistency among the responses or, would those responses be all over the map? Your brand has little to do with who you believe you are unless it aligns with the perception of everyone else.

Whether you agree with Juan’s politics or not, the man has integrity; maintained a high-profile reputation; and was, and continues to be, well-branded. These three things contributed to him moving from fired, to unemployed, to employed within the space of a breath. What are you doing to insure your career could survive being “juan-williamsed”?

If you’ve never assessed your values and would like to, email me and I’ll send you a brief worksheet. If you’d like to discuss “integrity” or anything else CFO Careers-related, please consider joining our private Linked In group.

Professional Brand Equity

A few days ago I spoke with an unemployed CFO who was struggling to decide whether he wanted to go back into consulting or the corporate world. He offered a perspective that I think many executives, not just senior finance executives, share …

I have to make a career decision go back into corporate life that may or may not have loyalty –or- go build my own equity and control my destiny.

The two are not mutually exclusive, but it probably feels that way because most people in the corporate world only think about their career when they are facing or enduring unemployment. When you own your business or consulting practice, you are forced to think … every single day … about packaging, positioning, target audience, and reputation. In reality, “every” executive should be thinking about their career in the same way, every day.

This CFO is right in his statement that a company “may or may not have loyalty,” but why give the company (employer) that power? You, as an accomplished professional, could have take back control by ensuring that you have a strong brand, that it is visible to your target audience, that you are networking consistently to build relationships (including recruiter relationships) long before you need them.

Whether you are self-employed or a corporate player, “you” are the only one who is vested in your career. Build your brand equity as a high-value player and then take total control of your destiny. Cliff Hakim wrote a book entitled “We Are All Self-Employed,” … and he’s right. Many corporate executives just haven’t realized that point.