Are We Losing the Ability to Right Write?

Yes, I did that intentionally, and it was incredibly painful to do so. But the question remains … are we? Which begs another question … does it matter?

Many years ago, a 5th grade English teacher told me that she instructed her class to write an essay. Half the class turned in a “text” version (u r c-ing an xample rite here). She also told me that outside of spelling class, incorrectly spelled words did not matter. I remember being completely shocked at the time, but I am even more shocked as I see what passes for “English” on social media.

I can almost – almost – look the other way on Facebook. Almost. As someone who makes a living writing, it is very challenging. However, seeing the complete inability to use proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure on Linkedin, a professional network and the digital home for many executives, is distressing and worrisome.

A week or so ago, I saw a comment by a CEO of a small company. Perhaps this person was educated in a school where text talk in essay writing was okay and spelling did not matter. I took a snapshot of the comment, but cannot bear to post the graphic. Suffice it to say, there was no punctuation, not even periods to end sentences, and therefore, no initial caps to begin new sentences. It was 8 lines of text containing, I think, 5 sentences – but I cannot be sure. This from a person with a title of Chief Executive Officer.

Now, the CFOs with whom I deal are typically 45+ and, like me for the most part, hold the belief that the English rules of punctuation, grammar, and spelling apply, even if we don’t always get the latter correct. And I believe that those in positions to hire C-suite executives care, at least for now, about their executive team’s ability to write coherently, logically, and legibly.

I would caution people that everything on social media that is posted by you can be found by others, and that your digital footprint has the ability to make or break your candidacy for certain positions. If you cannot, or chose not to, write a legible post or comment on Linkedin, why ever might one believe you could or would be able to do so in a senior leadership role where communication skills are so vitally important?

So I am curious what you think … does it matter in this day and age whether or not we can write right?

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017


Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at



Are You a CFO with the Goal of Being CEO?

I have thought for years that the Chief Financial Officer was a natural fit to step into the role of Chief Executive Officer, even before the expansion of the Finance Chief’s responsibilities. And while I still believe the facts support my perspective, the statistics of those finance leaders “actually” stepping into the top position at a company are quite low.

However, for those CFOs who have the CEO seat in their sights, Crist Kolder’s president says

“For about 80% of the CFO searches we’re doing, our clients are specifying that they want someone who can be a CEO successor someday.”

Regardless of whether your goal is your first CFO role, a new CFO position with more responsibility, a CFO position that leads to a CEO role, or our first Chief Executive Officer role, there are 3 things that are critically important to positioning yourself for any of those roles.

A cohesive message of being a leader who solves problems

Whether you are positioning yourself for an internal or external move, your ability to solve problems and deliver impacts matters … greatly. There are limited CFO and CEO opportunities in the marketplace. Separate yourself from the competition, who largely focus on duties and responsibilities, by concentrating on the challenge you faced, the potential risk or consequence of doing nothing, and the action(s) you took to resolve the issue and position the company to achieve its objective.

I have heard Finance Chiefs say … “if I can only get in front of someone, I can close the deal.” That’s great. But you need the opportunity to get in front of a decision maker. Your value message must be cohesive and flow throughout every written marketing document, including a Linkedin profile, as well as verbal messaging.

There is also a mistaken belief by internal candidates that they do not need to work as hard as external candidates. That is a flawed perspective. If anything, the internal candidate needs to be even more visible and vocal about his or her contributions. You might think the people who need to know do know, but your job is to make sure they know rather than assume they know.

Proven and recognizable soft skills

I talked about this in my previous blog post – In Demand CFOs – but it is worth repeating. You did not get to be a Chief Financial Officer because you do not have finance skills. But it might very well be the case that you miss out on a really great opportunity without proven soft skills.

A cone of influence

The truth is you need to know people who know people. Job boards are seductive, and ineffective. Recruiters want the perfect-fitting candidate and they don’t have a monopoly on the market. Your network is the best source of leads and referrals to those great opportunities you are seeking.

When you are looking for that first position – whether it is as a CFO or CEO – someone who knows you and can vouch for your ability to do the job just might be the influential lynchpin that gets you in the door.

A strong network cannot be understated for any executive candidate.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017


Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at



CFOs and Their Career Moves

Two interesting articles came out this week. I’ve pulled a relevant excerpt from each and added my commentary following each quote.

The first article is from“Job Hunting CFOs by the Numbers.”

Turnover among large-company CFOs is outpacing the rate of CEO churn in 2011, for the 17th consecutive year, according to the annual “Volatility Report” by executive recruiting firm Crist|Kolder.

What is missing from the numbers is whether the turnover is voluntary or involuntary.

When the CFO is driving the move, on his terms and timing, to the opportunity he both wants and which is a perfect fit … GREAT! Far-from-great, though, when the move is involuntary and the CFO is caught unprepared, and maybe even off-guard. A move today can take a CFO 9-to-12-to-18 months. Passive positioning is powerful, but you give up that power if you aren’t always ready, willing, prepared, and well-positioned to move on a potential opportunity.

The second article is from FINS, “Companies Promoting CFOs from Within.” While most of the article is focused on the trend of plucking a CFO from within the ranks of the company rather than going externally, I thought this was a telling statement at the end of the article:

Companies want to promote individuals who possess the technical skills of the CFOs but also have the operational skills of a CEO. Hanson’s firm has been hired to fill three or four Fortune 500 CFO spots with individuals who are capable of assuming the CEO role within the next 24 months.

Is the CEO slot your goal? If so, are you poised and visible as a candidate who could assume the CEO role? Technical skills are great, but they will confine you to finance. Proven operational skills (how you used them to deliver bottom-line and strategic impact) as part of the executive management team are critical to showcasing your broader leadership ability.

If you are a CFO and you haven’t yet joined the CFO Careers Group, a private, invitation-only group on Linked In exclusively for CFOs, please send a request to join. We would love to have you.

The New CFO

A January 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal focused on the expanded role of Finance Chiefs. I don’t think anyone finds this surprising … CFOs have been expanding beyond finance for several years.

Most of the roles they listed are pretty common: IT, HR, Strategy / Business Development, Ops, Risk, Procurement, Supply Chain. No big surprise. What was interesting from my perspective was Customer Service (37%) and Marketing / Sales (33%) …. probably two areas that are the greatest stretch for Finance Leaders.

Typically, finance chiefs spent the bulk of their time on accounting, investor relations, financial planning and analysis. Now a different skill set is in demand, says Jeremy Hanson, a partner at recruiter Heidrick & Struggles International Inc. “There’s a distinct need today for strategic CFOs because of the uncertainty of the economy,” he says. Increasingly, Mr. Hanson conducts searches for chief financial officers who have run business units and had broader roles outside of finance. [emphasis added]

Will the ever-widening scope of responsibilities falling under the CFO make it the likely path for future CEOs? What do you think?

CFOs Movin’ on Up to CEOS

My good friend and colleague, Deb Deb, forwarded me the recent Business Week link that talked about CEO churn being at a 3-year high. What does that have to do with you as a Chief Financial Officer?

As early as April 2009 I thought that the CFO-to-CEO track would become a more typical pattern.

CFOs as CEOs
CFOs as CEOs, the Update
Will 2010 Begin the Decade of the CFO?

It’s not “just” that CEO churn is up, it’s who companies are looking for to step into those CEO slots. Here’s the excerpt with my emphasis added …

“After three years of declining turnover among CEOs, churn at the top is back. As the economy improves, the rate of corner-office shakeups has picked up as more boards replace veteran CEOs with younger leaders with very different résumés.”

“Younger leaders with very different résumés” doesn’t necessarily translate to CFOs, but, it can. And it could. And it might. A recent report said that 25% of start-up CFOs make the move to CEO. That’s a pretty high statistic … and I can see that same pattern migrating beyond just start-up companies.

But generally, it’s not an easy path. If you have the lead dog as your long-term goal, then here’s what I believe it will take. You MUST

— hold a seat at the table and be intimately involved in setting and guiding vision;

— be known as a trusted advisor to the CEO, Board, investors, and shareholders;

— bring a solid track record of quantifiable operational experience … a pure finance background won’t get you to the CEO slot;

— possess stellar communication and leadership skills. That necessitates being a people-person, not just a numbers-person.

If your goal is the Chief Executive Officer seat, 2011-2012 might just prove to be the right time to position yourself to make the move.

P.S. I wrote this on the plane on the way to the CFO RoundTable in Boston on Tuesday. What was very interesting to me was the CEO on the panel affirming the second item on my list … being a trusted advisor. It’s a critically important part of the equation!

CFO Contingency Plan

Or, Redundancy-Proofing. Or, Career Survival Plan. Whatever the name, the result is the same … ensuring that in these tough, very competitive times you don’t find yourself on the street before you start looking for your next position.

As the lead Finance Executive, you would never run your company on the haphazard basis most people, not just Chief Financial Officers, run their careers. With your company, you have systems and measurements in place, a 3-to-5-year plan, and shorter goals you work towards on a daily or weekly basis.

It’s like steering the Titanic. Slow and steady makes the turn. But if you’re inches from the iceberg (unemployment), it is impossible to do the things you need to do in order to avert disaster.

There is little corporate loyalty today. As the CFO or Senior Finance Executive, the bottom line on the P&L statement stops with you. The moment the Board is unhappy, the CEO starts leaning harder, credit / cash issues continue, or the diminished staff is less and less productive and more and more whiney, the bottom line is impacted and it is your neck that has the potential to move closer and closer to the chopping block.

–Do you have any contingency plan in place in the event you do lose your job?

–Have you reached out to anyone in your network in the last year?

–Will your personal marketing documents be ready should someone ask for them?

–Are you visible to your target audience?

–Have you even identified your target audience?

–Do you know and can you articulate your value proposition?

Several months ago I was engaged by a client who worked himself out of his last position. He told me when we started that his goal was to be employed in 2 months, but until his call to me he had done nothing else. He is in a tough industry and now wore the stigma of “unemployment.” Before we could work together, I was forced to disabuse him of that unrealistic expectation. That false expectation served no good purpose for either of us. It’s been 5 months and he has had no less than 6 potential opportunities for at least 4 of those months. However, while no one will tell him definitively “no,” each one of them is continuing to string him along while taking their sweet time getting to “yes.”

The corporate decision to hire is agonizingly slow for many candidates. And that agony is exacerbated if there was no contingency plan in place and the job loss was unexpected. Desperation forces candidates to make choices and decisions they would not otherwise make if they were executing a solid contingency plan. Remember, “he who fails to plan, plans to fail.”

I Never Heard Back

I’m hearing this from some of my CFOs …

–A recruiter called me, said he had a great opportunity for me, asked for my resume, and I never heard back from him.

–I had an interview 3 weeks ago and was told I’d hear back in two weeks, but, I haven’t heard back from anyone.

–After lunch with a CEO, and a great prospect, he indicated he would talk with the senior leadership team and get back to me by the end of the week, but I never heard back. 

So I’m wondering …. Have we lost all professionalism and courtesy in this country? Does anyone who says they will follow up within a specific time frame actually follow up anymore? Does our me-centric world revolve around us to such a degree that we can no longer exercise any form of etiquette to others? 

While we certainly cannot control the behavior of others, we can control what we do. 

— Say what you mean and mean what you say. If YOU utter the words … I’ll follow up with you within XXXX days or weeks … do it. Even if it is only an update to say no progress has been made, do it. Treat others with the same courtesy you expect. Your reputation is at stake here and apparently, it will take very little to differentiate yourself from others … simply be courteous.

— If you’re a recruiter and you’ve given a Chief Financial Officer the cold shoulder, letting him hang after you’ve thrown him a bone … he won’t forget. They tell me they won’t forget. So don’t be surprised to find yourself snubbed when he’s landed and sitting inside the nice corner office refusing to take your phone calls.

The Rise of Personal Branding

Personal branding is not a fad. It’s trending north. You can get in the game, or not. You certainly have that choice. However, you would be wise to choose carefully!

A couple of Fast Company expert bloggers summed it up quite nicely in the article “Brand or Die: The Downfall of the Institution and the Rise of the Personal Brand.” The entire article is worth the read, but here are some key points along with my commentary.

–You can become an “internal evangelist” and a thought leader for your industry – all while working for someone else. This buzz about you in turn raises your profile and credibility, which then gives rise to the notion that no longer will you be an employee with limited options.

If no one knows your brilliant, does it matter? CFOs, finance executives, and other finance rising stars tend to put nose to the grindstone and do their work rather than creating buzz about their contributions and the short and long-term impacts to the company. If you don’t talk about it, it’s likely no one else will either. And if no one is talking about how brilliant you are, you aren’t in the driver’s seat of your career.

–This label [Independent Executive] applies to someone who takes their knowledge from previous employment and sets out to create their own destiny, lifestyle, and income on their own terms. This philosophy takes personal branding to the next level, because it is not just important for the professional or the entrepreneur, but it is now very important for employees who are happy to work in someone else’s environment but who want to be recognized, both financially and emotionally, for their very real contributions.

Research shows that executives who are socially well-connected typically make more money, are less likely to lose their jobs for poor performance, and transition quicker if they do lose their jobs. (Source: “33 Million People in the Room”). 

With a strong personal brand, CFOs can take control of their careers and foster powerful positioning with the choice of where to move and when, along with getting desired compensation.

–In the past, an unhappy employee had limited choices …. Now, in the new “Branded Economy”, you are all allowed to play the role you want in building your brand and building your value. If you don’t take control, you will risk becoming irrelevant and relegated to the position of a cog in someone else’s wheel.

“You risk becoming irrelevant and relegated to the position of a cog in someone else’s wheel” … that’s a pretty powerful statement! 

Are you a strategic Chief Financial Officer who has earned a seat at the table in your own right with a team that is following you because they share your vision and they want to? Or, are you the CEO’s right-hand man with a dysfunctional and unproductive finance team who work for a paycheck? Are you in the driver’s seat of your career or the passenger’s seat of an freewheeling taxi driver (no offense intended)?

–You have the choice to BRAND OR DIE. 

Die might be a little dramatic … however, extinction is an absolute possibility! 

How Do You Want to be Known?

A good article on defining your leadership brand was recently published in Harvard Business Review. The five steps offered are truly anything but easy. But, isn’t that the case with most things that are worth doing?

One key step that I think is missing in this article is generating objective, confidential 360-degree feedback from people who know you … not just internally, but externally. Colleagues, bosses, board members, clients/customers, third party vendors, friends, and yes, even family. 

Your brand (and yes, you have one even if you don’t think you do or even if you haven’t been intentional about fostering it) is how others perceive you. Are you viewed as a visionary and strategic CFO or as the CEO’s right-hand man? Does the perception of others  who interact with you on a regular basis align with your own perception? If not, it is then that the question becomes, how you want to be known? And, based on how you are wired along with your strengths, passions, and values, what do you need to get there?

Can you generate honest feedback simply by asking people face-to-face? I don’t think so. But without that valuable input, how can you know what your next step(s) should be? 

Soliciting external feedback is, in my opinion, critical because of the authenticity factor. Unless you understand how people outside of your professional life view you and how that aligns with the internal perspective, it’s difficult to assess how truly authentic your brand is. Living out your authentic leadership/executive/personal brand is easy … it’s who you are. Living behind a carefully manufactured professional facade becomes much more of a challenge, particularly in today’s Google-able world.

Online Reputation Management

One hundred percent (100%) of Chief Financial Officers 

and Senior Finance Executives have an online reputation to manage 

Not everyone loves statistics, but I do. There is something about having a factual basis for acting that resonates with my brain and propels me forward. So of course, as my Online ID re-certification course began, the stats had me saying WOW! My clients definitely need to know – from a facts and figures perspective – how critically important it is to manage your online reputation. Because whether or not you are proactively managing it, you do have one … even if that reputation is MIA.

Here are some of the stats that jumped out at me …

— … an executive can increase the amount of his or her compensation by increasing one statistic; the number of CEOs and decision-makers in a sector that are aware of the executive’s accomplishments. Howard Nestler, CEO of Executive Options

— 79% of US hiring managers and recruiters reviewed online information about job applicants. 70% rejected candidates based on what they found, with poor communication skills, lying, and sharing confidential company information among the reasons cited for rejection.

— Conversely, 18% of companies found social networking profiles as a positive influence because they offered a good feel for culture fit and added credibility to the candidates’ resumes / interview. I believe this number is only going to continue to grow.

— 76% of executives expect to be Googled yet 22% have never Googled their own name to see what companies and recruiters will find. 

— While there are no measurements on the influence of a CFO’s reputation, 87% of respondents to a Hill & Knowlton survey believe the CEO’s reputation is key to the company. I would venture to say the CFO’s reputation is equal or greater to that of the CEO, particularly during tough times.

— According to a Career Builder study last year, the top industries most likely to screen job candidates using social networking sites and search engines include those who handle sensitive information. 

Bottom Line: If you want to be among the hunted, you have to be able to be found.

(Sources: Reach Online ID Certification 2010, Microsoft 2009, Career Builder 2009, Execunet 2007)