CFOs in the Board Room

In case you missed it, published an article summarizing panel comments on who should be in the Board Room. Yes, the consensus by retired-CFOs is that Chief Financial Officers must be a part of the conversation.

If you’re interested, I have a few thoughts from, of course, a career perspective …

— CFOs make GREAT additions to Boards and if you are interested in those positions, Board membership can certainly enhance your resume and differentiate you from the competition. 

— The panel was mixed on how Board positions are filled, but the top 2 ways are networking and recruiters. 

Regardless of whether you are seeking a Board position or not, networking and building relationships with recruiters are a key part of proactively managing a career. Networking only when you “need” to networking is self-serving and often unproductive.

And remember the new definition of networking … who knows about you! Who you know is important. Who knows about you is even more important! Raise your visibility internally and externally.

— Move away from finance speak. This not only applies to the Board room but to interviewing. It’s not the technicals that win the job … it’s the fact that you are a strategic problem solver and can clearly articulate your value proposition. What are you selling that a company is willing to pay to get.

— Collaboration, communication, and confidence. Whether you are part of Board conversations through your CFO role, serving as a Board member, or merely positioning yourself for that next career move … these three soft skills are a critical part of your arsenal. 

Your finance acumen will only take you so far. Then leadership, vision, strategy all come into play. If no one is following, you’re not leading. Leaders are great communicators who inspire confidence and foster a collaborative environment.

The Secret Weapon for CFOs is the Intangible

One of the discussions by the recruiter panel at the CFO Rising conference was around the intangibles of being a Chief Financial Officer. Intangibles … as in presence. It won’t matter how great your finance acumen, skill sets, and deliverables are if you can’t, or don’t, communicate it compellingly. You won’t be able to sell it. If you don’t believe your greatness, no one else will buy it either. 

In addition to the solid finance skill set, operational contributions, and perhaps even the CPA and MBA designations, strategic CFOs who desire a seat at the executive table must bring personal presence, charisma, and the ability to inspire confidence. This is NOT an extrovert / introvert issue. It IS about having confidence combined with stellar communication skills. 

If you’ve been the catalyst that has led transformative initiatives, how are you talking about the problems you solved along the way?

If you’ve been a game changer that has led to growth, what’s the behind-the-scenes story that looks at the challenges and issues you waded through to deliver the growth?

If candidates can’t articulate these compelling stories with confidence, the stories will fall flat. 

Digging deep to uncover a compelling value proposition is hard work. However, as in most things, the hard work inspires confidence and confidence leads to self-belief. When you believe in yourself and your ability to do great things based on a solid record of contribution, you can sell it and companies will buy it. 

CFOs typically call me for the tangible … a resume. What they get is the intangible … a clear, compelling, and authentic value proposition that they can say, believe, and sell.