Kind or Nice

One of the members of the Linkedin CFO Careers group posted an article by Harvard Business Review on always being kind, but not always being nice to your employees. What good insights! And sometimes, it is very difficult to choose to be kind when what you really want is to not be nice. What an exceptional leader you are, though, when you choose to respond with kindness in the most vexing and stressful situations.

Reading the article made me think of the wonderful Seth Godin book, “Tribes.” Having people follow (work for) you because you’re the means to the paycheck is far different than people following you because you are a great leader and they want to be close in order to learn, to grow, and to emulate.

Ultimately, it’s not a choice between kindness and greatness. It’s a choice between creating or forgoing context. You have to create and maintain a context in which people are expected to rise and want to rise to be their absolute best—where you have people’s express permission to push them beyond their comfort zones.

There has never been a better, or more challenging, time to be the Finance Leader of an organization. Having cohesive, motivated teams that want to exceed corporate objectives makes the job much easier than having to push and coax a lazy, unmotivated group of people who have to perform to the minimum degree necessary in order to collect a paycheck.

Do people follow you? If so, why? It’s definitely food for thought for all Chief Financial Officers and those who desire to step into that role in the future. It is one of those soft skills – leading vs. managing – that can truly differentiate you from the competition.

CFO Turnover is on the Rise

It seems as though the days, months, and yes, years, of CFOs hunkering down and waiting out the storm are over. This is true for CFOs individually, as well as companies and Boards who were nervous about replacing a finance leader during such tough economic times.

The recruiters I’ve talked with have all seen significant upticks in their CFO assignments. My clients have been telling me they are getting more, and better quality, inquiries from recruiters. And, recruiters are calling me looking for potential candidates.

A recent post from points to a study from Liberum Research, which cites the increase in new hires at publicly-traded companies.

During the recession, boards were reluctant to make changes, he says. “Unless there was the need for a really major strategic change, they stuck with the captains they had in place as a general rule,” Jacovitz says. “That trend is beginning to change. There’s pent-up demand, executives who may be unhappy where they are and hoping to go somewhere else, and a recognition by boards that they can make changes.”

If you’ve been biding your time and riding out the stagnant economy, opportunities are available. That said, a few things have NOT changed …

— The Senior Finance Executive positions you want are not going to be found on the job boards;

— The most sought-after candidates are passive … employed and open to hearing about potential opportunities;

— The best time to be networking is long before you need a job; and

— The definition of networking is not who you know, but who knows about you!

If you are attending’s Core Concerns conference in Chicago in June, please email me. I’ll be live tweeting and blogging from the event and I’d love the opportunity to meet some of my readers face-to-face!

How Fast Do You Fail?

It’s a serious question. Do you fail quickly, recognize what you might be doing wrong, and then move on? Or, do you keep doing the same thing even when your results are not what you want, hoping today will be the day that delivers a different outcome?

I was reading the latest CFO magazine and this headline jumped out at me …

“We fail fast, learn, and move on!”

It was particularly compelling because I had just finished reading my “Ask the Headhunter” newsletter (which if you don’t get, you’re missing great information) in which Nick talked about the importance of initiative in a job search. 

Here are my thoughts on the differences …

With initiative and a fast fail mindset.

These CFOs recognize that they have the most power while they are passive candidates. They are happily employed, not looking, AND on the radar screen of recruiters who are looking for high-value targets. They understand their unique value and can clearly articulate their message. 

They are proactively managing their careers, often collaborating with a career expert and/or mentor to fill in the gaps around what they don’t know in order to keep the momentum moving forward and pivot quickly when necessary, thereby avoiding an all out “face slam to sidewalk” failure.

If these finance leaders are in the midst of an active job search, they have done the hard work to clarify a differentiated, clear, and compelling message; they are networking online and offline; and they are targeting companies and people, not posted positions.

With a false sense of initiative and a slower learning mindset.

These CFOs are often active job seekers who were lulled into a false sense of security in their previous position. They felt safe and secure. Sadly, job security today is an illusion. These finance leaders may have even worked themselves out of a job, in which case they were so busy wrapping up details they shelved their careers thinking, often incorrectly, they would get their next job quickly.

After a few weeks, feelings of discouragement, anxiety, and rejection begin setting in, and then procrastination happens. Which often leads to one of two things. This job seeker gets sucked into the job posting vortex – or – convenient excuses are constantly in the way of actually conducting an effective job search. Both serve to protect the relentless assault on one’s ego from hearing nothing or being rejected.

The lack of a fast-fail-and-learn mindset means he will keep on doing what he’s been doing hoping for a different outcome. It “can” happen; it just doesn’t “often” happen … or happen quickly.

What will you do today? Fail fast, learn, and move forward; or fail slowly, learn nothing, and then repeat?

Out with the Old, In with the New … Maybe

December 31, 2009. The end of a decade. The last two years alone may have seemed like a decade to many who find themselves among the unemployed.

Tomorrow heralds a new decade and the opportunity to do something new and different. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s this … 

–corporate loyalty is gone;

–you are only as valuable as your latest contribution;

–networking is no longer about who you know but about who knows you; and

–if the Board isn’t happy, the CFO’s neck is on the chopping block.

The beginning of the decade arrived as a seller’s market. If you were walking, talking, and breathing, you were a candidate for almost any position. Companies were that desperate. Seems like just a distant, vague memory doesn’t it?

The end of the decade paints a much different story. Today, companies take their time hiring … willing to wait for the right and best hire, not just any hire. The market is flooded and competition is stiff. Responsibilities are out, value rules. Culture fit is key. Personal branding facilitates a company’s ability to hire the finance leader with the greatest chance of fitting within its corporate environment.

Many finance executives have either been caught completely by surprise or knowingly took a severance package along with some time off to rejuvenate … only to jump back in and hit a big wall of reality. Finding that next position just wasn’t going to be so easy. And despite the wealth of unemployed talent, recruiters and companies still covet the “passive candidate.” 

Gone, probably forever, are the days of yore. Reality says you can either drive your career or you can be driven. Respond or react. Be hunted or be forced to hunt. Seth Godin’s blog post today posed this question …  “Seven years from now, what will you have to show for what you are doing right now?” I’d like to pose my own question from a career management perspective … 

Where do want to be 3-5 years and what do you need to be doing in your career today in order to ensure you get there?

Failing to plan is, by omission, planning to fail.  

Happy New Year … may 2010 be filled with much joy, hope, happiness, and health! 

FBSoP is NOT a Good Career Strategy

A gentleman who requested my article, “5 Easy Ways to Beef Up Your Linked In Profile,” wrote to let me know that he appreciated the recommendations in the article. 

But …

He also went on to say that although he knew he should be spending time completing his Linked In profile and cultivating his digital footprint, he was a busy man with a family and already struggling to balance his time. For now, for today, it is just not the most important thing in his life.

Isn’t that true for most of us? So much to do, so little time. I think it’s especially true when we hold a high value of family. And since that is one of my values, I understand and respect the desire to make time with family a priority.

That said, the only one who is vested in your career is you. Your career, which brings home the paycheck, is what allows you to care and provide for the family you value. 

So if you take nothing else away from anything else I ever write or have written, please understand this. If you get into the habit of spending 15 minutes a day proactively working on your career … while you are still gainfully employed … it will go a long way towards ensuring you will not be sitting on the curb desperately wondering how you are going to provide for the family you value.

You are finance leaders who create and execute the 3 to 5-year financial plans that navigate your company to the next level. Now, more than ever before, it is important to create and execute a career survival plan that identifies where you want to go, what you need to have in place to get there, and when you want to make that next move. A fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (FBSoP) strategy isn’t good enough for your company, and it makes no sense to relegate your career to that strategy either. Not today. And not if you want to be perceived as a high-value target.