How, or even whether, finance executives “unplug” while on vacation has been a hot topic this summer. 

In June, CFO.com reported survey results from Robert Half Management Resources

More than two-thirds, 69%, said they typically check in with work at least once or twice a week during their summer vacations, only a slight dip from the 74% tallied five years ago. Thirty-three percent of those surveyed check in at least once a day and sometimes more. Only about a quarter said they don't check in at all.

With only 26% of CFOs reporting that they unplug totally on vacations, Accounting SmartPros listed five tips to help finance executives plan their unplugged getaways.

Interestingly, a tweet from one of my followers in mid-summer said this …

My wife and I, on vacation, kids asleep, sitting on the couch, & what are we doing? Checking our Twitter feeds on our phones!

Although they weren’t “working,” they weren’t unplugged either. It describes our new culture of constant connectedness which is somewhat anti-socially social. 

Our poll at SmartBrief for CFOs last week asked about being unplugged during vacations. It apparently struck a nerve with that audience, eliciting a very high number of responses. While the numbers were quite similar to the RHMR survey, I found the 25% who said they were really just working in a vacation environment very telling.

That response may speak to a bigger story … and that is succession planning. The most brilliant of leaders are always grooming their successor (and I by no means am implying anything here). While this doesn’t preclude a CFO from having to handle a major issue while on vacation, it might allow him to feel confident that short of a “true emergency,” he, his company, and his career are all on solid footing while he’s incommunicado. And that security and freedom to totally get away can be a much needed refresh and recharge for finance leaders today.

The truth is that ensuring you have a well-groomed successor, rather than being a threat to your position, actually frees you to make the next move in your career, adds to your leadership skill set, and looks great on your resume. 

With Labor Day and the end of summer right around the corner, what can you put into place today that will allow you to have a fully, unplugged mental health holiday on your next vacation?

The Sounds of Silence

The numbers around whether or not companies are hiring are all over the map. Our own SmartBrief for CFOs poll on this question indicates that close to 80% of respondents say hiring in their companies is flat. 

That doesn’t mean companies aren’t hiring. It means that the playing field is much smaller, the competition is much stiffer, you must be a high-value target, and what you are bringing  to the table (value) must make the company more money than it costs to bring you on board. 

Even then, the silence can be deafening. In a coaching session earlier this week, my client has at least 4, maybe 5, very viable opportunities on the table. He’s made it to the top of the candidate list, the companies love him and want to bring him on … but he’s caught in the sounds of silence. He is at their mercy as each of the companies wrestle with the decision of whether, in the face of economic uncertainty and waffling or stagnant revenue growth, it makes sense to bring on another employee. 

Notice, I said bring on another “employee.” Not, “hire him.” There is no question in my mind that he is the top candidate for any one of these positions, and he’s been told that if they hire, he's their choice. The questions every company are weighing, and weighing heavily, as part of every hiring decision, are … 

— can we?

— should we?

— what happens if we do?

For this Investment Banker, it’s incredibly frustrating to be so close and yet feel like the end of the road is still so far away. But as I’ve told him, until you get the “NO NO NO and don’t ever darken our doorstep again,” it isn’t over. It’s just that the company is holding all the cards and he is at the mercy of their agonizingly slow decision-making process.

Superstar Executives

An interesting article by John Hollon on ERE inspired my SmartBrief for CFOs poll last week on the quality of the last hire. The results of the poll … once again … triggered more questions on my end since of those polled, only 27% indicated their last hire was a superstar while almost 50% indicated their last hire was either safe or forgettable.

So I wonder, why make a mediocre hire instead of a superstar hire when the cost of recruiting that person is the same either way. The salary of a superstar shouldn’t cost more since he should be able to save or make a company more than the cost of his salary. 

Then I saw this article posted on Newsweek this morning with a subtitle that reads … “Despite record unemployment, recruiters are desperate for top talent.” 

Perhaps that answers at least one of my questions. Ho hum hires are made because the superstars can’t be found.  Which begs the question … “why” can’t they be found?

— Top talent doesn’t exist. 

— The message of superstar executives is not compelling, isn’t resonating with its target audience, or is completely mute.

— Recruiters aren’t looking for “unemployed” executives. It’s a sad reality and I’ve blogged about this many times. The moment you walk out the door on Friday afternoon with a big fat severance package in your pocket, you also wear the black mark of unemployment. Your marketability takes a hit despite the fact that your skill set and contributions remain the same.

Are you a superstar and are recruiters finding you? If so, you’re apparently in the minority and definitely a high-value target.

Creativity, Leadership Competencies, and CFOs

A recent study by IBM’s Institute for Business Value cites creativity as the most-valued leadership competency by CEOs. Our poll last week in SmartBrief for CFOs revealed that 50% of surveyed CFOs agreed with those study results. I’m not sure whether the 50% affirming or the 42% opposing was the bigger surprise. 

So I have some questions …

–If your company values creativity as a leadership competency, how do you identify/evaluate/measure it?

–What do you believe creativity brings to your leadership team?

–Do you believe companies who embrace creativity are the trailblazers for their respective industries?

–Would you go outside your industry to find these fresh thinkers?

–If you don’t buy into creativity as a high-value competency, why not?

–What do you believe are the top 2 or 3 leadership competencies you want to see in your  executive leadership team and those being groomed to move into those spots?

Would love to hear your thoughts …