During my years as a CFO, I would share this formula with my team: NP + E ≠ P. Spelled out, it means non-performance plus an excuse do not equal performance. I let my team know it fell under E to discuss their reasons for failure to deliver on commitments.
This came from my amateur boxing days. Before leaving the locker room for a fight, my trainer had me look in the mirror and would say, “Take a close look at yourself. When you get back to this room, I’m only going to ask you one question. Did you win? If the other guy hits you low, win the fight. If he holds and the referee doesn’t stop it, win the fight. I don’t care what the other guy does – you don’t cheat and win. There’s no winning if you cheat. And you have to win.”
A great exercise for financial leaders: What reflection do you see?
I have applied my boxing trainer’s exercise ever since, in life and business, and I highly recommend you try it. Before starting each day, look in the mirror and examine yourself. Who do you see? What kind of leader are you? Are you the kind of leader your company needs you to be? Focus on you, not superiors or co-workers or how they impact your performance. There are no if-only’s in leadership – no excuses for failing to accomplish what you set out to do.
Related reading: CFO Performance Tied to Digital Treasury Transformation
The paradox? It isn’t really about you.
Business is nothing like boxing, where there are only two contenders in the ring. In business, winning is always about your whole team and how well they perform without having to take queues or get direction from you, the leader.
Historically, CFOs were needed to make sense of financial information. They went to board and management meetings with detailed financial packages documenting the where, how much and why (autopsy) of performance. Then they would lead discussions on a list of action items.
That is the grand strategist model of financial leadership, and it is woefully inadequate – a barrier to performance. A different operating model exists today in which line managers have access to real-time information and know on a daily basis if they are meeting their metrics. At Integer, where I served as CFO, line managers and division leads were empowered with information to make and implement key decisions without my input. Yes, I worried about what my boss and board thought about my performance and contributions, but I knew this new model was more effective. It absolutely delivered results.
Here’s the bottom line. Treasury and business intelligence technologies are tried, true and becoming more robust all the time. Your finance organization and company either have these capabilities or you are in the process of implementing them – or – you are hurting your company’s performance. You can avoid blocking performance by assembling a team of people and building the capability your company needs to effectively compete in today’s environment.
Lean, informed and agile – the only way to operate
Today’s finance leaders operate in a no-touch environment, where a smaller team of experts drive real-time decisions and work with line managers to achieve committed results. These leaders do not spend time generating information others need to run the company. Rather, necessary financial information is available across the organization, on demand, at all times.
Lean finance teams engage in smart decision making and implementation because metrics are achieved on a real-time basis. For example, if the goal is to limit currency exposure, and production plans change for Mexico, and everyone in the company knows labor costs need to be hedged – this intelligence can be identified and acted on within hours of a newly approved production plan. Companies across industries are operating this way. If your finance organization isn’t enabling this brand of agility, you are hurting performance.
I know what some of you are thinking: “In that situation, we would need to know current production plans at other Mexico operations, and the latest information on collections and payments, and get rate quotes from more than one bank. There’s a lot to consider. As the grand strategist, I would get my team together and calculate what we should do. Give me a couple of days.” If this crossed your mind, you are a barrier to performance.
Integrated technology has and will continue to change how we provide leadership. I think Ken Blanchard is spot on when he says, “The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority.” Look in the mirror. If you are trying to be the grand strategist with all the answers then you are a barrier to outstanding performance. Build teams with access to information so they can independently act in real-time to drive excellence throughout the value chain.
About the Michael Dinkins
Michael is president and chief executive officer of Dinkins LLC, a financial services firm connecting business owners seeking capital with lenders seeking borrowers. Michael has spent more than 40 years in finance, including a distinguished 17-year career with General Electric and GE Capital, and CFO roles with five different publicly traded and privately held companies. Michael currently serves on the board of directors for Community Health Systems and the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).