Where would the Enterprise be without Captain Kirk? How would Frodo’s quest have gone without Gandalf’s protection and mentoring? Any organization, whether it’s flying through space, or trying to stop a supernatural sociopath from ruling the world, needs strong leadership. To meet current and future challenges, organizations must focus on growing their leadership of tomorrow. The question is, what do world-class internal development programs look like and how does an organization establish one?
The Skill Requirements of Effective Finance Leadership
There are 5 key areas that finance leaders must have capability in to be successful.
- They must have strong business partnering skills that enable them to build relationships with other functions.
- They must be able to build and inspire finance teams.
- They must drive value for the business by providing actionable insights.
- They must create efficiency in the finance function.
- They must ensure that risk is managed and the appropriate controls are in place.
Read this article from Entrepreneur for additional insight into what makes a great leader.
Ensure the purpose of the development program is linked to the strategic goals and operational challenges of the organization.
Map the Roles
For any finance role, it’s critical to identify the factors necessary for success. And while we’ve stated the 5 overarching qualities that lend themselves to great finance leadership, individual roles have specific skill requirements. Start by defining the core capabilities required for success. Assign a “competent,” “advanced,” or “expert” designation to each core capability. Consider not only technical skills, but soft skills as well. Finance leaders need to be able to inspire and therefore must be strong communicators with an ability to understand people’s individual drivers. This will not only help them to understand their team, but also build strong cross-functional relationships.
Identify Potential Leaders
Examine the strengths and weaknesses of each current employee relative to future leadership opportunities. Use a variety of tools to evaluate employee performance, including self-assessment. Establish regular one-on-one meetings to discuss career goals and desired professional development opportunities.
Regardless of age, people need to be motivated to learn. Motivation is enhanced by making employees aware of:
- How the development program will bridge the gap between their weaknesses and progression through the company
- The mentoring opportunities the program offers
- The quality learning solutions that are in place – offer a mix of self-directed possibilities and guided support, including webinars and e-learning modules
- The access they will have to top finance leaders – guest speakers
- Opportunities to practice what has been learned
- For a program to be successful it must have the support of the CFO and his or her direct reports. Read this blog on how CFOs play a key role in overcoming the talent gap
- Establish a network of people to help roll out the program – ideally including key finance people who are passionate about learning and who have influence
- Run the program as a pilot initially to work out all the small pitfalls before going companywide
- Learning solutions must be easily accessible and offer both self-directed and a more traditional classroom model
- Training should be offered in short bursts to avoid overloading employees
- Line managers need to support their employees to ensure they are prepared for the training and have an opportunity to embed the learning in their daily role
- Have patience – it may take a while for employees to embrace the new program, especially if it requires a cultural shift
- Opportunities to practice what has been learned helps retention of information
- Allowing employees to lead a session can position the employee as a leader in the eyes of the team and help bridge the gap should that employee get promoted at a later date
Strong finance leadership not only protects the financial interests of the organization, but can help a company attract, land and retain top talent. Cultivating your leaders of tomorrow is critical to ensuring future success, so building a professional development program that helps employees identify and address their weaknesses, while further developing their strengths makes sense.
Your Next Step
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