Is Your Finance Team on Fire – and Not in a Good Way?


When we talk about people being “on fire” there are positive connotations – whether it’s the point guard who is on a hot streak, or the finance team member who can be trusted to deliver.  But what about teams that are burning from the inside out?

There are signs that you need to spot, (some more obvious than others), before your team starts looking for a life raft.

Sign #1: People Working Long Hours
Sometimes team members have to band together and work long hours – busy season anyone?  But when this becomes an ongoing experience it means your team is under-resourced, or lacking one or more critical ingredients like leadership, proper division of duties, or a core skill that would improve their performance. And while people will shoulder an increased workload for the short haul, you’re risking burning out your team.

Solution: Hire a contract resource to lighten the load, or bring a new, permanent member on board to fill the skills gap.

Sign #2: High Turnover 
Are team members not investing in each other because there’s turnover every 6-12 months?  Are faces changing so frequently that no one is sure what they’re responsible for? High turnover is a definite sign that your team is in disarray.

Solution: Conduct exit interviews. Ensure that the feedback you collect is compared over a range of departures.  Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. Be open to hearing the direct message, but also to what is being communicated subtly. Remember, you may hear something that you don’t like and that’s ok. It means there’s room to get better.

Sign #3: No turnover
Wait, didn’t you just say that high turnover is a red flag? How can a team that doesn’t have anyone leaving be cause for concern? Surely that’s a sign of a healthy culture? Typically yes, low turnover is cause for celebration, but it can also be something to take a closer look at. Perhaps it’s more about complacency rather than contentment. Fundamentally, you need a team that can compete in an increasingly fast-paced and innovative world.

Solution:  Get people involved in professional development, or cast them in a role that feeds their motivation.

Sign 4: It’s High School
If you have a team that engages equally with one another and embraces diversity, then you’re likely to get the best of what everyone has to offer. Unfortunately, the opposite happens if you have a fragmented and cliquey culture.  Jennifer Irwin, Vice President of Human Resources and Communication for Allied Properties, says, “Favorites and cliques are dangerous and destructive. They make great people feel that they can’t move ahead and they don’t allow the best to come out in teams.”  Put simply, cliques isolate people from each other and create social barriers to collaboration.

Solution: According to Irwin, “You need to nip this in the bud and start creating opportunities for your team members to [engage cross-functionally]. Move people into new roles and break up the teams of favorites.”

Sign 5: Disengaged
Much like sign 3, a complacent team is cause for concern. If your team shows no desire to grow their skill set or professional brand then you may have a team who is disengaged.

Create a formalized mentorship program and understand that healthy competition can have its place in a well-functioning organization (within your sales team for example). Connect each role to the bigger picture, so that people feel that what they do has an impact.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. The question is – have you noticed the signs and what are you prepared to do to put the fire out?  You want an engaged team that wants to get better. You need them to be properly resourced, with clear goals and paths to achieve outcomes. Foster a culture of collaboration and continuous learning and watch for signs of complacency. A high functioning team is a productive team and that’s a win for any organization.

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