You’ve worked hard in gaining your qualifications and building your experience. How can you be sure to get that FD role you are aspiring to?
If you thought it was all about excellent technical skills and abilities of interpreting the numbers then you need to think more broadly. It is not enough to be able to understand the financial position and the processes of a business but expressing them in a way that facilitates real growth for the business is the key.
Managing and influencing people are the most crucial skills for an FD. It can be a lonely position to hold out for cost restraint when your Marketing Director demands investment or to push for more entrepreneurial approach when the existing business plans are not delivering. All this whilst maintaining composure and an autonomous perspective whilst everyone is under pressure to deliver. However, it’s also important that you and your team are included in all the organisation planning and that other functions don’t work to avoid you. It’s a difficult tight rope to walk, made even more difficult by a turbulent economic environment shaking the wire.
One of the first areas to focus is building a strong rapport with someone more senior in the organisation that you admire and want to model. Whilst potentially intimidating to instigate, building a mentoring relationship will bring opportunities for insights and growth. Being given regular feedback about how you are performing is invaluable and surprisingly uncommon even with regular appraisal processes. Kraft Foods Inc. has an unusual approach for review and works with a one over one system where employees meet directly with their bosses’ boss.
When identifying a potential mentor it’s as important to think about ‘fit’ as well as status. Mentoring requires a level of trust and confidence between mentor and mentee. Imagine being given some direct feedback and challenged on making a change in your behaviour or being told your focus is in the wrong area. You will resist following through on the advice if you don’t have regard and belief that this new approach will work.
It’s also worth identifying a mentor that has brilliant listening skills. We have all worked with individuals that have gained senior positions but lack any ability to empathise and adapt their advice dependant on the situation and character of the person they are working with. Modelling yourself on such a fixed style will not benefit you in the long run.
For the mentor there can also be significant benefits when establishing a relationship with someone establishing their career. I have always enjoyed the mentoring process and it is gratifying to see my knowledge giving growth to both an individual and the organisation. A mentor does not just to be in a Finance role but anyone senior who has developed effective people skills. Is there anyone within your current or previous organisation that can take this role? Approach them for a ‘chemistry’ chat to see if it’s worth taking things further.
Over the blogs to come I will explore the different facets of what it takes to make it to FD and bring some clarity as to how to employ ‘soft’ skills to build your career.